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star players These are the celebrities who could have gone for gold... Had their careers not taken another path

We look at the Hollywood stars who could have made the Olympics

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Weightlifting: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Weightlifting: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Weightlifting: Arnold Schwarzenegger

The biggest sporting event on the planet got underway on Friday with Irish competitors lining up against the best in the world over the next fortnight in more than 400 events across 35 different sports.

But the Sunday World has discovered a whole team of star athletes who missed last week’s plane to Tokyo.

There’s a huge team of athletes and sporting champions among Tinseltown’s line-up of actors, actresses, reality TV stars and pop idols.

Can you imagine a world where the likes of J-Lo, George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston are competing for gold? It’s not as far from the truth as you may think!


ATHLETICS

There’s a whole host of stars fit to line up on the track. Long before he was saving lives or robbing casinos, George Clooney was a track champion at school. As was Loki star Tom Hiddleston.

Even now, Hollywood hunk Mark Wahlberg still longs to pull on his spikes and play the running man. “In a perfect world, I would be a professional athlete,” he said a few years back. “But I ventured off into other worlds.”

Halle Berry is no slouch either, having picked up medals for her track triumphs in her teens, but there is only one true track and field star in Tinseltown.

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Gymnastics: Salma Hayek

Gymnastics: Salma Hayek

Gymnastics: Salma Hayek

GYMNASTICS

Salma Hayek was so flexible and agile as a child that her future was seen as a top gymnast rather than a famous actress. “They drafted me to be part of the Olympic team,” says the Oscar-winning star.

“But I was eight or nine and my father said no because I would have had to go live in Mexico City in a boarding school for gymnasts, do six hours, eight hours a day of training, which for me was like paradise.”

Hayek isn’t alone. Before she became a music and movie superstar, J-Lo was the star of her school gym. The young Latina trained as a gymnast at high school and so impressed her Bronx buddies they nicknamed her “La Guitar” because her body curved like a guitar.

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Cycling: Matt Damon

Cycling: Matt Damon

Cycling: Matt Damon

CYCLING

There are plenty of celebs with real pedal power. Harrison Ford (79) loves to cycle almost as much as he loves to fly and Jennifer Aniston used to cycle for a living back in the days when she was a struggling actor and working in New York as a bike messenger.

Two A-listers who recently decamped here for filming are also keen cyclists. Patrick Dempsey organises charity races where he regularly competes against professional cyclists. And Matt Damon takes things a little more seriously as he has competed in a number of endurance races and was once hotly tipped to play shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong in a biopic.

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Boxing: Mickey Rourke

Boxing: Mickey Rourke

Boxing: Mickey Rourke

BOXING

There are more star contenders for this event than any other, with the likes of Russell Crowe, Will Smith and Hilary Swank, who have all amazed their coaches by slugging it out almost as well as the pros for movie roles.

But there’s only one Hollywood star who can claim to be a real king of the ring. 9½ Weeks star Mickey Rourke had 26 amateur fights in the 1970s and then quit when his acting career took off.

Just last year, 67-year-old Mickey revealed he wanted to make a another return to the ring.

“Keep in mind I’m over 200lbs, fat as s**t,” he said. “I’ve got to get down to 175. I’ll start working. Then, if I’m motivated, I’ll fight.”

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Equestrian: Kate Bosworth

Equestrian: Kate Bosworth

Equestrian: Kate Bosworth

EQUESTRIAN

Kate Bosworth was a champion equestrian at the age of 14, winning multiple events across the US. Ironically, her big break was also centred around horses when she starred opposite Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer. Model and actress Kate Upton could easily saddle up with the other Kate thanks to her days as a champion rider.

The 29-year-old beauty was an equestrian star when she was younger and competed at national level with her horse Roanie Pony. Former Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco is an expert rider and is married to a top equestrian coach.

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Archery: Jennifer Lawrence

Archery: Jennifer Lawrence

Archery: Jennifer Lawrence

ARCHERY

Gina Davis almost made the Olympics for real. Having picked up a bow and arrow for the first time in 1997, the Thelma and Louise star narrowly failed to make the US team for the 2000 games. Jennifer Lawrence could also make the grade after all that training she endured for her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movies. Four-time Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, who trained her, says Jen could have turned professional.

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Diving: Jason Statham

Diving: Jason Statham

Diving: Jason Statham

DIVING

Another true Olympian in Tinseltown, Jason Statham was on the 1996 Great Britain diving team before he dived into film roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Transporter and Fast and Furious movies. Unfortunately he missed out on a medal. “It was a very intense training schedule, five hours a day, six days a week, so there’s no time for anything else,” said Jason.


WEIGHTLIFTING

Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger was not only a bodybuilding champion but also won the Austrian Junior Olympic Weightlifting Championship before flexing his muscles in Hollywood.


SWIMMING

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank was 16 when she competed in the Junior Olympics and Washington State championships as a swimmer. Former Friends star Courtney Cox also won a state swimming competition but gave up her sporting ambition for modelling and then acting.


JUDO

You wouldn’t want to mess with pint-sized Goodfella Joe Pesci as he is a black belt in judo and had a formidable reputation on the mats during his teens.


WRESTLING

We’ve found two movie heavyweights to grapple for Tinseltown in the ring. Jurassic World star Chris Pratt was a champion wrestler in high school, as was Tom Cruise .“I was in the school wrestling team and used to be pretty good,” says Tom. “But I injured my knee and that was that, so I turned to acting.”

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Tennis: Matthew Perry

Tennis: Matthew Perry

Tennis: Matthew Perry

TENNIS

If it wasn’t for being a bad loser, Matthew Perry could have been famous on the tennis court rather than on TV and film. “I was in the top 20 as an under-18 junior player in Canada and then I lost to this really bad player at a big tournament,” explains the former Friends star. “That’s when I got really furious with my game and decided that I wasn’t going to make it as a pro. So after that it was ‘Hollywood here I come!’ ”

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