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5 Olympians who guest-starred on soaps (and on ‘Soap’)

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat….

No, that’s not the Olympic motto (they’re all about their “Faster, higher, stronger”…). But it is the tagline that ABC’s Wide World of Sports came up with for turning athletic competition into, well, a soap opera. (Soap Opera 451 has more on exactly how and why they did it.)

“Faster, higher, stronger” is awesome, but it’s the personal stories that keep viewers in front of the tube, cheering for athletes who don’t have a shot at a medal… as long as the story is a good one. Quick, name the folks who actually beat Eddie the Eagle in skiing or the ones who bested the Jamaican bobsledding team. There. See?

But turnabout is fair play. If the Olympics are now just a multi-week soap opera (that, ironically, is preempting an actual soap opera, Days of Our Lives) with periodic bursts of running, swimming and tumbling to break up the tear-jerking but ultimately uplifting tales, why shouldn’t Olympians get the chance to periodically pop up amidst the tear-jerking tales on soaps?

Check out our top 5 favorite appearances below:

Steve Lundquist on Search for Tomorrow

Unlike the other glorified cameos, 1984 double Olympic gold medalist in swimming Steve Lundquist actually had a regular role on Search for Tomorrow in 1985. He played Steve (don’t want to stress the newbie too much by asking him to answer to a different name) Kendall.

In addition to frequently appearing shirtless (when you hire the guy People Magazine dubbed the best celebrity chest in Hollywood, you want to get your money’s worth), Lundquist got to participate in many other soap opera tropes, such as learning that the mother he thought had died when he was a child was actually hiding in a banana republic, hanging out with Viggo Mortensen.

Growing up, Steve always felt that his dad, Lloyd (played by, among others, Robert Reed), favored his other children over Steve. (Would Mike Brady ever do such a thing?) That’s because Steve’s real dad turned out to be Martin, played by John Aniston (now DOOL’s Victor) — which made Steve, uh, Jennifer Aniston’s stepbrother once removed?

In addition to the stories he did play, what’s most ironic is the storyline Lundquist didn’t get to participate in. He left SFT in 1985. In 1986, in a last-ditch attempt to lift their long-running show from the bottom of the ratings heap (it was scraping by on a 2.9 rating; today’s lowest rated show, DOOL, celebrates when its breaks 2.0, and the highest-rated show, The Young & the Restless, hovers around 3.3), Procter & Gamble Productions decided to flood the entire town of Henderson, getting rid of all their standing sets, some actors, and even the theme music in order to start again fresh with a brand new, modern look and feel.

You know who’d be really handy to have around in case of a flood? An Olympic swimmer. Just saying…

Tara Lipinski on The Young & the Restless

The 1998 Olympic figure skating gold medalist played Marnie, a friend of Megan’s, on Y&R in 1999. Marnie was not a skater. (Let’s be honest, Marnie wasn’t much of anything beyond a publicity stunt.) But after someone pointed out Marnie’s remarkable resemblance to the champion figure skater, Marnie proceeded to have a fantasy about being a champion figure skater herself, using footage of Lipinski, the actual figure skater. Veteran soap actress that she now was, Lipinski went on to present at that year’s Daytime Emmy Awards.

Summer Sanders on All My Children

Another swimmer! The 1992 Olympic gold medalist played herself on her favorite soap opera (she even scheduled her Stanford University classes around airings). In a scene that took about 15 minutes to film (and that featured her mom as an extra), Sanders visited Pine Valley Hospital to show off her medals to the sick kids, and she got to exchange a few words with Stuart and Gloria. Sanders told David Letterman that she was offered the cameo after producers found out what a fan she was of the show.

Florence Griffith-Joyner on Santa Barbara

The soap that premiered in 1984 to counter-program ABC’s coverage of the Olympics decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, when they invited the late 1988 Olympic track and field champ to play a celebrity photographer on the show.

“Flo Jo” told The Los Angeles Times, “I’ve never had stage fright. After running 23 years, with thousands of people watching, it’s never bothered me. If I just take my time, don’t get intimidated and frightened, speak the words nice and clear, I’ll be fine…. I want to give the best performance I can – and I don’t want to give Santa Barbara a bad name.”

You can watch how she did below, though you won’t exactly get to hear if she spoke nice and clear. The clip is dubbed in Italian.

Bob Seagren on Soap

Okay, so Soap wasn’t technically a daytime drama. It aired at night, and it was a sitcom — but one that used soap opera conventions and often was just as effective at drama as it was at comedy. Plus, two-time Olympian pole vaulter Bob Seagren, who won gold in 1968 and silver in 1972, played a groundbreaking role as a closeted pro-football player dating Jodie (played by Billy Crystal). The role was controversial, and the storyline inspired protests before it even aired. In the book, Soap: The Unauthorized Inside Story of the Sitcom That Broke ALL the Rules, Seagren talked at length about his time on the show and how the hate mail and potential damage to his career didn’t really trouble him, as he didn’t particularly want to be an actor in the first place.

Got a favorite soap opera athlete cameo? Share it in the comments!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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