Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where we’re thinking of declaring a 6-week vacation for the Olympics…like the WNBA.
One of the things I find most fascinating about sports and marketing is how little-known athletes can do something great and burst onto the scene, become national darlings, cash in on their fame with one or more endorsement deals and then fade away almost as quickly. Sometimes these figures become enduring legends (think Mary Lou Retton or Brandi Chastain), and can parlay their accomplishments into a lifelong career. But most of the time, the only things these athletes have after 6-12 months are the medals they won and the cash they earned while they were still in the limelight.
Each time an Olympics comes around, I try to predict which athletes will emerge in similar fashion. So…which under-the-radar athletes will captivate America, get their face on a Wheaties box and cash in on their fame during/after the 2012 London Olympics – and maybe even become a legend? Try these three:
1) Jordyn Wieber, gymnastics. This one’s easy, folks. Every four years America’s Fabulous Five dominate discussion for 1-2 weeks, and at least one of them becomes one of the faces of the Games for the USA. In Beijing, it was Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. This year my money’s on Jordyn Wieber. She’s as accomplished, rock solid and cool under pressure as any member of Team USA – which is why she has emerged as the de facto leader of the squad. And it doesn’t hurt that the team is favored to win gold. Talk about photo ops.
2) Missy Franklin, swimming. She dominated the Olympic trials and will be swimming about as many events in London as Michael Phelps – so the Olympics should be her coming-out party on the big stage. Natalie Coughlin, Phelps and all the USA swimming greats call her the next big thing. And she’s 17, meaning she should be no flash in the pan. Get ready to hear about Missy for a long time to come.
3) Ashton Eaton, track and field. He’s the best athlete you’ve never heard of – he’s a top decathlete, and a world record holder in the heptathlon. If he lives up to form and can win gold in the decathlon (and officially earn the title of world’s best athlete), why can’t he join sprinters like Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin on the track and field mantle?
Honorable Mention: Ryan Lochte, Allyson Felix and Hugh McCutcheon. But these athletes and coach aren’t really under the radar…
That’s all for now. I’m out like Blake Griffin.
(Photo Credits: all photos from TeamUSA.org)