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Sports Stars Who Made Risky Career Moves

March 10, 2017

What do you do when you reach the top of your game and are one of the highest earning individuals in your field? You change job in search of a new challenge, of course! Well, maybe that’s not what everyone does, but that’s what these sports stars did. You’ll be surprised to find that a lot of the big names in sports, have at some point, taken a break from their careers to pursue something completely different. Martina Hingis, Kimi Räikkönen, Michael Jordan and Sonny Williams are just a few who have done so. Be sure to check out our star studded infographic to find out who else is on the list.

One of the most unexpected career changes came from Adam Hollioake, who between 1992 and 2007 captained England’s one-day cricket team. He is the only international cricketer to compete professionally as a Mixed Martial Artist. He was earning £50,000 a year before he retired and took up the fighting sport in 2012. How do you think he did in his first bout? C.B. Fry is another cricketer who has done the same. He represented England in 26 test matches between 1896 and 1912. During his time as an amateur cricketer, Fry also played football for England, appeared in an FA Cup Final for Southampton and held the world record for long jump. Even England’s one-time leading wicket taker and Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal ambassador, Sir Ian Botham, made the switch to football. Check out the infographic to find out which club he played for.

Rugby League and Union star, Sonny Bill Williams is another athlete to try his hand at something new. He earns a salary of $3.1 million playing rugby and has capped 33 times between 2004 and 2016 for the crushing force that is the All Blacks. In 2009, he became a heavyweight boxer and was offered a huge amount of money to compete competitively.

Former English footballer, Curtis Woodhouse also turned to boxing. In the year 2000, he earned an average of £11,000 a week playing for Sheffield United, and in 2001, he transferred to Birmingham City. During his time at Birmingham, Woodhouse made the switch to boxing and has a record of 16 wins (11 by knockout) to three losses. Woodhouse isn’t the only footballer to dive into something new. Adam Gemili earned a salary of £49,000 for playing Dagenham and Redbridge in League Two. In 2012, he made the transition to sprinting and competed for team GB in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Swiss professional tennis player and five-time Grand Slam Singles winner, Martina Hingis, stunned the tennis world when she decided to take a break from tennis and participate in equestrian competitions at the young age of 22. The infographic also reveals her total career prize money. But Hingis isn’t the only female athlete to do so. Victoria Pendleton, the multiple Olympic and World Champion cyclist in the track sprint also made a move to horse riding. She dropped her £1 million a year sponsorship to compete and won her first race in March 2016. Do you think her risk paid off?

Formula One Ferrari racing driver, Kimi Räikkönen, also known as ‘The Ice Man’ (probably as he’s from Finland), took a break in 2009 to race a different type of vehicle than the one he was used to. He joined the WRC tour and also competed in NASCAR in the US for $500k a year. During his career as a Formula One race car driver he won the World Championship in 2007 and has earned over $200 million.

Do you think these career moves were worth the risk? Would you drop your million-dollar salary to head down another path? Sometimes it seems as though some people are fortunate enough to be good at everything they do, others, not so much. Take a look at our infographic below for more risky career moves.

About the author

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

Sports Journalist

Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.