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Vegetarian Athletes

I was recently vexed by a conversation with a family member who, talking about someone else who is not physically strong said, "Well, but she's a vegetarian, so."  As if all vegetarians were weaklings!

"Like Bruce Lee," I snapped back.  "What a wuss that guy was!"  It made the point quite well, I thought.  

Herewith, a list of vegans and vegetarians who happen to be famous athletes!

Killer Kowalski
Walter "Killer" Kowalski was a professional wrestler who specialized in playing the bad guy.  Kowalski began professional wrestling in college when he learned that he could make more at it than at the entry-level job he had been working at the time.  He went on to wrestle in both the NWA and the WWF.

Kowalski's signature moves were the Dropkick and the PIledriver.  At 6 feet 7 inches tall, Killer was considerably larger than many of his opponents, and he cultivated a menacing air in the ring.  Outside the ring he was affable and kind.  

Kowalski became a vegetarian in the 1960s.  

Carl Lewis
This famous track and field star racked up ten Olympic medals, nine of which were gold.  Carl Lewis dominated sports in the 1980s, setting world records left and right.  He posted world record times for the 100 meter, 400 meter, and 200 meter relays.  He has held the world record for the indoor long jump since 1984, and holds one of the world's longest winning streaks in the long jump.

Carl Lewis became a vegan early in life, and he cites his vegan diet as a major contributing factor to his athletic success.

Martina Navratilova
Frequently described as one of the world's greatest tennis players, Martina Navratilova's records will stand for the ages.  Her list of wins is roughly five feet long, and begins with winning the Czechoslovakian national tennis championship in 1973 at the tender age of 16.  Navratilova went on to win Wimbledon singles a record nine times.  She also accumulated 167 career titles as a singles player, and 177 titles as a doubles player, both of which stand as all-time records for any player either male or female.

Navratilova is also an outspoken advocate for vegetarianism (technically she is a pescetarian) and has appeared in several PETA ad campaigns.

Joe Namath
One of American football's most recognized names, Joe Namath is considered one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the sport.  Namath played for the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams, and was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1985.  This Super Bowl champion is also cited as kicking off the trend of using athletes as sex symbols in advertising, after his famous pantyhose commercial.

Joe Namath's famous vegetarian quote is, "It shows you don't need meat to play football."

Hank Aaron
Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hank Aaron played for the Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1954 to 1976.  Hank Aaron's milestones include being the eighth player to hit 500 home runs, and racked up 3,000 career hits.  He was the first player to get both 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.  He went on to get 600 career home runs, the third player ever to hit that record.  He finished his career with a staggering 755 home runs under his belt.  Aaron entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Hank Aaron's vegetarianism has long been rumored, although he has never officially confirmed nor denied the rumors.

Creative Commons-licensed image courtesy of Flickr user **peter**initram5*