Michael Tweed  /  AP file
Former Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner, right, and former Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger are pictured leading Disneyland visitors in a short workout in this 1995 file photo. Jenner is one of many athletes who landed on the Wheaties box.
updated 2/26/2006 9:35:17 AM ET 2006-02-26T14:35:17

Never mind the Olympic podium, who will line the cereal aisles?

A new Olympics means a new orange box — a Wheaties box, the "Breakfast of Champions." Will it be figure skating's Michelle Kwan lending her face — and her Olympic tale — to the cereal packaging? Or maybe Alpine skiing's Julia Mancuso? Or snowboarding's Shawn White?

It takes more than a gold medal to be a Wheaties champion. According to Wheaties spokesman Greg Zimprich, "Extensive due diligence goes into selecting Wheaties champions." He adds, "It requires an ongoing process of talking with athletes, agents and others in anticipation of who might be the next great champion to break through and appear on the package."

The process to find an athlete who exemplifies the cereal's wholesome, all-American image is neither simple nor short. "We are typically working 18 to 24 months out, trying to anticipate breakthrough performances or milestones that should be considered for the package," says Zimprich. "We want to highlight athletes who are champions both on and off the field of play."

The tradition of faces on the Wheaties boxes really began in 1958, when two-time Olympic pole vaulting champion Bob Richards lent his mug to the breakfast cereal. Before Richards, or the "Vaulting Vicar" as he was called, athletes appeared either on the back or side panels of Wheaties packaging. Since Richards, some 15 individual Olympians and two Olympic teams — women's gymnastics and women's ice hockey — have followed suit.

"From ice skaters to boxers to swimmers, it's just about the greatest hall of fame of athletes in America ever," says Richards.

With the Torino games just ahead, Forbes.com decided to track down and catch up with the 15 athletes whose Olympic performances landed them a spot on the box of the "Breakfast of Champions." We wanted to know how their Olympic moments have affected the rest of their lives.

Lieutenant Billy Mills, the 1964 Olympic 10,000 meters champion, was the second gold medalist to be featured on a Wheaties box. Though his competitive running days have come to an end, Mills is still on his feet trying to spread a message based on character, dignity and pride. Indeed, last year Miller gave 75 motivational speeches. This year, he'll scale back to 60. "I'm trying to improve my golf game," he explains with a chuckle.

And Bruce Jenner, another early Wheaties champion, has hardly seen his life slow either. Like Mills, the 1976 decathlon champion travels from one venue to the next making motivational speeches. "I've done eight in the last two and a half weeks," he says.

Even with his hectic speaking schedule, Jenner has found time to run his Columbia, S.C.-based company, Bruce Jenner Aviation, which buys and sells corporate jets. He is also launching a new company, Corporate Registry, which will focus on small businesses. On top of that, he's working on producing "In the Zone with Bruce Jenner," a sport-psychology television program, and starring in "Skating with Celebrities,"a Fox reality program that pairs professional figure skaters and celebrities.

Then there's Carly Patterson. The 18-year-old, whose life has been a whirlwind of touring, awards shows, interviews and autograph sessions since winning gymnastics' all-around competition at the 2004 Olympics, is testing another talent: singing. In fact, the small-framed gymnast just signed a deal with Joe Simpson, the high profile manager and father of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson.

© 2012 Forbes.com


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