Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Phelps Lives Up to Hype, Topping Overall Coverage of Olympic Athletes

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

It’s not often that an athlete lives up to the hype preceding his performance, and few Olympic athletes have been accompanied by as much hype as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. But not only did Phelps live up to the expectations of eight gold medals in the Beijing Games, he exceeded them. He won his eight medals, and did so in almost every way possible: individually; as part of relay teams; by unbelievably wide margins; and by, literally, the length of a fingernail. So it’s no surprise that Phelps was the most-mentioned athlete among those being tracked by Dow Jones Insight in both traditional (print and online) and social (blogs and boards) media sources.

Of the 55,051 total mentions in traditional media sources between August 11 and August 25, Phelps had 19,626, or 36% of the selected top athletes tracked. His percentage of social media mentions was even larger. Of the 46,285 total mentions of top athletes during the same time period, Phelps had 28,787, or 62%. In second behind Phelps in both traditional and social media sources was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals. Bolt had 13,349 mentions, or 24%, in traditional media and 5,441 mentions, for a more modest 12%, in social media.

French swimmer Alain Bernard was third in traditional media sources, with 3,552 mentions, or 7%. Bernard was a participant in one of the most exciting and memorable finishes in the swimming competition when he was overtaken by the U.S.’s Jason Lezak on the anchor leg of the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Bernard was followed by U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin, who won the women’s all-around gold medal, with 3,202 mentions, for 6%. British cyclist Chris Hoy, who won three gold medals in track cycling, had 2,664 mentions, or 5%. Liukin’s teammate Shawn Johnson had 2,658 mentions, or 5%. British swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who won two gold medals, had 2,572 mentions, or 5%.

U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay, who was expected to challenge for the gold in the men’s 100 meters, had 2,508 mentions, or 5%. Gay was still bothered by an injury he suffered in the U.S. Olympic Trials, and failed to make the final of the race. Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, who also had a disappointing Olympics when he was forced to withdraw from his event due to injury, had 2,498 mentions, or 5%.

U.S. beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, who along with her partner Kerri Walsh, won a second consecutive gold medal, rounded out the top 10 athletes with 2,422 mentions, or 4%.

In social media sources, Johnson was third behind Phelps and Bolt, with 3,108 mentions, or 7%. Liukin followed with 2,464 mentions, or 5%. May-Treanor and U.S. swimmer Dara Torres, who won two silver medals at the age of 41, each had 3% of the total mentions. Basketball player Yao Ming, who is a superstar in his native China as well as in the U.S., had 957 mentions, or 2%. Liu Xiang, Bernard and Gay rounded out the top 10 with 2% of mentions each.

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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