Top Olympic Winners & Sportspersons Who Are Dentists!

– Dr Nupur Shrirao – Editorial for August 2021 issue

We have all caught the Olympic pandemic! Sports is a beautiful passion to pursue, and sportspersons possess unique qualities – be it discipline, healthy competition or losing and winning gracefully. Imagine the amalgamation of these qualities into the profession of dentistry – because some of these athletes are also dentists!

Dentist First, Athlete Later!

Here are some famous celebrities out there who had a dental background before reaching the spotlight—

1. Pierre le Coq

Olympic windsurfer Pierre le Coq works as a dentist in his home town in north-west France. A former world champion and bronze medal winner in the RS:X event at Rio Olympics 2016, he’s currently participating in the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

2. Steve Arlin

Steve Arlin was a Major League baseball pitcher for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians for six seasons. During his playing career, Arlin began practicing dentistry and continued after completing his baseball career.

3. Les Horvath

Les Horvath, the only licensed NFL player to win the Heisman trophy, played professional football as a halfback and quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. He was also a dentist first.

4. Heena Sidhu

Sharp shooter Heena Sidhu broke the Commonwealth Games record of 38 points and won Gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She is the World record holder in the 10-metre air pistol event at the ISSF World Cup finals in 2013. She received her BDS degree before this.

Also read:  The Scientific Festival at DRDCA 2020!

5. Erhard Keller

Erhard Keller won Gold in the Winter Olympics speed skating championship. He was known as the “flying dentist” because his profession was…yes, you guessed it, dentistry!

6. Markus Merk

Markus Merk is a top-level football referee, considered to be one of the best refs to officiate. He also works as a dentist!

7. Jack Miller

Jack Miller, “the racing dentist,” competed in the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500, multiple times. 1

Athlete First, Dentist Later!

Here is a list of renowned athletes who have found a second career as dentists —

1. Dr. William Abb – Billy Cannon

Billy Cannon honoured with a statue at Tiger stadium, Louisiana State University campus

Billy Cannon was an All-American running back and he enjoyed an 11-year playing career with the Oilers, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.

After his retirement, Cannon earned his DDS degree at the University of Tennessee and additional degrees in orthodontics from Loyola University Dental School. He is currently the resident dentist at the Louisiana State Penitentiary where the inmates call him “Legend.” 2

2. Elaine Lim

Elaine Lim is the first female table tennis international umpire at the Tokyo Olympics. She became a state table tennis umpire at 15 years of age, and an international one at 21.

She didn’t want to be a full time player because she wanted to focus on studies, and her focus helped her obtain her BDS degree from the Univ of Malaya in 2012, followed by a MFDS from RCS Edinburgh in 2015. Currently, Dr Lim is a PhD scholar in Univ of Malaya, with a keen interest in implant dentistry. 3

Also read:  The Journey of Women in Dentistry

3. Wendy Houvenaghel

Dr Wendy with her medal and in her scrubs

Dr. Wendy Houvenaghel is a British racing cyclist and dentist from Northern Ireland. She has represented Great Britain in the 2012 and 2008 the Olympics Games, won the silver at the 2008 Beijing Games and gold in the team pursuit at the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Track World Championships.

Houvenaghel is contemplating a full retirement from cycling, returning to her home in Cornwall, England and a return to dentistry. She has served as a dentist in the Royal Air Force. 2

4. James Lonborg“Gentleman Jim”

“Gentleman Jim” Lonborg enjoyed a 15-year career playing for the Red Sox, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies.

After retiring, Lonborg attended the Tufts University Dental School and has worked as a dentist in Hanover, Massachusetts since.

Dr. Lonborg had this to say about both of his careers 4 , “I was blessed to be a Major League ballplayer for 15 years and to come into a beautiful career like dentistry. It’s hard to compare. The life of a dentist is a little more realistic, a little more grounded. I’ve enjoyed my patients and their families, and providing service to them. A lot of people take it for granted but I take it very seriously.”

5. John Brallier

John Brallier became the world’s first professional football player after joining the United States first formal football team in 1895. He was reluctant to join, but was convinced to play as a quarterback at a fee of $10 per game, making him the world’s first paid football player! After finishing his career in 1907, he went on to practice dentistry. 5

Also read:  Dentistry and Beyond Dentistry

6. Bill Lenkaitis

From 1968 to 1981, Bill led a double life! While he was a lineman for the New England Patriots, it was in the off-football season that he earned his dental degree from University of Tennessee, Memphis. After graduating in 1973, he spent his days off from dental practice by working out on the football field with the Patriots. 5

So you see —

you can be what you want to be!


  6. Wikipedia pages of all Olympic winners & sportspersons mentioned.

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