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vegan and vegetarian olympicsvegan and vegetarian olympics

Top 10 Historic Vegetarian and Vegan Olympians

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The current article you are reading does not reflect the views of the current editors and contributors of the new Ecorazzi

The diet of athletes is changing. History is showing that those with a competitive spirit are not just meat-eaters but those who are “conscious eaters.” The Olympic games have a wide array of a personalities and with those personalities a wide array of eating habits. Many historic Olympians have chosen to keep a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or they have chosen to change from a diet that included meats for protein into one that was rich in proteins found from vegetarian sources. These are our top 10 historic vegetarian and vegan Olympians:

Charlene Wong never won an Olympic medal but it didn't stop her from competing.

Charlene Wong

Charlene Wong, a four-time silver medalist at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, is a vegetarian athlete who also competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. She didn’t win a medal at the Olympics but has gone on to coach other well known figure skaters including Victoria Muniz, Amber Corwin, Mirai Nagasu and Caroline Zhang.

LifeSkate asked her about being a vegetarian in 2008:

You are a vegetarian. Were you a vegetarian from a young age or was this something that developed later on in life?

Wong: Although I am not as strict a vegetarian as I once was, I do continue to choose to eat more like a vegetarian than not. I would call myself a “conscious eater”. It all started with my desire to be as lean and healthy as possible as a teenager around 17-years-old. With more education, as well as trial and error, it also turned into an expression of my attempt to show compassion for all living things. Mostly, I try not to be a fanatic or push my ideas about this on other people, especially my students because everyone is on their personal journey regarding such things.”

Carl Lewis is a historic vegan Olympian.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis is probably the most well known, historic vegan Olympian in the world or at least the U.S. He won 10 Olympic medals, 9 of which were gold. His Olympic career ran from 1979 to 1996. He wrote an introduction for Jannequin Bennett in her book “Very Vegetarian” saying, “It’s a myth that muscles, strength and endurance require the consumption of large quantities of animal-based foods. This myth began before anyone even talked about protein.” He ended his introduction with, “Your body is your temple. If you nourish it properly, it will be good to you and you will increase its longevity.”

Ronda Rousey is an Olympic vegetarian and is now a world record holding MMA fighter.

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey was the first U.S. woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo in 2008. After winning the bronze medal she was asked what she was going to do now. She replied, “As of right now I am a vegan. I put that off until after I was done with this tournament.”

Rousey’s decision to not be a vegan before the Olympics has come under some criticism from the vegan/vegetarian community. Some believe that she may have had issues from her coach and other tournament pressures that hindered her from being able to eat a vegan diet. After winning in judo, she decided she wanted to drive a clean car, learn how to surf, and eat a healthy meat and dairy free diet.

She became an MMA fighter in August of 2010 and is currently the Strikeforce women’s bantemweight champion and #1 ranked 135-pound female MMA fighter in the world.

Surya Bonaly is a vegetarian and PETA activist.

Surya Bonaly

Surya Bonaly is another competitive spirit who has participated in the Olympic events on numerous occasions but has never won an Olympic medal. She has, however, been a three-time World Championship silver medalist, a five-time European Champion, and a nine-time French National Champion for professional figure skating.

She is a vegetarian and PETA activist. She has participated in both English and French PETA ads calling for an end to Canadian seal hunts and an end to the fur industry.

Olympic wrestler Chris Campbell is a vegetarian.

Chris Campbell

Chris Campbell is a world champion and Olympic bronze medalist wrestler. He is a pure vegetarian and one of the oldest men to win an Olympic medal –At the age of 37, he won the bronze medal for the 1992 Olympic team in Barcelona, Spain.

According to Seattle Times, Campbell is a very unique individual, “He practices Zen and dabbles in poetry. He’s a vegetarian who likes nothing better than tofu stroganoff. He leg-presses 700 pounds, meditates, and quotes everything from The Sermon On the Mount to The Teachings of Budda.”

Hannah Teter is a Olympian, humanitarian, activist and vegetarian.

Hannah Teter

This list may seem filled with wrestlers, runners and figure skaters but there are vegetarians in other aspects of the Olympic games. Hannah Teter for instance is a vegetarian and also a gold and silver Olympic medalist for snowboarding.

She told the Huffington Post in 2010, “I feel stronger than I’ve ever been, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My plant-based diet has opened up more doors to being an athlete. It’s a whole other level that I’m elevating to. I stopped eating animals about a year ago, and it’s a new life. I feel like a new person, a new athlete.”

Bode Miller is a vegetarian and organic farmer.

Bode Miller

Bode millar has been a vegetarian since birth. He has won five medals in the Winter Olympics for different ski disciplines. His diet has not really changed since he now owns his own organic farm similar to the one he had growing up.

He told Vegetarian Star in 2010, “We grew our own produce. It was all organic.” His organic farm is in New Hampshire. He is an advocate for sustainable food, farming and living.

Edwin Moses believes in sports for peace.

Edwin Moses

Edwin Moses was a force to be reckoned with in the track and field arena. He won gold medals in the 400m hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. He won 107 consecutive finals in 122 consecutive races and set the world record in his event four times.

Moses is a confirmed vegetarian, humanitarian and advocate for peace. He has been chairman of Laureus World Sports Academy since 2000 and promotes the use of sports as a tool for social change around the world.

Debbi Lawrence set the world record for racewalking.

Debbi Lawrence

Debbi Lawrence has been a three-time Olympian and holds the world record for the women’s 5K racewalk event. She believes that her success as an athlete is largely due to hard work and a vegetarian diet. She was sponsored by Aim for Herbs, an all natural herbal supplement distributor.

She opened up to Paul Eiler’s in 2010 about her relationship with the sponsor, “I’ve concentrated on natural products because they’re so important to my success. Imagine someone who walks 12½ miles as fast as they can not having the right shoes. Chances are they wouldn’t last half the race. The same is true for the right nutrition. You can’t just fill a blender with whatever’s in season. You have to be very careful about what you eat, and you have to take supplements to help fill in the gaps. Of course, supplements are wise for everyone, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. But athletes, especially world-class, competitive athletes, have to be careful about what supplements they take. The wrong ones can do as much, if not more, harm as not taking any at all.”

Australia's vegan Olympic swimmer.

Murray Rose

Murray Rose passed away at the age of 73 of leukemia but he is fondly remembered as one of the worlds most historic vegan athletes. He was Australia’s Olympic swimming star. He had set 15 world records and won six Olympic medals, including four golds, which made him a sports legend and hero in Australia.

During Rose’s long career he ate a vegan diet and followed a vegan lifestyle. In 1958 he told Groucho Marx on the radio program “You Bet Your Life” that his gold medals in 1956 could be attributed to his veganism.

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  • John S

    Great list, but you missed one of the best ever in Paavo Nurmi (vegetarian).

  • Not Vegan

    I’d like to see the list of Gold Medal Winning Meat Eaters. Of course, that would take your staff, and your website 1,000 years to come up with, because its pretty much every athlete on Earth that isn’t this small group. 🙂 Go Meat.

    • Lee Hogan

      Go Meat? I think you miss the point of the article. This isn’t a competition between meat and non-meat, although non-meat would win that in a side-by-side competition based on health and ecological points. Besides, the obvious fact that there are more meat eating athletes than vegetarian athletes isn’t necessarily something to cheer about.

      • Johnny

        Meat Eaters are the better athletes. Look at all the sports and the vast list of athletes that are in the top spot: Meat Eaters. And any athlete that changes later on in life after their career is given no credit as a vegan athlete. The numbers don’t lie. Vegans aren’t necessarily healthier either. a lot of them look sickly and are required to supplement their diets. They also are killing innocent vegetables. But you don’t want to hear that they are living. Maybe in the future all we will have to do is drink protein shakes. No more killing

        • Z*

          Why don’t you rub that jewel on your belly and make a wish then? Because that’s the amount of good that you are doing towards you supposed future, Troll!!! 😉

        • NottaCorpseCruncher

          Vegans take all those supplements?? LOL who exactly do u think the billion dollar supplement industry is aimed at? All the vegans?? Funny. There are more meat eaters than vegans and this is why u see more of them as athletes. Eating meat is not what made them top performers. Also humans can’t survive without eating vegetables, but they can survive without eating meat. The nutrients u get from eating meat came from the animals eating vegetables/grass/grains, so u pretty much just filter all your nutrients thru another living thing – that’s hardly efficient. If u had a clue u would know that all major health organizations state the level of protein a human needs is about 6% – u can eat just veggies and fruit and get that much if eating an adequate amount of calories (2,000 -2,500 cals)…the ADA even states that u can get adequate amounts of all nutrients from a vegan diet in all stages of life including infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and pregnancy. U should start reading books with words in them.

          • NottaCorpseCruncher

            Plants don’t have a nervous system, so they can’t feel pain. Any plant that produces seeds in it’s edible parts actually depends on being eaten to continue the cycle of life. Animal eats plant/fruit, later it shits and spreads the seeds far enough away from the parent plant, the plant then grows and produces more plant-life/fruit.

      • Johnny

        There are people all over the World that eat Meat and have great health
        by eating well balanced meals, exercising, and keeping their Mind
        healthy. Its bad habits, over access, eating preservative, fillers, to
        much sugar (that doesn’t come from things like fruit), etc. that hurt
        the body. It’s not staying active. It’s not keeping a healthy state of

        Overall, I would rather just drink protein shakes all day to get my
        daily nutritional needs instead of eating things that were once alive:
        Meats that come from hunting of animals, Vegetables that are grown only
        to be forcibly picked from ground and torn apart in the jaws of the
        predator…but so far I haven’t found that it works because to much of
        that upsets my stomach. My stomach wants to do its job of processing
        real food. My teeth are sharp like knives. Look like Wolf Teeth.

        So here is to a future where we don’t have to kill to live.

        • NottaCorpseCruncher

          Your teeth are not sharp like wolves teeth lol. As a personal experiment you should chase after an animal and bite into it’s fur, flesh, and bones and see how far u get. LOL

        • Judith Waldrop

          Where do you think the protein in the shake comes from???? It is either animal or vegitable sourced

      • RT

        Isoflavone-rich soy protein isolate suppresses androgen receptors

    • NottaCorpseCruncher

      Gee there are far more meat eaters than vegans so it is no wonder there are more athletes that are meat eaters. This does not make them better athletes. Plus your opinion is shit bcuz u are a meat eater and have no actual reference on the effects of a vegan diet. Of course someone like u would say go meat. Go vegan for a year, work out (resistance training and cardio) during that time and take note of recovery times and increases in lean muscle mass. As a previous meat eater I can say from experience that plant based is the way to go.

  • ianveganoption

    I came across Ronda Rousey when I was researching vegans competing in the London Olympics for our Olympic edition of The Vegan Option, a podcast we produce in the East End of London, minutes from the Olympic Park.

    We didn’t mention Ronda Rousey because she is no longer vegan.

    If you want to hear about vegans involved in the London Games, and perspectives from the vegans right next door to the games, please have a listen to our show.

    As well as the low-down on the plant-based Venus sisters, we talk about other vegan athletes – like Fiona Oakes, who cycled for Britain in 1992, and now runs an animal sanctuary.


    • Johnny

      Yup. No longer a Vegan. Some athletes have gone on Vegan diets only to return to eating meat. Overall, there are more Meat Eaters than Non so if we want to go by success, Meat eating is the way.

      • Dru Daniels

        The most successful ultra-maraton runners are vegans and fruitarians….and they’re running 100 miles plus…

      • Science against suffering

        Your reasoning is flawed. Only 1% of all people is on a vegan diet. Most of them live in the US and UK. If you do the math you will notice how vegans are represented about equally (if not slightly more) in top sports when comparing with the entire population. Many athletes have experimented with vegetarian and vegan diets and drawn their conclusions, but it’s really a personal choice.

  • Alex

    Not so historic but maybe useful. Nicolien Sauerbreij (dutch) snowboarder is vegetarian. She gas won gold on olympic winter games in Vancouver.

  • Great to hear that so many vegans are inspriring others to take up the cause!

  • ianveganoption

    One of our intrepid listeners, Marcus Dredge, looked into Murray Rose, and tracked down a 1961 Sports Illustrated interview that talks about Murray Rose eating yoghurt and goats milk. Of course, that doesn’t say what he ate in 1956 when he won his first gold, but your link doesn’t mention an interview with Groucho Marx.

    What’s your source for Murray’s chat with Groucho?

    There is no shortage of vegetarian Olympians: we mentioned vegan Fiona Oakes (who now runs a sanctuary) and The Guardian has a more contemporary list.

  • susan

    Apparently Venus and Serena Williams – vegan. Martina Navratilova too.

    • Johnny

      Venus is but not Serena. Venus changed her diet because of her health issue. Overall, I wish we didn’t have to Kill. Be it Animals for their meat or Vegetables who are eaten alive but since we can’t hear them cry many don’t pay attention to their pain. What a World. Kill to live.

      • Michelle

        You can always become a breatharian

  • veganamericanprincess

    Great post! Isn’t Venus Williams vegan now? Did Martina Navritalova play in the Olympics? http://veganamericanprincess.com

  • Nice to meat you

    Bolt eats meat!

  • disqus_IbPfpIqiGl

    Proofreading is your friend! The ‘one’ in “never one an Olympic medal” should be ‘won.’
    And if you spell “Miller” as “millar,” there is something very wrong.
    Not trying to be mean, but these kinds of errors really make a difference on the perceived intelligence readers have of an author.

  • Rotary Rocket

    Which one is the vegan, the are merely vegetarians not the same they are getting animal proteins.

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