U.S. Markets open in 44 mins
  • Crude Oil

    70.51
    -0.05 (-0.07%)
     
  • Gold

    1,773.60
    -4.60 (-0.26%)
     
  • Silver

    22.53
    -0.04 (-0.17%)
     
  • EUR/USD

    1.1740
    +0.0010 (+0.0822%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    1.3260
    +0.0020 (+0.15%)
     
  • Vix

    22.67
    -3.04 (-11.82%)
     
  • GBP/USD

    1.3627
    -0.0037 (-0.2712%)
     
  • USD/JPY

    109.5400
    +0.3200 (+0.2930%)
     
  • BTC-USD

    44,590.88
    -3,435.44 (-7.15%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,050.07
    -13.77 (-1.29%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    7,074.23
    +93.25 (+1.34%)
     
  • Nikkei 225

    29,639.40
    -200.31 (-0.67%)
     

Every Olympic athlete that’s been on the Wheaties box

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Collage of Wheaties boxes featuring Summer Olympic athletes.
Collage of Wheaties boxes featuring Summer Olympic athletes.

You don’t need to be an Olympian to eat the “Breakfast of Champions” but getting your face on the Wheaties box is an honor reserved for champion athletes. Unless you’re Michael Phelps, most Olympic athletes did not win additional medals after they were featured on the Wheaties box. Every athlete on the Wheaties box had established records or won multiple Olympic medals prior to being featured.

Wheaties is a breakfast cereal that became associated with sports in 1927, through advertising with minor league baseball in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The brand’s popularity grew with baseball broadcasting throughout the 1930s, and by the early 1940s celebrities seeking the Wheaties spotlight included football stars, circus performers, jockeys, aviators, automobile racers, explorers, and parachutists.

As one of the first sponsors of televised sports, Wheaties became part of American culture through its distinctive orange boxes and the popularity of athletes it featured. Wheaties does not officially sponsor the Olympics, but they do feature Olympians and other athletes from a variety of sports.

Athletes are selected for the honor based not only on their athletic achievements but by going the extra mile in contributing to culture and society. “Wheaties looks for athletes who are champions on and off the field because great athletes have cultural significance that is bigger than the game,” said Kelsey Roemhildt, a General Mills spokesperson.

A timeline of notable Olympic athletes featured on the Wheaties box

There have been 73 Olympians or Olympic teams on the Wheaties box in its over 100 year history. Here are some of them, in order.

Babe Didrikson on the Wheaties box.
Babe Didrikson on the Wheaties box.

1935: Babe Didrikson Zaharias

She was first female athlete to be featured, placed on the back of the Wheaties box. She won gold meals in hurdles and the javelin throw at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Bob Richards on the Wheaties box.
Bob Richards on the Wheaties box.

1958: Bob Richards

Two-time Olympic pole vaulting champion in the Helsinki and Melbourne Games. He was the first athlete to appear on the front of the Wheaties box.

Caitlyn Jenner on the Wheaties box.
Caitlyn Jenner on the Wheaties box.

1977: Caitlyn Jenner

Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. Jenner came out as transgender 40 years after her win, changing her name from Bruce to Caitlyn.

Mary Lou Retton on the Wheaties box.
Mary Lou Retton on the Wheaties box.

1984: Mary Lou Retton

Retton won five medals in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She was the first woman to be featured on the front of the Wheaties box.

Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box.
Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box.

1988: Michael Jordan

Jordan won the gold medal in basketball at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles before starting his pro career. His first appearance on a box was in 1988. He went on to become a Wheaties star with 18 appearances and win another gold medal in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics.

Kristi Yamaguchi on the Wheaties box.
Kristi Yamaguchi on the Wheaties box.

1992: Kristi Yamaguchi

Yamaguchi was the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic competition. She won the gold at the 1992 Albertville Olympics.

Amy Van Dyken on the Wheaties box.
Amy Van Dyken on the Wheaties box.

1996: Amy Van Dyken

Despite growing up with severe asthma, Van Dyken won four gold medals in swimming at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She won more gold medals than any athlete at the 1996 Games. She went on to win two more gold medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

The US Women's Gymnastics team on the Wheaties box.
The US Women's Gymnastics team on the Wheaties box.

1996: US Women's Olympic gymnastics team

The first American team to win gold in gymnastics made the box in 1996. The "magnificent seven" on the team were Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps, and Kerry Strug. They made history with their underdog win against Russia and Romania at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Tom Dolan on the Wheaties box.
Tom Dolan on the Wheaties box.

1996: Tom Dolan

Dolan won three Olympic medals in swimming at the Atlanta and Sydney Games. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2006.

Mia Hamm on the Wheaties box.
Mia Hamm on the Wheaties box.

1999: Mia Hamm

Hamm led the US Women's soccer team at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, the first time women's soccer was played in the Olympics. In 1999, the team went on to win the women's World Cup.

Muhammad Ali on the Wheaties box.
Muhammad Ali on the Wheaties box.

1999: Muhammad Ali

Won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Muhammad Ali is the first featured athlete for the Wheaties 100th Anniversary Gold Box.

Jim Thorpe on the Wheaties box.
Jim Thorpe on the Wheaties box.

2001: Jim Thorpe

Thorpe won both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. General Mills put him on the box nearly 50 years after he died.

Jesse Owens on the Wheaties box.
Jesse Owens on the Wheaties box.

2003: Jesse Owens

Owens won four gold medals in track and field at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He is one of the most famous athletes in track and field history.

Justin Gatlin on the Wheaties box.
Justin Gatlin on the Wheaties box.

2004: Justin Gatlin

Gatlin won the gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens as a sprinter. He is the oldest man to win an Olympic medal in a non-relay sprint event, a silver at the age of 34 during the Rio 2016 Games.

Michael Phelps on the Wheaties box.
Michael Phelps on the Wheaties box.

2004: Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps won 23 gold medals during his career as a swimmer, the most of any Olympian. He made appearances on the Wheaties box in 2004 and 2012.

Carl Lewis on the Wheaties box.
Carl Lewis on the Wheaties box.

2004: Carl Lewis

Lewis won four gold medals in track and field at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, two gold medals in Seoul at the 1988 Olympics, two gold medals in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, and one gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. He was named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated.

Jackie Joyner Kersee on the Wheaties box.
Jackie Joyner Kersee on the Wheaties box.

2004: Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the heptathlon and the long jump, Joyner-Kersee won three gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games in Seoul and Barcelona.

Apolo Anton Ohno on the Wheaties box.
Apolo Anton Ohno on the Wheaties box.

2006: Apolo Anton Ohno

The most decorated American Olympian at the Winter Olympics, Ohno won eight medals in three Games: 2002 in Salt Lake City, 2006 in Turin, and 2010 in Vancouver.

Nastia Liukin on the Wheaties box.
Nastia Liukin on the Wheaties box.

2008: Nastia Liukin

Liukin won five Olympic medals in gymnastics at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Lindsey Vonn on the Wheaties box.
Lindsey Vonn on the Wheaties box.

2010: Lindsey Vonn

Vonn won the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She is considered one of the world's greatest skiers.

Shaun White on the Wheaties box.
Shaun White on the Wheaties box.

2010: Shaun White

White won gold medals in snowboarding at the 2006 Games in Turin and 2010 Games in Vancouver. He played a key role in making snowboarding an Olympic sport.

Misty May Treanor on the Wheaties box.
Misty May Treanor on the Wheaties box.

2010: Misty May-Treanor

May-Treanor won three gold medals in three consecutive Olympic Games: Athens, Beijing, and London. She's one of the world's most successful volleyball players.

Mikaela Shiffrin on the Wheaties box.
Mikaela Shiffrin on the Wheaties box.

2014: Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin was the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history. She won the gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi, and at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

Greg Louganis on the Wheaties box.
Greg Louganis on the Wheaties box.

2016: Greg Louganis

Louganis won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics for springboard and platform diving. He is considered one of the world's greatest divers, and is a prominent LGBTQ-rights activist.

Janet Evans on the Wheaties box
Janet Evans on the Wheaties box

2016: Janet Evans

Evans won three gold medals in swimming at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. She went on to win the gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and is regarded as one of the world's best female swimmers.

Edwin Moses on the Wheaties box
Edwin Moses on the Wheaties box

2016: Edwin Moses

Moses won gold medals in track at the 1976 Montreal Games, and 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Serena Williams on the Wheaties box
Serena Williams on the Wheaties box

2019: Serena Williams

Williams won gold medals in tennis in the 2000 Sydney Games, 2008 Beijing Games, and 2012 Games in London.

Tommie Smith on the Wheaties box.
Tommie Smith on the Wheaties box.

2021: Tommie Smith

Smith won the gold in track and field at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. He raised his fist during the medal ceremony in solidarity for racial justice and human rights.

Wheaties box images used with permission of General Mills Marketing, Inc.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief, our free daily newsletter with the world’s most important and interesting news.

More stories from Quartz: