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I’ve put together this cheat sheet of successful vegan athletes to help you during moments of self doubt. (More likely for when your competitors play mind games by suggested a lack of meat will destroy your performance).

The most commonly cited examples of outstanding vegan success are the tennis superstar Williams sisters and Ultra endurance athlete Rich Roll.

There are plenty more great role models here and the list will only grow as veganism continues to become the norm.

Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1 – Great Britain

Five-time Formula 1 (F1) champion and vegan athlete Lewis Hamilton famously ditched animal products in September 2017 after watching the plant-based health documentary “What the Health.” Within a month, he was an avid supporter of his new vegan diet, stating that he could “never go back” to eating meat”.

Although he seemed to have adopted a plant-based diet for the health benefits, the five-time F1 champ also has a soft spot for animals.

Venus & Serena Williams – Tennis – USA

Venus Williams went vegan in 2011 after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome which is an auto-immune disease. Not only has her health improved greatly, but veganism has enhanced her athletic ability as well.

Having seen firsthand how a vegan diet changed Venus’s life, her sister Serena also adopted a plant-based diet.

Chris Smalling – Football – Great Britain

Chris Smalling plays as a center back for Premier League club Manchester United and the England national team. The England defender cut out meat, fish, eggs and dairy after being converted by his model wife Sam.

“I was trying some of her food for dinners and I started to notice the odd benefit. “She’s a good cook anyway, which helps, and I went from there. If anything, I’m eating better than I was before – not just in terms of vegetables but different proteins.”

The Club have added some of Chris’s wife’s recipes to their menu:  “Without doubt the vegan burgers have been a huge hit, and when they’re on they just seem to quietly vanish!

Tony Gonzalez – NFL – USA

Gonzalez is the best known vegan in the NFL who converted to a plant diet after he read the book: ‘The China Study’

Rich Roll – Ultraman – USA

Rich Roll is an Ultra athlete, Ironman and author of Finding Ultra.

Since going vegan in 2006 at the age of 40, Rich won the title of one of the ’25 Fittest Guys In The World’ by Men’s Fitness Magazine in 2009 and is getting top results in ultra-marathon and Ironman races.

Ricky Williams – NFL – USA

NFL star Ricky Williams feels strongly about not eating meat: “I wouldn’t eat a chicken if it dropped dead in front of me holding up a sign that said ‘Eat Me.’”.

David Haye – Boxing – Great Britain

British Professional boxer David Haye went vegan at the end of 2014.

“Cutting it {animal products} out made me feel immediately better and stronger than ever. I’m now fitter than I’ve ever been. I punch harder than ever. I’m more determined. I’m faster…”

Laura Dennis – Wrestling – Canada

Canadian Professional wrestler Laura Dennis, aka ‘Allie’, has been vegan since the age of 14

Mac Danzig – Mixed Martial Arts – USA

Mac Danzig is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitor who has competed at the highest level. He’s been a vegan since 2004.

“When I decided to go vegan, I was able to make the 155-pound weight class much easier, and I haven’t lost an ounce of muscle. I’m leaner than I used to be, and I have much more energy than I used to.”

Fiona Oaks – Marathon Running – Great Britain

Fiona Oakes is an elite marathon runner, Vegan Society ambassador and holds 3 world marathon titles. Her personal best time is 2hrs and 38minutes, Oakes has competed in more than 40 marathons.

Steph Davis – Mountaineering – USA

Mountaineer Steph Davis has been vegan for more than 12 years and is the first woman to summit the 2685m peak of Torre Egger in Argentina. She is also the only woman to have climbed a 5.11 grade mountain, free-solo.

“Eating a vegan diet gives me optimum physical and mental awareness.”

Patrik Baboumian – Bodybuilding – Germany

Bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian won the German Junior Bodybuilder title in 1999 when he was only 20 years old. He became vegan in 2011 and his current titles include the world record for under 105kg log-lift and the German record for heavyweight log-lift, which he was won 4 times in a row.

Brendan Brazier – Triathlon and Ironman – Canada

Canadian triathlete and endurance runner Brendan Brazier has won triathlons at Olympic distance, Half Ironman and full Ironman.  He has set the Bigfoot Half Ironman course record twice and was twice Canadian 50k champion, in 2003 and 2006.

Lizzie Deignan (Armitsead) – Cycling – Great Britain

World Road Cycling Champion Vegetarian Cyclist Lizzie Deignan has been a vegetarian since the age of 10.

Lizzie is riding for UCI Women’s Team Trek–Segafredo in 2019. She was the 2015 World road race champion and the 2014 Commonwealth Games road race champion.

She also won the UCI Women’s Road World Cup twice in 2014 and 2015.

She won silver in the road race at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and she has won the British National Road Race Championships four times, in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Prior to her road career, Lizzie won a total of five medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2009 and 2010, including a gold medal in team pursuit in 2009 with Joanna Rowsell and Wendy Houvenaghel.

Maarten Tjallingii – Cycling – Netherlands

Maarten Tjallingii was a known vegetarian within the World Tour peloton. He finished in third place at the world’s most grueling one day race: Paris-Roubaix in 2011.

Dave Zabriskie – Cycling – USA

Cycling World tour star and vegan cyclist Dave Zabriskie, aka Captain America, decided to go full out vegan towards the end of his career.

Since changing his diet he claims he felt better than ever and continued winning races.

Alberto Contador – Cycling – Spain

Cycling superstar and vegetarian cyclist Alberto Contador dropped meat after being banned for testing positive for clenbuterol in 2011.

The Spaniard claimed that he ate contaminated meat and as a result cut it from his diet.

Christine Vardaros – Cycling – USA

Vegan cyclist Christine Vardaros is arguably one of the most successful female cyclocross riders to come from the United States.

She has competed in three World Championships and won multiple podiums. She started eating a  vegetarian diet and found she was riding better so she then went full vegan with even stronger results.

Paolo Barbon – Cycling – Italy

Vegan cyclist Paolo is an Italian cyclist known for his long distance cycling events. He competes in mountain biking and specializes in 24 hour races.

In 2016 Paolo placed second in 24 hour Barbano Vicentino and took third in the Bellaria Igea Marina, also a 24 hour event.

And here are some honorable mentions for you:

  • Lisa Gawthorne, vegan duathlon competitor, Great Britain
  • Stefhan Andersen, vegan triathlete.  Stefhan’s main motivation to go vegan was initially simply to not get sick!, Sweden
  • Johanna Jahnke, vegan rugby player and ultra cyclist, Germany
  • Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, vegan triathlete & Ironman, Canada
  • Sebastjan Gregoric, vegan triathlete & Ironman, Slovenia
  • David Smith, MBE, vegan paralympian para rower and cyclist Great Britain
  • Shea West, vegan BMX rider, USA
  • Madi Serpico, vegan triathlete, Canada
  • Mo Bruno-Roy, elite vegan cyclist (cyclocross), USA
  • Kevin Selker, vegan track cyclist, USA
  • Zak Covalcik, vegan cyclist (track) and 5 times US National Champion, USA
  • Laura Kline, vegan duathlon competitor, USA
  • Jack Lindquist, vegan cyclist winner 2007 Puma Velocity race in New York City, USA
  • Ruth Heidrich, veteran vegan endurance athlete & Ironman, has over 900 medals for running of all distances. At the age of 83 Ruth was still running mini marathons having been vegan for 36 years, USA
  • Christine Vardaros, vegan cyclist, 2004 Santa Cruz Classic Criterium winner, USA
  • Molly Cameron, vegan cyclist won the 2004 and 2011 Cross Crusade Singlespeed Series and has been Oregon state champion twice, USA.
  • Catherine Johnson, vegan cyclist (cyclocross champion), USA