Unexpected people who have a winter sports past

An actress, a pop star, a prince, a fashion designer – these are just some of the stars who have either dabbled in winter sports or gone all in and competed at the Winter Olympic Games prior to becoming famous in their current careers

By Jo Gunston
Picture by 2017 Getty Images

Little Josephine Becker was nervous as she took to the ice for her first ever figure skating competition. No matter how the youngster performed at the outdoor rink in New York, however, she was always going to look the part. Her mother is fashion designer and former figure skater, Vera Wang.

Wang is not the only surprising high-level winter sports participant. Beijing 2022 checked the archives and found a number of actors, pop stars, an ultra-high-net-worth individual and even a prince who have all competed in various winter sports prior to their current high-profile status in their respective fields.

Vera Wang, fashion designer, figure skating

In 2009 Vera Wang was inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame for her contribution to the sport as a costume designer. Her passion for creating the elaborate outfits resulted from her own involvement in the sport, which she took up when she was eight year's old.

Eleven years later she was taking part in the US National Championships in the pairs event but did not make the team for the Winter Olympics in Grenoble that same year. The teenager was devastated.

Instead, Wang decided to spend a semester abroad in Paris, which is where she discovered her passion for fashion design. The wedding dress specialist has designed outfits for the likes of singer Gwen Stefani, designer Victoria Beckham and actress Kate Hudson.

Wang has also designed costumes for America’s most famous figure skaters: two-time Olympic medalists Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan, Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek and bronze medalist, Nathan Chen.

Vera Wang's figure skating costume designs

Michel De Carvalho, ninth richest person in Britain, alpine skiing and luge

Regularly in the top 10 of The Sunday Times Rich List, a definitive guide to the wealthiest people in the UK, the bulk of Michel De Carvalho’s more than £12bn fortune comes from his marriage to Heineken heiress Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken. But the financier, who also became a multi-millionaire through investments in London markets, also has something money can’t buy – Olympic experience.

De Carvalho can call himself an Olympian after competing for Britain in skiing at the 1968 Winter Olympics, and luge at the 1972 and 1976 Games, where he and Jeremy Palmer-Tomkinson came 20th both times in the double luge event. The former child actor, who appeared in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Tin Star, also came 29th in the singles luge event.

Michel de Carvalho luge
Picture by 2011 Getty Images

Justin Bieber, pop star, ice hockey

Ice hockey superfan and pop superstar Justin Bieber has been known to rock up to local practice matches when he’s on tour, such as the time he hung out with Elite Ice Hockey League side Manchester Storm, when performing in the UK in 2016.

The Canadian took up the sport at school and keeps playing to stay in shape, keep up with his buddies, and relieve the pressures of fame. The 27-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs fan also played in the NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout charity event in 2017 scoring a goal in a Team Gretzky win.

Tara Lipinski, actress, figure skating

The Young and the Restless actress was the 1998 figure skating gold medalist at the Nagano, Japan Winter Olympic Games. Lipinski played Marnie Kowalski, Megan Dennison's friend, on the American soap opera in 1999 and also had other acting stints on programmes such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Malcolm in the Middle, and Veronica’s Closet.

The Texan attracted international attention when she became the youngest winner of an individual event in the history of the Winter Games at the age of 15 years and 255 days.

Tara Lipinski figure skating
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Keanu Reeves, actor, ice hockey

The Wall. That’s what actor Keanu Reeves was nicknamed when he was ice hockey goalie at college, such was his skill in keeping the puck out of the net. So good was the Canadian he even earned a tryout with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, a junior side, but turned it down to pursue acting.

Other perhaps unexpected ice hockey participants include rock singer Avril Lavigne, who was named Most Valuable Player two years in a row when she played on a boys' team. The Sk8er Boi singer then went on to play on her high school's girls' team, she told ESPN. Socialite Paris Hilton also played at school and actor Steve Carell and crooner Michael Buble are also fans.

Albert Grimaldi, prince, bobsleigh

More well known now as Prince Albert of Monaco, Grimaldi competed in the bobsleigh at five consecutive Winter Olympics for the sovereign state, taking part in both the two-man and four-man events. His best finish was 25th at his first Games in 1988 in Calgary in the two-man bobsled.

Prince Albert was also a flagbearer for Monaco three times in Calgary, Canada (1988), Lillehammer, Norway (1994) and Nagano, Japan (1998). Prince Albert has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1985.

Prince Albert bobsleigh
Picture by 2018 Getty Images