Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Swimmers Phelps and Torres Lead Coverage of Olympic Athletes

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

The Beijing Olympic Games begin in a little more than three weeks, and the media spotlight is shining more brightly on the athletes with the potential to become stars of the Games. Swimmer Michael Phelps continued to lead the way among the 10 U.S. athletes being tracked by Dow Jones Insight in the period July 1 to July 14.

On the strength of his performance at the recent U.S. Olympic trials, where he qualified for eight events and set two world records for good measure, Phelps had 2,799 mentions, or 33% of the 8,380 total mentions of the U.S. athletes tracked, in traditional (print and online) and social (blogs and boards) media sources analyzed. Fellow swimmer Dara Torres, who qualified for two events in Beijing, was second with 1,916 mentions, or 23%. Torres, 41, made headlines by being the oldest American swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics. She won nine medals over four Olympics and came out of retirement two years ago after the birth of her daughter to train for Beijing.

Sprinter Tyson Gay was third in overall coverage, with 1,659 mentions, or 20%. Gay easily made the U.S. team for the 100 meters race but failed to qualify for the 200 meters when he fell in a qualifying heat at the trials. Fellow track stars Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards followed Gay. Wariner had 601 mentions, or 7%, Felix had 593 mentions, or 7%, and Richards had 426 mentions, or 5%. Gymnast Paul Hamm, whose trip to Beijing hinges on his performance at the upcoming U.S. team training camp, had 201 mentions, or 2%. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, whose places on the women’s gymnastics team are secure, had 131 mentions, or 2%, and 54 mentions, or 1%, respectively.

Among the tracked athletes from outside the U.S. hoping to use success in Beijing as a springboard to increased exposure, it was ironically Australian Jana Rawlinson who led coverage during the past fortnight, with 455 of the 1,907 total mentions, or 24%, for her failure to make the Australian team in the 400-meter hurdles. Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell, who is considered one of the favorites in the men’s 100 meters, was a close second with 406 mentions, or 21%. Australian swimmer Grant Hackett had 304 mentions, or 16%. Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, one of the superstars for the hometown fans, had 214 mentions, or 11%. Libby Lenton, an Australian swimmer, had 178 mentions, or 9%. British marathoner Paula Radcliffe had 141 mentions, or 7%. Leisel Jones, who is expected to be one of the strongest competitors on a very strong Australian women’s swimming squad, had 118 mentions, or 6%. British yachtsman Ben Ainslie had 39 mentions, or 2%. Another Aussie swimmer, Cate Campbell, had 35 mentions, or 2%. British middle-distance runner Jo Pavey had 17 mentions, or 1%.

Methodology: Analysis includes the English-language sources taken from a database of 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts; about 13,000 current-awareness news sites; 60,000 message boards and about two million blogs.

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