Whether or not they break records, Olympians have something to be proud of: Their athletic abilities are already impressive. Still, winning a medal is a feat that will stick with them forever, so it makes sense that some of these athletes might want a permanent marking to remind them of their achievements.
Some might opt for something straightforward like the Olympic rings, while others might choose an inspiring word, phrase or symbol to keep them motivated throughout their athletic endeavors. As long as the ink is meaningful, it's unlikely that these individuals will experience any tattoo regret. Either way, this is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down, even this year at Sochi.
Go big or go home
While a majority of these athletes might stick with a small, subtle design, other decide to go all out with bold ink. Most recently, the 29-year-old Canadian short-track speed skater Charles Hamelin went under the needle for an elaborate colored tatt of the five rings that covers nearly his entire upper back. Hamelin already has much to boast about – he won the 1,500-meter event in Sochi, thus defending his 2010 gold medal. Additionally, he helped Canada to win the gold for the 5,000-meter team relay. According to CBS Sports, the ink took a whopping 11 hours to complete.
Another Olympian who has some eye-catching body art is Kaillie Humphries, a Canadian women's bobsled team veteran. The Globe and Mail reported that in fact, she's covered in tatts that pay homage to both important successes in her career as well as her family. For example, she got an inking celebrating the Olympic gold medal she won in 2010. However, only one of these designs was visible when she was competing: The word "believe" on the front of her right hand. According to the source, belief has been a core theme in her overall philosophy as well as her dreams and goals.
"This is my life. Good or bad, I'm going to get a few more … I learn something from each one," she said, as quoted by the news outlet. "What it is, or how big it is, maybe will depend upon how these Games go, but for sure, I'm going to get something to commemorate this one here."
Honoring the rings and their roots
There are other athletes that have gone the same route. One interesting theme is that swimmers seem to be more inclined to get permanently inked than other athletes. In fact, PopSugar reported that U.S. swimmers Eric Shanteau, Elizabeth Beisel, Ryan Lochte and Dana Vollmer all have tatts of the Olympic rings, as do Australian swimmers Eamon Sullivan, Stephanie Rice and Emily Seebohm, French swimmer Alain Bernard, and German swimmer Sarah Poewe. Italian boxer Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello and U.S. gymnast Jonathan Horton are two others that have selected this design. Gold medal swimmer Missy Franklin's one and only tattoo is a small colored Olympic rings insignia on her right hip.
A common theme among Olympians is to pay homage to their country with ink. For example, Canadian swimmer Julia Wilkinson has a maple leaf tatt to remind her of where she came from, and the roots she's representing. Not only does the legendary U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps sport the Olympic rings on one hip, he also has an "M" etched on the other, which could be a reference to his home state, Maryland.
Still, there are other athletes who decide to go against the grain and get something that isn't Olympics-related. The New York Daily news noted that one Canadian swimmer, for example, has the Red Hot Chili Pepper lyric "I'll make it to the moon if I have to crawl" emblazoned on her side – which seems fitting considering the amount of dedication and persistence that is required in the Games.
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* Source: Harris Interactive, 2012