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Olympic inspired tattoos have become like a rite of passage for Olympians. Mike Bruner who took home two gold medals in 1976 said, “It’s like being a member of the Army Special Forces.” Back then people associated tattoos with bikers not swimmers and gymnasts. He didn't get his Olympic rings tattooed until the 2008 trials when he saw so many swimmers sporting the tattoos.
First Olympic tattoo
Now swimmers who don't have the Olympic rings tattooed somewhere on their bodies are in the minority. So where did this trend start? It is suggested the first Olympic rings can be traced back to Olympian Chris Jacobs, in the 1980s. He won three gold medals in the 1988 Seoul Games. On the way home, he stopped in Hawaii for a little R & R and decided to get his second tattoo, the Olympic Rings tattooed at his racing suit line. Later he had a bigger version inked on right bicep.
Some Olympians choose to place their body art so everyone can see it, like France's Alain Bernard, who wears a large set of rings surrounded by more body art on his right ribcage. Archer Brandy Ellison had the rings tattooed on his forearm, "because when I'm at full draw it would be in all the pictures." Other athletes like the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, has the Olympic rings tattooed over his right hip bone. Every now and then you can see a glimpse of it peeking out at the low-riding waistline swimmers wear.
Medal winners with other tattoos
While many Olympians have the Olympic tattoos, for many it is not their only body art. Her are a few of the medal winners with tattoos on prominent display.
- Ryan Lochte: Gold medal winner, Ryan Lochte, wears the rings on the inside of his right bicep, but he also sports a gator on his right shoulder that harkens back to his days at the University of Florida.
- Brent Hayden: Canadian gold medal winner, Brent Hayden, has several tattoos including a half sleeve on his left arm.
- Fabien Gilot: French gold medal winner, Fabien Gilot sports a tattoo written in Hebrew on the inside of his left arm. It means, “I’m nothing without them,” and is a symbol of the appreciation he feels for his family.
To check out the wide variety of body art on display at the 2012 Olympics, take a moment to check out the "Olympic athletes with tattoos" slideshow.