Prior to 1980, tattooed Olympic athletes were an uncommon site at best. Back then, tattoos were for criminals and rebel-types in society. Therefore, it stands to reason that a rebel of an athlete would be the one to break the Olympic tattoo taboo and get himself inked. Chris Jacobs was a US swimmer who had led a somewhat rocky life in his early years. He had tried cocaine for the first time at age 12, and after years of drinking and drugs, he bought a gun and decided to end his life when he was 21. Instead, he ended up turning his life around, attending the University of Texas and finding meaning in his life through his gift for swimming.
By 24, Chris became an Olympic swimmer who won three medals for the US in 1988 in Soul, Korea. It was on his way home after the games that Chris stopped over in Hawaii for a little deserved R&R and decided to get a tattoo of the Olympic rings.
The trend caught on, and today getting an Olympic ring tattoo is a common rite of passage for swimmers everywhere, as well as athletes of other sports.