Dennis Weaver became an actor after he failed to qualify for the 1948 Olympics
Weaver had big dreams.
It's solid advice that if you're pursuing a career in something creative like acting, it's always good to have a backup plan. Becoming an actor isn't for everyone, and isn't as sustainable as one might hope. Because of that, having a separate career opportunity to fall back on is highly recommended.
But for Dennis Weaver, acting actually was his backup plan. According to a TV Guide interview, Weaver admitted that he attended tryouts for the 1948 Olympics in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Unfortunately, he finished sixth in the decathlon, and because only the first three winners qualified, Weaver was unfortunately unable to qualify.
The experience was understandably disappointing but provided Weaver with the opportunity for a career pivot. Weaver stated, "I did so poorly, I decided I might as well stay in New York and try acting." Viewers are quite lucky he did, as he became the mainstay loveable Chester Goode on Gunsmoke.
With the efficiency that Weaver portrays the limping Goode, it can be difficult to watch Gunsmoke and still think of Weaver as an athlete. Moreover, Gunsmoke makes Chester appear as a much smaller man than Weaver, a man standing over six feet tall, actually was.
Weaver explained, "I get to thinking of Chester as a little guy, too, from watching the show at home. But you've got to remember that Jim Arness is a big man. Jim is 6 feet 6. Makes Chester look little."