Great Britain’s Olympic men’s rowing four.
Which Olympic athletes go on to be most successful in business? New research by Bain & Co. shows rowers have the best track record of breaking into the corporate world after their Olympic careers.
About 8% of the U.S. and U.K. rowers who medaled at the Olympics between 1972 and 2000 went on to excel in business, landing top jobs at public companies, investment banks, law firms and consulting practices, or starting their own companies, the study found.
Bain partner Patrick Manning, who was a member of the 1992 U.S. silver-medal rowing team, analyzed the post-Olympic careers of 840 U.S. and U.K. medalists from seven categories during the Summer Games: rowing, swimming, sailing, basketball, boxing, gymnastics, and track and field. (He opted to track the more popular sports and get a good mix of individual and team sports.)
Of those who demonstrated strong business success, which includes becoming a C-suite executive, board member, partner, managing director or above at a big company, rowers came out on top, but swimmers and sailors also showed some success, with about 1% of each group holding comparable roles.
Rowers may be more likely to succeed in the business world for several reasons, Mr. Manning says. First, many of the rowing medalists in the study attended elite colleges and universities. Second, unlike other sports, there is a dearth of professional rowing opportunities, forcing rowers to pursue other careers.
Rowing also requires intense teamwork, which often means sacrificing personal glory and adapting to the style of others in order to achieve a final goal.
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