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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

The athletes who became successful politicians

We look at some of the top athletes Bernard Brogan might follow into politics.

BERNARD BROGAN’S STATEMENT that he would keep his mind open to a political career after football puts him in line with a whole host of athletes who turned their popularity on the field of play into political capital.

The overwhelming popularity and respect the Dublin footballer enjoys both in the capital and elsewhere would certainly be a help in any run for office. We took a look at some of the other athletes turned politicians on whom Brogan might choose to model himself.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan

Source: jimbojimjimbo/YouTube

For direct inspiration, Brogan need only look across the city of his birth to Drimnagh-born Eamonn Coghlan. Known as the “Chairman of the Boards” for his 56-race unbeaten streak as an indoor runner while a student at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Coghlan also broke the world record for the indoor mile three times. He ran in three Olympic Games, with two fourth-place finishes, but his  finest moment on the track may have been becoming the first Irish athlete to win gold at a World Championships, in the 5000 metres in Helsinki in 1983.

He was nominated to the Seanad as an Independent Senator by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, later joining the Fine Gael parliamentary party. He fell short in the Dublin West by-election in 2014, but indicated he would consider running in the next general election.

Former US Senator Bill Bradley

PA-8625203 The insanely accomplished Bill Bradley while playing for the New York Knicks. Source: AP/Press Association Images

On the other side of the Atlantic is another former college great, basketball standout Bill Bradley, who has achieved a sickening amount between sport and politics. He won Olympic gold in basketball in 1964, when the US were still sending college players to the Games, and was college player of the season for Princeton University the following year. He won a Rhodes Scholarship while at Princeton to spend time studying at Oxford, and while there, also played for Italy’s Olimpia Milano, winning a European Champions Cup.

After finishing his studies, he won two NBA championships with the New York Knicks. Though he was a less dominant player than he had been in college, he was still successful, and his jersey was retired by the Knicks. After 10 years as a pro, he was elected United States Senator for New Jersey as a Democrat, a role he held from 1979 until 1997. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for President in 2000, but still, you have to admit, that’s a pretty good career.

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bit of a mixed bag on the politics for Arnie... Source: INPHO

Strange as it might seem if we start seeing Bernard Brogan knocking on doors rather than popping points over the bar, when it comes to bizarre, it’s tough to match California’s decision to elect Arnie Governor. In office from 2003 to 2010, the former Mr Universe and purveyor of brilliant catchphrases left the state with a huge deficit, so he probably won’t be back. Later, the popular actor was embroiled in family scandal shortly later for admitting affairs with his housekeeper and actress Brigitte Nielsen that ultimately led to the end of his marriage.

Former Governor  Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura

Entertainers Turned Politicians Governor Ventura in his post-wrestling days. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Look, people of Minnesota, we’ve all enjoyed a bit of WWF (WWE to you whippersnappers) in our time, but I don’t know if many of us have looked at the lads jumping head-first off the top rope and thought, “Let’s put that guy in charge”. Yet that’s exactly what Minnesotans did in 1999, electing long-time professional wrestler Ventura as Governor, a position he held until stepping down in 2003, saying his heart was no longer in the job. He has discussed potentially running for President in 2016, but remains undecided.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko

Source: Slavko911/YouTube

Somehow it seems like a lot of the athletes who turn to the political realm are enormous, terrifying men. Klitschko, a 6″7 former World Heavyweight Champion with a PhD in sports science and a Masters in social development, was a leader of the opposition to former President Viktor Yanukovych, and is now Mayor of Kiev. How far he’ll go as a politician remains to be seen, but after losing just two of forty-seven professional fights, he’s already one of the most accomplished athletes to take that route.

Who are some of the other top athletes to venture into the political realm? Are there other athletes you think might make good politicians? Let us know in the comments.

- Eoin Gubbins

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