Yes I know its is only 2010 and we just completed a great running of the Vancouver games for the past two weeks. As you shake your head, be sure to remember that London 2012 is 28 months away and the build up comes 8 months prior to the opening ceremonies. The USA has not had a summer Olympics media darling since Marion Jones 2000. I feel the drought will end in 2012 for all of us emotional Olympic fans.
The classification of an Olympic darling comes with a high stake check list;
- Best in World
- Great Looks
- Interesting Background
- Respect of Athletes
- Top Watched Olympic Sport
- Previous Failure/Dramatic Loss/Publicized Life Story
- Strategic PR, Marketing and Management Team
There have been many over the past two Olympics who have graced the magazine covers, the Wheaties boxes, Leno, Letterman, SI ect… but non of them have truly grasped the media and family room attention as Summer Sanders, Flo Jo, Dorothy Hamill, Marion Jones and Mia Hamn have done in the past. 2008 saw a highly energetic and talented US gymnastics team but non of them came out as true darlings. Nastia Luikin leveled the competition and is truly the best in the world, but she lacks the “microphone” charisma and a strategic management team. These factors have held her back from having true “dinner table” success. Shawn Johnson is undoubtedly one of the best in the sport, great looking, great management and many of the other requirements but her age holds her back from being a true darling. She has taken advantage of her celebrity gatherings with Ashton Kutchner, Zac Efron, Will I Am and many more. The true success of Shawn is cut short because her age does not allow her to be front and center in the lives of the American public. This is by no means her fault but just how the cookie crumbles or as Malcolm Gladwell would say in Outliers, “what truly distinguishes their histories is not their extraordinary talent but their extraordinary opportunities”. In the case of Shawn, the timing is just off.
Alicia Sacromone has all the media qualities and is as charismatic as they come but the bottom line is that she is just not good enough to earn the complete respect of the fan and the sport. I am a big fan of her effort and her drive but she has never elevated her routines to gain that necessary respect as an athlete. Natalie Coughlin has some amazing qualities and I know many people have placed her in a darling spot. She is a truly gifted athlete, strikingly beautiful, great with the camera, and has a super management team but her swimming does not gather the buzz as track and field and gymnastics do. Lets get to my prediction of our next darling.
Lori “Lolo” Jones was the emotional core of the 2008 Olympic games. Her tripping on the 7th hurdle in the finals of the 110 meter hurdle race left many track and field fans gasping for their breath. The camera quickly scanned to her as she knelt in disgust on the track watching her dream slip away in front of her. The HD lenses caught her anguished mouth shouting the words “why, why, why, why, now”. A darling was born. With her driving determination, championship work ethic, heartfelt life story, charismatic voice and model like looks, Lolo set her own stage to be the first American Olympic darling since 2000.
Lolo will have a host of endorsements leading up to the London games along with countless hours of commercial and interview time. She will also grace the covers of at least 3 magazines prior to the opening ceremonies. The media build up and 6 hour time difference will have all eyes on Lolo as she takes the mark for the 110 meter hurdle race. It will be prime time during the NYC media market and we will all be rooting for her with admiration. After winning her race by a marginal 1/10 of a second she will dance the track and open her smile for the world to see. Her post race interview will be both emotional and down right motivating. She will make us laugh, cry and fall in love at the same time. Think Usain Bolt during his victory in 2008 and now couple his track side emotion with that of a drop dead gorgeous, multi racial, energetic American girl from middle America. I rest my case!
We constantly hear about the negative images of many of our high profile athletes. The images of sex, drugs and relationship issues is what is constantly thrown at us from all angles. Watching the Olympic games and witnessing the hard work, dedication and most importantly…EDUCATED INTERVIEWS. It is great to see many of these fine athletes given the podium to speak for themselves, their sports and their countries. The imagery is inspiring but the words are heartfelt and educational. They bring normalcy back to sports and make everyone feel that I to can accomplish the goals I have set for myself.