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  • What fuels Missy Franklin in the off-season? Mom's sweet treat

    TODAY

    TODAY

    By Ian Sager, TODAY.com

    Missy Franklin may have just struck gold, but the 17-year-old swimmer is still weeks away from celebrating with a decadent hometown delight.

    D.A. and Dick Franklin confirmed to TODAY.com that in addition to tattooing the Olympic rings on her hip, per Team USA tradition, Missy will rejoice come August with one of her favorite desserts: her mom’s Magic Squares.  

    “It’s more of a treat; it’s something she won’t eat when she’s swimming (competitively),” D.A. explained to TODAY.com.

    While the recipe may not be training-friendly,the squares sound worth waiting for.

    D.A. offered TODAY.com a peek at a portion of her recipe: “I layer graham crackers, chocolate, butterscotch, condensed milk and coconut in a pan, then bake and cut.”

    Missy, who last week told TODAY.com that she's trying her hand at cooking, explained that this recipe means something special to her — and it’s clear the same applies for her parents.

    “We really enjoy this one,” D.A. said.

    The Franklins, who introduced themselves as “parents, not coaches,” say they’re imploring their daughter to take in her first Olympic experience.

    Their advice: “Enjoy yourself, do your best, we’ll always love you.” 

    Ian Sager is a member of the TODAY.com team covering the Olympics in London. His mouth may have been watering when discussing Magic Squares.

    More: Missy Franklin's mom: 'She's always been smiling' 
    Natalie Coughlin: I could swim again in London 
    Shawn Johnson's dare: Ready, set, jump for TODAY! 
    Video: Matt Grevers: Gold-winning swim 'felt pretty good' 
    Read all of TODAY's 2012 Olympics coverage!
    Ryan Lochte's mom: He's 'too on the go' for girlfriend 

  • Ryan Lochte's mom: He's too 'on the go' for girlfriend

    Martin Bureau / AFP - Getty Images

    Martin Bureau / AFP - Getty Images

    Ike Lochte is a strong — and emotional — supporter of her son’s competitive lifestyle, but she says Ryan is too busy to commit to a girlfriend.

    “He goes out on one-night stands,” she told TODAY.com. “He’s not able to give fully to a relationship because he’s always on the go.”

    Update: Lochte clarifies his mom's comments 

    The swimmer celebrates his 28th birthday this Friday, Aug. 3, but Ike says the family will celebrate him on Saturday after he is freed up from competing. His 4x200 freestyle relay swim airs Tuesday night on NBC. 

    Lochte’s mom, along with the family clan, was on the TODAY set to chat with Matt Lauer about Ryan’s performance so far this Olympics. “Everything he has done has been to the max,” Ike said. “He’s unique, loving, and he challenges himself all the time.” Ryan likely gets much of his drive from his own parents, both of whom were swim coaches. Ike says the best trait he inherited from her is his love of kids and his awareness of his position and his fans.

    The swimmer uses Twitter to show his love to fans, re-tweeting and updating his admirers. Monday night he thanked them: “GOODNIGHT #LochteNation & thank u for being the best fans. Always said it b4 & I'll say it forever.. I wouldn't be anything without u.”

    As for Ike, she’s not on Twitter, but she sends words of encouragement to her son via text when she’s not with him. Before he competes, she keeps her message simple: “I say, have fun, and I love you,” she said. 

    Sarika Dani is a TODAY.com editor in London. No lie: She has the same birthday as Ryan Lochte. 

    More:

    Phelps rival writes his own headline: 'Ryan Lochte takes over' 
    Fashion lover Ryan Lochte has 130 pairs of shoes 
    Ryan Lochte to Vogue: 'I'm a coach's nightmare' 
    Olympic moms on supporting star athletes 
    Ad gives Olympic (and regular) moms their due  

  • Chinese weightlifter's hairy mole: Everything you never wanted to know

    AP Photo/Mike Groll

    Zhang Jie of China reacts while competing during the men's 62-kg weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London.

    AP Photo/Mike Groll

    Zhang Jie of China reacts while competing during the men's 62-kg weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London.

    What's the most shocking sight in the Olympics so far?  It’s not Michael Phelps failing to medal in the 400 IM.  Nor is it Jordyn Weiber getting eliminated from the gymnastics all-around finals. 

    The most shocking sight to me is Chinese weightlifter Zhang Jie’s big, hairy facial mole.

    Zhang sports a mole on the side of his chin that must measure at least half an inch in diameter.  Long, wiry, black hair protrudes from it, resembling the whiskers of a cat. 

    As a plastic surgeon, I recommend that he have the mole removed.  It resembles a congenital hairy nevus, which carries a 0.8-4.9 percent risk of turning into skin cancer. The best treatment for moles like this is surgical excision. 

    So why hasn’t Zhang had it cut off? 

    Even more important, why doesn’t he clip those hairs?

    According to the Chinese Fortune Calendar, dark moles are often considered good luck. Hairy moles signify even better luck than bald ones, as they are regarded as healthier. This belief may actually be supported medically: Cancerous moles often lose their hair, as the cancer cells invade the hair follicle, causing the hair shafts to fall out.  Therefore, hairy moles are considered less likely to be cancerous than non-hairy ones.

    So was Zhang’s congenital hairy nevus good luck? 

    Not really. Although he was the favorite to win the 62-kilogram competition, Zhang ended up placing fourth

    Time to call the plastic surgeon.   

    Dr. Anthony Youn is a Michigan-based cosmetic surgeon and frequent NBCNews.com and TODAY.com contributor. He is the author of the book "In Stitches," a humorous memoir about becoming a doctor. 

     

  • U.S. gymnast's dad 'embarrassed' watching viral video

    TODAY's Natalie Morales chats with the parents of U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman about their dramatic and animated reactions during Sunday's competition.

    TODAY's Natalie Morales chats with the parents of U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman about their dramatic and animated reactions during Sunday's competition.

    Contorting in the stands with their daughter's every flip on the uneven bars, the parents of U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman became a viral sensation when NBC cameras caught them urging her to “stick it’’ in her final routine on Sunday.

    Rick and Lynn Raisman could only laugh at their own expressive body language as they watched the video during an interview with Natalie Morales on TODAY Tuesday. The Raismans had reason to be excited in their now-famous clip, as Aly stunned the field in the qualifying round on Sunday to advance to the individual all-around finals. In the process, she bumped out teammate (and gold medal favorite) Jordyn Wieber.

    Raisman’s performance was a big story on its own, but her mom and dad joined her in the headlines by showing the type of emotion familiar to any parents dealing with the anxiety of watching their child compete. On Monday morning, Aly tweeted, “I love my parents,’’ and attached a clip of the video.

    “It was such a relief when she finished the event,’’ Rick told Morales. “There’s just so much pressure and it’s just so magnified. I’m embarrassed watching (the video) now. You don’t even realize it. You’re just so locked in, it’s just unreal.’’

    “I knew he was moving,’’ Lynn said of her husband. “I had no idea I was moving that much.’’

    Rick stood up and pumped his fist in celebration while Lynn cried tears of joy once they realized their daughter was now one step away from her dream of an individual Olympic medal. They knew Aly had reached the finals before she did.

    “She doesn’t always watch her scores,’’ her mother said. “I said, ‘Did you know how close you were going into the last event?' She said, ‘No I didn’t look at the scores.’ Her coach is usually happy at the end, but he was really, really happy, and she said, ‘I had no idea.’’’

    Aly’s ecstasy was Wieber’s agony, as the reigning all-around world champion is now out of the running for an individual all-around gold medal. Wieber finished fourth overall in Sunday’s qualifier, but international rules state that only two competitors from the same country can advance. Since Raisman and teammate Gabby Douglas finished ahead of Wieber, she was eliminated from a finals berth.

    “(Aly) felt terrible,’’ Lynn Raisman said. “It’s always terrible that there’s a two per-country rule. When you’re from a country like the U.S. where’s there’s five girls who really could do it if they were all given a chance to compete in the all-around, it could be any number of them. It’s really hard.’’

    Wieber will still compete in Tuesday’s team finals, with the United States being the favorite to win its first gymnastics gold medal as a team since 1996.

    “If they just go in and do what they’re capable of doing, no question they’ll do it,’’ Lynn said. “They’re a good group, they’re so close, they’re so focused and so determined that I’m really hopeful.”

    “Today is the most important day for the team,’’ Rick said. “That’s what they’re here for first. We just wish them all the best and hopefully they can do their thing.’’

    Read More:

    Watching your child compete: The agony and the ecstasy of Aly Raisman's parents

    Missy Franklin's mom: 'She's always been smiling'

    Read all of TODAY's 2012 Olympics coverage!

     

     

     

  • 'We. Won.': Shawn Johnson live-blogs women's gymnastics final

    Updated 3 p.m. ET: U.S. women's gymnastics earned the gold medal in team competition -- its first since 1996. Russia took the silver, while Romania earned bronze. Read the full story.

    TODAY.com special correspondent Shawn Johnson, a three-time medalist in the Beijing Games, live-tweeted her thoughts during the competition.

    More on TODAY.com: 
    Shawn Johnson's dare: On your marks, get set... jump for TODAY!
    Shawn Johnson live-blogs women's gymnastics prelim
    Shawn Johnson: Olympians should 'censor themselves' on social media 

  • UK teen arrested after Olympic diver Tom Daley receives Twitter death threat

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Britain's Tom Daley prepares to take part in the Olympic men's synchronised 10-meter platform final on Tuesday.

    Matt Cardy / Getty Images, file

    Tom Daley (second from right) follows the coffin carrying his father as it leaves St. Mary's Church Plympton, England, on June 8, 2011.

    London has become a giant melting pot of cultures and nationalities, but it's not immediately apparent to tourists. The double-dip recession has hit diverse neighborhoods especially hard. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Britain's Tom Daley prepares to take part in the Olympic men's synchronised 10-meter platform final on Tuesday.

    LONDON -- A British teenager was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of making "malicious" remarks, after a death threat to U.K. Olympic medal hopeful Tom Daley appeared on Twitter. 

    The profanity-strewn tweets -- on an account NBC News has chosen not to identify -- also included the claim that the athlete had let down his dead father after Daley came fourth in the men's synchronized 10-meter dive.

    Daley rose to fame in the U.K. when he competed at the 2008 Beijing Games at the age of 14.

    Shortly after Monday's final, a message appeared on the Twitter account saying, “@TomDaley1994 you let your dad down i hope you know that.” 

    The account was available to only confirmed followers Tuesday, but retweets of some of the messages showed the abuse continued with one talking about drowning Daley in a swimming pool.

    The messages are part of an increasing trend in which celebrities and others are abused by so-called "trolls," who send abusive messages behind the seeming anonymity of social media sites.

    Daley retweeted the message about his father and said “After giving it my all...you get idiot's sending me this.”

    He then retweeted a number of messages from people calling for the Twitter account involved to be banned.

    More London 2012 coverage from NBCNews.com

    Daley still has a chance of a medal in the individual diving event.

    Daley’s father Rob, 40, died from brain cancer in May 2011.

    'Dad was so supportive'
    Before the Olympics, Daley spoke to BBC News about how his father "gave me all the inspiration that I've needed.”

    “Winning a medal would make all the struggles that I've had worthwhile. It's been my dream since a very young age to compete at an Olympics,” Daley said.

    Matt Cardy / Getty Images, file

    Tom Daley (second from right) follows the coffin carrying his father as it leaves St. Mary's Church Plympton, England, on June 8, 2011.

    “I'm doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age. I always wanted to do it and Dad was so supportive of everything. It would make it extra special to do it for him,” he added.

    Don't tweet if you want TV, London Olympic fans told

    London has become a giant melting pot of cultures and nationalities, but it's not immediately apparent to tourists. The double-dip recession has hit diverse neighborhoods especially hard. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

    As news of the offensive tweet began to spread, a message directed at Daley appeared on the Twitter account saying “I'm sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I'm just annoyed we didn't win I'm sorry tom accept my apology.”

    “Please i don't want to be hated I'm just sorry you didn't win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset,” it added.

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    The brief description of the Twitter account holder, who has nearly 50,000 followers, apparently quotes another tweeter as saying he was “gorgeous and the sweetest boy ever."

    Dorset Police said in a message on its Twitter account that a “17-year-old man arrested this morning at a guest house in the Weymouth area” in relation to “tweets to @TomDaley1994,” adding that the investigation was ongoing.

    A spokeswoman for Dorset Police told NBCNews.com that the teen was held on suspicion of making "malicious communications."

    More world stories from NBC News:

    News on NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook

     

  • Where's my tetherball gold medal? Childhood sports that should make the Olympics

    Catherine Ledner / Getty Images stock

    Tetherball has rules? Who knew?

    Marty Wolk

    Marty Wolk and brothers, including Scott Wolk, shown, took Wiffle ball very seriously in the 1970s.

    Getty Images stock

    Bodysurfing can be a blast for the surfers, but nerve-wracking for the surfers' parents.

    The London Olympics are showing how years upon years of disciplined practice by serious athletes can result in incredible performances, worldwide acclaim, and a possible gold medal.

    Catherine Ledner / Getty Images stock

    Tetherball has rules? Who knew?

    The rest of us, sitting at home watching from our couches? We may not have that fame and fortune, or memories of getting up at 4 a.m. to walk a balance beam with a crabby Romanian coach, but often we can look back on our own memories of sports or games that we played as kids.

    So as a tribute to all the non-Olympians out there, who deserve their own gold medals in card playing, kickball or jump rope, here are some of our memories. Could you have medaled in any of these sports?

    Kickball
    Boston had its Green Monster, but during the summer of 1976, we kids of North Owasso Boulevard in Shoreview, Minn. had an equally threatening outfield: Lake Wabasso. Every night that summer of America’s Bicentennial we played kickball in my cousins’ yard. If you could only manage to thump the red dimpled ball past the outfielders, you were pretty much golden. It was going to roll into the cattails and marshy lake edge and your outfielder was going to have to wade into and pick their way through the shallows to retrieve the ball, all the while you zoomed around the bases like our Olympic hero of that summer, Bruce Jenner. Kickball was democratic –- we girls had as good a shot as our big brothers and neighbors to nail a solid kick or catch a popped-up ball — and it was simple, everyone knew the rules.  In those pre-Internet distraction days, I sank into the game, never even looking up until the sun went down or my dad showed up to walk me back across the busy street to our house. By the next summer, we had moved, and my kickball days were over. But only last month, on a walk by my Seattle home, I stumbled upon an adult kickball league that eagerly announced they’re looking for more players. But there’s no lake in their outfield, so my strategy would have to change dramatically.    –Gael Fashingbauer Cooper


    Tetherball
    I must have been about 7 years old when I first realized that tetherball might just be the perfect summer activity. For a not-so-athletically inclined kid who wasn’t about to play kickball in the unrelenting Florida heat or climb up on branding-iron-hot monkey bars, this simple ball-tied-to-a-pole game -- ideally situated beneath a shady, live oak canopy -- held plenty of appeal. The rules were simple enough: While holding an ice-cold drink in one hand, slap the ball toward your opponent. If you’re lucky, the orb will either bean the other player, or it’ll sail right past and swoop around the pole. If you’re not so lucky, your opponent will land one of those sweet shots instead. Also, you should both shout something ridiculous at each other with every turn. (My pal and I favored the classic “Looney Tunes” battle cries of “Duck season!” vs. “Rabbit season!” for no particular reason.) I’ve since learned those aren’t the real rules for tetherball, but they’re the ones I still follow today. But take heed! One epic face off in the ‘90s left my BFF with a torn rotator cuff. Fortunately, my own injuries were limited to the tetherball standards: a beet-red hand, a sore throat and a spilled drink.     --Ree Hines

    Getty Images stock

    Bodysurfing can be a blast for the surfers, but nerve-wracking for the surfers' parents.

    Bodysurfing
    While most of my time was otherwise devoted to such highbrow pursuits as comic-book-collecting, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and the finer points of the KISS discography, my summers in the late 1970s as a tween were largely ruled by one mighty force: the ocean. Flanked by a gaggle of friends out in Quogue, Long Island from early June to late August, I spent hours goofing around in the sprawling surf of the Atlantic Ocean, getting mercilessly tumbled and forever hoping for that perfect wave that would give me the ride of my short, frivolous life. Regardless of red flags, low temperatures, jellyfish, the threat of rip currents or even the ominous strains of the theme from “Jaws,” we’d happily go charging into the water every day, the rougher the surf the better. Even after a few terrifying waves gave me a couple of vigorous saltwater beat-downs, it seemed I’d never learn my lesson.  Now, decades later, I stand on the very same shoreline and watch as my own children giddily start to explore the timeless joys of the ocean, quietly dreading the day they’ll discover their own love for the cresting wave and hoping they’ll be more responsible than their old man.     --Alex Smith

    Card playing
    As the 1980 reigning Spit Champeen of Bar-T-Ranch camp in Gaithersburg, Md., I want to trumpet the endless summer pleasures of … card-playing. Sure, camp was great: We had horseback riding, swimming twice a day, Grape Nehi in bottles, Nuke-Em volleyball, Go-Karts. But between waiting for activities to begin and just general lazy free time, we dealt in cards. Crazy 8s, Slap Jack, War, Go Fish (if extremely bored), Pig, and the one game I simply could not be beat at: Spit. (Others of you may know it as Speed, but let’s face it – kids prefer something gross-sounding.) It’s a fast-moving game, a round always drawing a crowd. And as an uncoordinated 10-year-old, I relished the idea of being No. 1 at something. Except: I wasn’t, not always – my friend Beth Burns and I would face off regularly at Spit, and almost like clockwork, trade off the winner’s spot. So it also taught me to share, because Beth was awesome. Just like Spit. Lay your cards down now!     --Randee Dawn

    Marty Wolk

    Marty Wolk and brothers, including Scott Wolk, shown, took Wiffle ball very seriously in the 1970s.

    Wiffle ball
    Our suburban Cleveland backyard was home to hundreds of Wiffle ball games in the 1970s. The rules were detailed and arcane, and arguments over close plays could be heard clearly three houses away. Everyone had to turn around to hit lefthanded, supposedly as a handicap, since the park favored right-handed hitters. But the genius of the game was one simple rule: Hit it into the hedges, you're out. Over the hedges, and it's a home run. In high summer, the bushy hedges soared over 10 feet high and the giant maple trees drooped down, heavy with leaves, leaving only a small gap to shoot for in center field. But the thrill of lining one out on a warm summer afternoon, driving in three invisible runners to beat your brother -- that is a summer memory that is hard to top.    --Martin Wolk

    Bike riding
    When I was a kid, summers were a time of unimaginable freedom. No school. No TV limits. No organized activities. Under the clear blue California sky, with nothing to limit me but my own imagination, I was free to roam the neighborhood on my pink Huffy bike. I filled my days riding to friends’ homes, to the park, and when I was a little older, to the local 7-Eleven or Thrifty Drug Store for ice cream. I perfected tricks such as “no hands” riding and jumping off curbs. I would ride out past the abandoned golf course and down the unfinished street with the S-shaped sidewalk. The world was mine to explore. Eventually I would return home for dinner, but afterwards I would head out again into the late summer evening, with a promise to be home before the streetlights came on.   --Joy Jernigan

    Which decidedly non-Olympic sport could you medal in? Tell us on Facebook.

    Related content:

  • Leave the big hat! 10 things you can't bring to the Olympics

    Martin Bernetti / Getty Images/AFP Creative

    Football fans play vuvuzelas, an item banned in Olympic staidums.

    Rainer Martini / Getty Images

    Look at that hat! It clearly wouldn't be allowed into any Olympic stadium.

    Alan Copson / Getty Images

    Umbrellas are a common sight in London. But unless you're Mary Poppins during the opening ceremony, big ones are not allowed in Olympic venues.

    The London Olympics has presented costly logistical and infrastructure challenges and has created the biggest peacetime security operation in the country's history, costing an estimated $877 million.

    The British military has taken high-profile measures, from deploying over 17,000 soldiers inside and outside of London during the games to placing surface-to-air missile batteries atop residential buildings.

    With so much emphasis on security, entering Olympic venues may make spectators feel like they are going through an airport check point. Just as airport security restricts certain items, the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has listed a range of things that are prohibited or restricted.

    Restricted items — those that "may disrupt competition, obstruct the view of other spectators or create a safety hazard" — may be confiscated.

    The committee suggests that spectators bring as little with them as possible, but in most cases spectators are allowed to bring one medium, soft-sided bag into venues that can fit underneath a seat or on a lap. The more a spectator brings, the longer it will take to pass through security.

    So what are some of the prohibited and restricted items in 2012 Olympic venues? Although most of the items — weapons, alcohol, drugs, fireworks, liquids, spray paint and pets — are obvious, but some may surprise you.

    Martin Bernetti / Getty Images/AFP Creative

    Football fans play vuvuzelas, an item banned in Olympic staidums.

    1. Noisemakers
    One of the most memorable items from the 2010 FIFA World Cup was the vuvuzela — a plastic horn that lent the South Africa event a characteristic "buzz."

    During the London games, noisemakers, including vuvuzelas, air horns, hunting horns, klaxons, drums and whistles are restricted. Wembley Stadium is also prohibiting football rattles, trumpets, clappers and other musical instruments.

    Although noise can be a nuisance, light devices, such as strobes and laser pointers, are completely prohibited since their use have the potential to directly influence the competition.

    Watch video: Al Roker tests TODAY anchors' British knowledge

    2. Personal wireless access points and 3G hubs
    Private mobile WiFi hotspots, which allow wireless devices to connect to the Internet, are restricted. Although use of tablets and smartphones is allowed in the venues, these devices cannot be used as wireless access points. Because London's wireless system is likely to be strained during major events, speculation about this ban has focused on an attempt to reduce overall bandwidth use.

    3. Flags of non-participating countries
    Flags of non-participating countries are also restricted. Some 204 National Olympic Committees are represented, including 196 independent countries.

    Some participants, such as the Cook Islands and Puerto Rico, are territories of larger countries but compete under their own flags. Non-participating flags are allowed if they are "under the umbrella of a participating country," such as the flag of England or Wales, which are under the umbrella of Britain.

    Although most countries are participating, a few notable ones stand out, such as South Sudan (flag pictured), which declared independence from Sudan in July 2011 but has yet to form an Olympic committee.

    This has forced marathon runner Guor Marial to compete as an independent rather than under the Sudanese flag. Another country not participating is the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Taiwan will compete under "Chinese Taipei," which has a flag created specifically for the Olympics.

    Rainer Martini / Getty Images

    Look at that hat! It clearly wouldn't be allowed into any Olympic stadium.

    4. Oversized hats
    Just over a year ago, big hats were all the craze in London, during the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Olympics, however, have restricted "oversized hats," which are likely to obstruct the view of other spectators.

    According to the committee's guidelines, Olympic staff can help spectators determine what constitutes an "oversized hat." If your headgear is determined to be too large, it will be permanently confiscated.

    5. 'Ambush marketing' materials
    Also restricted are "any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for ambush marketing."

    Ambush marketing is a strategy where companies place their branding in the midst of a public, sponsored event without paying a sponsorship fee, seeking to create an association with that event without authorization. Although ambush marketing can take many forms, the restriction seeks to remove any unauthorized companies from associating their brand with the Games.

    Watch video: Top 5 destinations in London 

    6. Bicycles and skateboards
    Although the athletes on the playing surface may be sporting them, that doesn't mean spectators should feel free to bring bicycles, folding bikes, roller-skates or skateboards into venues. They're too large to fit under a seat or on a lap, and would certainly be a nuisance to others.

    Biking is popular in London, so an announced ban on non-folding bicycles on trains during the Olympics was lifted after only 36 hours.

    7. Walkie-talkies, phone jammers and radio scanners
    If you're looking to communicate with your friends wirelessly during the Olympics, stay away from walkie-talkies. They're banned. Phone jammers, which disable mobile phones from connecting to base stations, and a ban on radio scanners are likely the result of terrorism concerns since they could be used to intercept communications of security personnel.

    Alan Copson / Getty Images

    Umbrellas are a common sight in London. But unless you're Mary Poppins during the opening ceremony, big ones are not allowed in Olympic venues.

    8. Large golf-style umbrellas
    Reports of poor weather for the Olympics have been dampening spirits, but viewers will be even more depressed when they have no way of protecting themselves from the rain. Commonly used by spectators at golf tournaments, these oversized umbrellas could disrupt views of others. Instead pull on a pair of "wellies" and pack a slicker.

    9. Balls, rackets, Frisbee or other projectiles
    Imagine you are a beach volleyball player and it is the final set, and you have a chance to make it to the podium when a Frisbee floats by. Distracted, you miss the last block, and the game is over.

    The Olympic committee wants to prevent this scenario, or worse, from happening. Anything that can be thrown, shot or launched at the athletic event cannot be taken in by a spectator. It is up to the discretion of the security guards to determine what is a "projectile."

    Read: Cheers! 6 British beers to quench your Olympic thirst

    10. Excessive amounts of food
    Anyone who has ever been to the movies, a professional sporting event, play or concert knows it's cheaper to eat before going and the Olympics are no exception.

    At the Games, a 300 ml bottle of Heneken lager is £4.20 ($6.50), and a plate of curry and rice is £8.50 ($13.15). Bottles of water can be purchased for £1.60 ($2.50).

    These high prices will likely encourage people to bring their own food, but the amount will be restricted by the Olympics, who want their partners, like Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Cadbury, to profit.

    Related links:
    Michael Phelps: Can He Keep Branding Power?
    Kate Middleton's Parents Draw Olympics Scrutiny
    Part-Time Athletes
    London's Luxury Olympic Rentals

  • Olympians flash their bling while going for gold

    Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images

    U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer wears her elephant stud earrings on July 29, 2012 in London.

    Norberto Duarte / AFP - Getty Images file

    Paraguay's Leryn Franco sports hoop earringa in a javelin practice in Asuncion on July 19, 2012, ahead of the London Games.

    Mike Blake / REUTERS

    Aly Raisman performs at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose, Calif., on June 29, 2012.

    Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images

    U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer wears her elephant stud earrings on July 29, 2012 in London.

    Though the Olympics sees more than its share of grit, the London Games have also had plenty of glitter: More and more athletes are pushing the envelope and showing off their bejeweled accessories while competing.
     
    Aly Raisman, the 18-year-old gymnast and captain of the U.S. gymnastics team, made sure to pack her custom-made earrings when she left for London. Made especially for her by Adamas Fine Jewelry in her hometown of Newton Highlands, Mass., the earrings have rubies, sapphires and diamonds to represent the red, white and blue.
     
    Adamas owner Veronica Sagherian spoke of the bespoke studs in a statement, saying that they were made in support of Raisman’s accomplishments: “We wanted to create something that fits her style in the Olympic games. We hope that this is a piece that she will wear forever.”
     
    “If I’m allowed to wear them in the competition, then I will,” Raisman told NBC-affiliate WHDH. Once she got the green light from her coaches, it's as if she hasn’t taken them off: She’s been photographed wearing them when she qualified for her all-around final, as well as during pre-Olympic interviews and in her Sports Illustrated cover shoot.

    If Raisman's team does well at the games, they can expect to get a hint of glam as well: Adamas Fine Jewelry has promised a pair of the earrings to each of Raisman's teammates if they bring home gold.

     

    Mike Blake / REUTERS

    Aly Raisman performs at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose, Calif., on June 29, 2012.

    When spectators caught a glimpse of Raisman rocking her bling on the bars, many took to Twitter to ask if that was against the rules. Many of the tweeters complained that athletes competing on regional and national levels aren’t allowed to wear jewelry during competition.

    User Alex Hickman tweeted, "If Olympic athletes can wear jewelry, why can't I wear earrings in my soccer games?" Adam Christopher asked, "I’m always surprised when women fencers wear big dangly earrings while fencing. Surely they jangle around inside the mask?"

    But it isn't only Raisman and the odd fencer wearing jewelry into competition. American table tennis player Ariel Hsing has won two matches at the Olympics so far, and done so while wearing a pair of gold-backed studs.

    And Dana Vollmer has been competing wearing a tiny pair of elephant earrings, which she bought as a good luck charm for London 2012. Looks like they've paid off so far: She scored a world record the second day of the games, winning the 100-meter butterfly in 55.98 seconds.

    No stranger to glam, Paraguayan javelin thrower and beauty contestant Leryn Franco has been photographed competing in studs and diamond hoops. Franco has also been known to bring her javelin along to photo shoots, showing that a girl can both wear stilettos and handle a javelin with no trouble at all.

    Norberto Duarte / AFP - Getty Images file

    Paraguay's Leryn Franco sports hoop earringa in a javelin practice in Asuncion on July 19, 2012, ahead of the London Games.

    The International Olympics Committee does not officially rule regarding jewelry for each sport; instead, the governing body of each sport sets its own rules. Which means, for instance, that wearing jewelry of any kind is a no-no for volleyball players, but gymnasts are allowed to wear earrings as long as they keep it simple.

    A spokesperson for USA Gymnastics told TODAY.com that the latest official rule book concerning female gymnasts states, “No jewelry, with the exception of one pair of stud earrings (one in each ear). All other piercing should be removed, not just covered with tape or Band-Aids.”

    Looks like Raisman is free to show off that red, white and blue.

    Related:

    7 glammed-up Olympians who blow our minds

    Magazine: Matt Lauer 'better dressed than any Olympian'

    Ryan Lochte told he can't wear jeweled grill on medal stand

     

     

     

  • Missy Franklin's mom: 'She's always been smiling'

    Missy Franklin caught the nation's attention for a smile as bright as the Olympic gold medal she won for the 100-meter backstroke Monday — and an attitude as if she's never had a down day in her life.

    “Missy is just always like that. She’s always been smiling, happy,” her mother, D.A. Franklin, told TODAY Tuesday. “I think she smiled when she was born. She’s just a happy child.”

    Franklin, the 17-year old from Centennial, Colo., captured the spotlight as much for her bubbly all-American spirit, in full view after emerging victorious from her competition Monday, as for her first Olympic medal. She secured the win a mere 14 minutes after finishing a qualifying semi-final heat for another event, the 200-meter freestyle.

    Franklin’s parents, in an interview with TODAY, said it may have proved crucial that she was allowed to keep warm in the nearby diving well — which swimmers are normally not allowed to use – between the two events.

    “Fourteen minutes is as tight as she has ever done,” her father, Dick Franklin, said.

    Franklin told TODAY's Hoda Kotb that she didn’t realize she had won until she glanced at the scoreboard. 

    “It’s so hard to tell by looking up there and seeing,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

    Because her parents are Canadian, they offered their daughter the option for swimming for Canada, a suggestion to help lessen the pressure. They said their daughter refused.

    “She’s a Colorado girl,” said her mom, crediting all the support she has received from her hometown pool and high school.

    Although Missy Franklin’s Olympic potential was spotted by family friends who told them “she’s the real deal” when she was around nine, her grandmother knew much earlier. She spotted the talent at the girl’s first swim meet when she was five.

    “She said, ‘she’s going to be an Olympian someday’ and I said, ‘shhhh.'” D.A. Franklin said with a laugh. “It was very embarrassing.”

    But Grandma was right and now everyone is a believer, including one of Missy Franklin’s favorite singers, Justin Bieber, who tweeted about her win.

    “Heard @FranklinMissy is a fan of mine. Now I’m a fan of hers too! CONGRATS on winning GOLD! #muchlove.”

    Franklin tweeted in response: “I just died. Thank you!”

    More: Natalie Coughlin: I could swim again in London 
    Shawn Johnson's dare: Ready, set, jump for TODAY! 
    Video: Matt Grevers: Gold-winning swim 'felt pretty good' 
    Read all of TODAY's 2012 Olympics coverage!

  • Athletes shine, and sometimes blur, in London

    Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

    The motion of athletes streak around the basket during a Women's Preliminary Round Group A match between the U.S. and Angola on Day 3 at Basketball Arena in London on July 30, 2012. This photo was taken with a long exposure to blur motion.

    See the latest Olympic Basketball results on NBCOlympics.com

    Related links:

  • USA's Missy Franklin takes Olympic gold medal in women's 100-meter backstroke

    Martin Bureau / AFP - Getty Images

    Gold medalist Missy Franklin of the US celebrates with her gold medal on the podium after winning the women's 100m backstroke swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 30, in London.

    Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images

    US swimmer Missy Franklin carries a national flag from the podium after receiving her gold medal after winning the women's 100m backstroke final swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 30, in London.

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin, left, leads in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Michael Sohn / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin listens to the national anthem after receiving her gold medal for the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin reacts after winning gold in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Missy Franklin of the U.S., who took first place, starts in the women's 100m backstroke final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre, on July 30.

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin competes in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images

    US swimmer Missy Franklin carries a national flag from the podium after receiving her gold medal after winning the women's 100m backstroke final swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 30, in London.

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Missy Franklin of the U.S., who took first place, starts in the women's 100m backstroke final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre, on July 30.

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin competes in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Michael Sohn / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin listens to the national anthem after receiving her gold medal for the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    AP reports -- Michael Phelps has yet to win a gold medal, and Ryan Lochte's star is fading. So along came Missy Franklin to restore American swim hopes with a gutty performance at the Olympics on Monday night.

    Coming back less than 14 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat, the Colorado teenager won the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career, rallying to win the 100-meter backstroke.

    "Indescribable," the 17-year-old Franklin said. "I still can't believe that happened. I don't even know what to think. I saw my parents' reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can't even think right now."

    Continue reading.

    Related links:

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin, left, leads in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Mark J. Terrill / AP

    United States' Missy Franklin reacts after winning gold in the women's 100-meter backstroke swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, on July 30.

    Martin Bureau / AFP - Getty Images

    Gold medalist Missy Franklin of the US celebrates with her gold medal on the podium after winning the women's 100m backstroke swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 30, in London.

     

  • Saudi Olympian allowed to compete in judo wearing hijab

    Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

    Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani.

    The Judo Federation ruled one of Saudi Arabia's first female Olympic athletes will not be allowed to wear a hijab in the judo competition. Human Rights Watch advocate Minky Worden reacts.

    Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

    Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani.

    LONDON -- One of Saudi Arabia's first two female Olympians will compete in judo after a deal was reached on an acceptable design for her Islamic headscarf, or hijab, officials said on Monday.

    Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani had said she would not compete in the +78 kilograms (172 pounds) category on Friday unless she was allowed to wear the hijab, but judo officials had refused her request, saying it would be dangerous.

    "All three parties agreed this afternoon on the headscarf and she will compete," Razan Baker, a spokeswoman for the Saudi National Olympic Committee, told Reuters. "They agreed on a design and she will compete wearing this design."

    Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, an 800-meter runner, are the first Saudi women to take part in the Olympics.

    The Judo Federation ruled one of Saudi Arabia's first female Olympic athletes will not be allowed to wear a hijab in the judo competition. Human Rights Watch advocate Minky Worden reacts.

    Saudi Arabia was one of three countries, along with Brunei and Qatar, never to have sent female athletes to the Olympics. After talks with the IOC, all three sent delegations this year that include women.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

    More London 2012 coverage:

  • Cheer us on! Join TODAY at our London plaza

    TODAY

    Meet these six anchors and our medal-winning guests every day during the Olympic Games in London.

    TODAY

    Meet these six anchors and our medal-winning guests every day during the Olympic Games in London.

    Don't forget your signs! Join TODAY as we broadcast in London during the Olympic Games. 

    Our plaza is located in the Olympic Park near the Basketball Arena. Find a map here

    We're on the air from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. BST weekdays through the closing ceremony. TODAY broadcasts Saturdays as well, from noon to 1 p.m. BST.

    And while you're visiting, send us your photo using the hashtag #OlympicsTODAY; we'll retweet the best ones. You can also check into the location on Foursquare.

    See behind-the-scenes images from our time on set.

  • Magazine: Matt Lauer 'better dressed than any Olympian'

    NBC

    From left, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker, on TODAY in London.

    NBC

    From left, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker, on TODAY in London.

    Sure, Ryan Lochte has abs as incredible as his lap times. But Matt Lauer is also doing his part to represent America in style...and now he's got the seal of approval from Esquire to prove it.

    Kathie Lee and Hoda were already a-swoon over his Olympic anchor-chic last week, and now the magazine has joined in the love-fest. On Twitter,  they gushed that Matt's London looks "make America proud." On their style blog, they went a step further, calling him "better dressed than any Olympian," praising his choice of snazzy Ermenegildo Zegna suits — "nice, cotton ones that make him look tan" — and bold decision to rock a saucy, Euro, tie-less look.

    Although, to be fair, it would be pretty hard to do the 100-meter butterfly in a beautifully tailored blazer.

    Julieanne Smolinski is a TODAY.com contributor who is hard at work on a tweet about how Matt gets a gold in being bronze. Or something.

    More: TODAY tries Olympic racewalking (and things get awkward) 
    Video: Rainy day fashion: How to stay dry and chic 
    Video: Al Roker gives lesson on British weather slang 
    Shawn Johnson live-tweets behind the scenes of TODAY 


  • At 97, Olympic female gold medalist savors role as pioneer

    Courtesy of Judy Player

    Helen Johns Carroll dives into the pool in the second leg of the winning 400-meter relay at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    Courtesy of Judy Player

    Helen Johns Carroll (wearing a white hat in the first row behind podium) waits to receive her gold medal at the 1932 Olympics.

    Courtesy of Judy Player

    Helen Johns Carroll dives into the pool in the second leg of the winning 400-meter relay at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.

    Helen Johns Carroll’s Olympic gold medal and her memories may each be 80 years old, but both have been carefully preserved in the generations since her once-in-a-lifetime experience in Los Angeles in 1932.

    Carroll, 97, is believed to be the second-oldest living female American gold medalist, and a simple glimpse of today’s Olympics is all it takes for her to be transported back to that memorable time. Just like current phenom Missy Franklin, Helen Johns, as she was known then, was only 17 years old when she represented the United States in swimming. She swam the second leg on the medal-winning 400 freestyle relay team in 1932, earning a gold medal that is currently under lock and key for safekeeping at a local bank near her home in Sumter, S.C. Track athlete and 1932 4x100 gold medalist Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda, 98, is believed to be the oldest living American female gold medalist.

    “Whenever we go take the gold medal out of the bank, anyone carrying it is a nervous wreck until we get it back,’’ Carroll laughed in an interview with TODAY.com. “Just remembering the whole picture of being there, it was just so wonderful. I look at (today’s Olympics) and try to compare it to ours, and it’s so much more elaborate. Ours was really restricted because of lack of funds (during the Great Depression).’’

    Story: For first time, women from every nation ready to rock Olympics

    In what is being called "The Year of the Woman" in the London Olympics, Carroll savors her role as one of the pioneers and is proud of how far women have come in the Olympic movement. For the first time in history, every participating nation has at least one female athlete on the team, and for the first time, there are more females than males on Team USA. And now, Teri McKeever has made waves as the first female head coach of the U.S. women's swim team.

    “I love anything that means women are advancing in interest or popularity and setting a good example for people,’’ Carroll said.

    Johns was taught swimming by her father while growing up in Medford, Mass., a suburb of Boston. She trained primarily in the ocean because there were few pools in the area, and had only been formally coached for one year before she qualified for the Olympics in the 400-meter relay at the trials in Jones Beach, N.Y., in July of 1932. Carroll wasn’t even allowed to return home before she was whisked away on a train from New York's Pennsylvania Station, which would take her and her fellow qualifiers all the way to Los Angeles, picking up other Olympians along the way across the country.

    “It was wonderful picking up people on the train and getting to see the country that way,’’ Carroll said. “People would come greet us and cheer us on at every stop.’’

    One of the train’s passengers was the boisterous Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who is widely considered one of the greatest all-around athletes of the 20th century. She would go on to win two gold medals and a silver in track and field that year in Los Angeles.

    “People said she was very conceited about the things she could do, but I didn’t find it was at all objectionable and out of place for her because she would tell you about what she could do and then she would go right out and show you,’’ Carroll said.

    The country was mired in the Great Depression at the time, and Carroll can recall giving some of her extra dresses away to less-fortunate teammates. Her father was not able to see her compete because there was no way he could leave his business on the docks in Boston. The signs of poverty were also apparent outside the team’s hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

    Courtesy of Judy Player

    Helen Johns Carroll (wearing a white hat in the first row behind podium) waits to receive her gold medal at the 1932 Olympics.

    “The city was in dreadful shape,’’ Carroll said. “We took a bus to our practice sessions in the morning, and we would see crowds of unemployed people and people on the corner selling apples for five cents. It was sad.’’

    While it’s hard to imagine in today’s world of teams training closely together and competing internationally for years leading up to the Olympics, Carroll didn’t know anything about her competition or even about her three relay teammates – Helene Madison, Josephine McKim and Eleanor Saville. There were some familiar faces, however, as her small hometown of Medford surprisingly produced two other Olympians in Carroll’s high school classmate, track sprinter Mary Carew, along with distance runner Jimmy Henigan.

    Her swimming teammate, McKim, brought an element of glamour to the team. She was from Los Angeles and was dating Joel McCrea, one of the big movie stars of the 1930s.

    “We liked to be down in the lobby when Josephine’s movie friends would come by to go on their dates,’’ Carroll said. “It was fun to see how other people reacted to them.’’

    Carroll and her teammates breezed to a gold medal in the relay, beating the team from the Netherlands by nearly nine seconds. Carroll can still remember wearing her parade dress, hat and shoes as the gold medal was draped around her neck. Despite being held in the United States, the medal ceremony was conducted in French because they were the ones who organized the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

    “As they addressed us, they would say ‘Champion of the Olympics’ in French, and then they went on and on and I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I’m sure it was very complimentary,’’ Carroll said.

    When Carroll returned to Medford with her gold medal, she was greeted by the mayor and a host of neighbors in celebration.  Los Angeles was her only Olympics as she was focused on her studies at Brown University by the time the 1936 Games in Berlin rolled around. Carroll retired from her career as a special education teacher in the Sumter school district in 1980, but she maintained her Olympic connection, carrying the torch for a stretch on its way to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

    More from TODAY in London

     

     

     

  • Watching your child compete: The agony and ecstasy of Aly Raisman's parents

    nbcolympics.com

    Lean to the left, lean to the right, squirm, cringe, cheer: For the parents of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, watching her compete is a full-body experience.

    nbcolympics.com

    Lean to the left, lean to the right, squirm, cringe, cheer: For the parents of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, watching her compete is a full-body experience.

    As they watched their daughter compete at the Olympic Games, the animated, anxious parents of gymnast Aly Raisman were quite a sight - they squirmed, they grimaced, they swayed from side to side as if to guide her through her routine.

    In near-unison, parents Ricky and Lynn Raisman seemed to will their teenager to “stick it” -  her landing off the uneven bars, that is - and her proud dad rose to his feet and pumped his fist at the end. That's when the couple finally seemed to breathe again.

    Watch the video from NBC Olympics

    While there’s no bigger stage than one decorated with the Olympic rings, any parent who has rooted for a child to make the goal, nail the pirouette or strike out the batter can relate to the anxiety of watching a child compete. Commenters on sites like Gawker and Buzzfeed are debating whether the Raismans are awesome, crazy, or some combination of the two. But many TODAY Moms said they totally relate. 

    “It’s IMPOSSIBLE to sit quiet and just watch,” Melinda Hunt, whose nephew runs track, wrote on the TODAY Moms Facebook page. “Sometimes I think we think that if we yell a bit louder, cheer harder, and coach him from the sidelines that it’ll somehow make him run faster in the track!!”

    “You know they’ve worked so hard to get to the BIG moment, you just want them to be victorious!!!” she added.

    Lydia Arnesen Seabron knows the feeling too. “Absolutely, it’s very hard to sit still and even harder not to yell instructions,” she wrote on the Facebook page.

    Watching your son or daughter in a competition or game can be both joyful and difficult, says psychiatrist and TODAY contributor Dr. Gail Saltz.

    After so much preparation, sending your kids out to perform, whether it’s on the playing field or even taking the SATs, isn’t easy for parents. After all of the support you’ve provided, there’s nothing left to do but watch and cheer.

    “You may have driven them to all the practices and done everything you can do as a parent, but in that moment ... you can’t compete,” Saltz said. “It’s not your competition, so you’re helpless at that moment.

    “It’s very hard,” she said. “You’re sitting there with tremendous anxiety on behalf of your child and you can’t do anything.”

    What the Raismans displayed appeared to be a combination of excitement and anxiety, Saltz said, an unconscious reaction to watching their child in such a high-stakes competition.

    “You could almost see the physical ‘I want to be able to be doing it for her,’” Saltz said of the parents’ movements.

    While getting nervous may be normal, it's not necessarily healthy for your child to see. Saltz recommends not sharing those jitters with your little athletes before the game because that just adds to the pressure they may be already feeling. “It will burden them,” she said. “Being overly anxious will undo not only you, but your child too.”

    If you get nervous during the games, she recommends talking with reasonable parents who are not overly involved, so you don’t feel alone. You can exercise before your child's competition to blow off steam, or shake off game-time worries by doing some deep breathing from the stands.

    While some people poked fun at the Raismans’ seemingly eccentric behavior, others saw only good.

    “I wish that when I was growing up that my parents had that degree of interest in what I was doing,” Sonya Kuykendall wrote on the TODAY Moms Facebook page. “I think it’s very precious.”

    Watch video from NBC Olympics: Aly Raisman's parents react

    Go for the parenting gold with these TODAY Moms stories:

    Why we love Jennifer Garner's "mom" bathing suit

    Future Olympians? Your cute kids play summer sports

    Meet the Disney guard who makes little princesses' dreams come true

     

  • TODAY tries Olympic racewalking (and things get awkward)

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    Team TODAY donned neon jogging suits to demonstrate a deceptively tricky Olympic event: racewalking.

    John Nunn and Maria Michta, members of the Team USA racewalking team, coached Savannah, Matt, Al, Natalie, Meredith and Ryan on the quirky sport, where one foot must always be in contact with the ground. 

    Cue the starting gun: The anchors were ready to race(walk). 

    TODAY

    And... things got awkward quickly.

    TODAY

    We're no experts, but attacking a competitor seems like it would be against the rules.

    TODAY

    TODAY

    TODAY

    And when Savannah, Meredith and Natalie paused to pose for a photo, Al breezed by to win the gilded sneaker.  

    TODAY

    TODAY

    Good thing Al's crown matches his outfit! 

    TODAY

    Julieanne Smolinski is a TODAY.com contributor who always bets on the weatherman.

    More on TODAY.com: 
    Seacrest out! Matt 'tackles' Ryan to the ground in Leno clip
    Ryan Seacrest shows his 'flexibility' with US gymnasts
    Pow! Natalie, Savannah get a boxing lesson -- in heels

  • Queen's sky-jump double: 'I think they liked my legs'

    Connery poses in the plane with Daniel Craig's double, pre-jump.

    Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

    Connery, mid-air during Friday's opening ceremony stunt.

    TODAY

    Gary Connery (no relation to Sean) is also no stranger to jumps; he's the first skydiver in history to land safely without a parachute.

    TODAY

    Gary Connery (no relation to Sean) is also no stranger to jumps; he's the first skydiver in history to land safely without a parachute.

    There's a new Bond girl on the block, and she just happens to be the reigning Queen of England.

    For many spectators around the world, it was the queen who stole the show during the opening ceremony when she "jumped" from a plane with current James Bond. 

    Only, it wasn’t actually Queen Elizabeth making the leap. It was male stunt double Gary Connery, dressed in a sparkly pink dress and white wig ("Bond" actor Daniel Craig had a stand-in, too).

    While Connery went through several rehearsals, the opening ceremony was the first time he wore his costume. “I mean I’ve worn my own dresses out loads of times,” he joked with TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Monday. “But in terms of the jump it was the first time.”

    Connery test-jumped over an airfield and then over the Olympic Stadium. In true 007 style, the rehearsals were done steathily and under a shroud of darkness. "We probably did, I think, four rehearsals over the stadium, but kind of at the dead of night so nobody saw what we were up to,” he said.

    Connery poses in the plane with Daniel Craig's double, pre-jump.

    It's no wonder James Bond jumped with the queen; he is charged with protecting her in his role at MI6, the British intelligence agency. In a famous scene from the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me," one girl says desperately to Bond, "But James, I need you!" As he walks out the door with a parachute and goggles he says, "So does England."

    “London is the center of everything relating to Bond," author and espionage expert Nigel West told TODAY. "He is the personification of the central British character.”

    Lauer asked Connery why opening ceremony director Danny Boyle and his team didn't get a female skydiver to do the risky stunt.

    Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

    Connery, mid-air during Friday's opening ceremony stunt.

    “Good question. I think they liked my legs,” Connery, who is not related to "Bond" actor Sean, said. “I’ve got Queen-style legs.”

    Connery is no stranger to big jumps. Not only does he make a career out of being a stunt double, he also leaped into the history books earlier this year when he became the first skydiver to land safely without using a parachute. Instead, he told Lauer, he wore a wingsuit and jumped "like a flying squirrel" from a helicopter at 2,400 feet, landing on a runway made of nearly 19,000 cardboard boxes.

    Fans who can't get enough of the now-renowned jumper can look forward to next year, when he lands in Vegas on the 4th of July. No word yet on whether he'll be in his flying squirrel suit or a sparkly pink dress. 

    More: Video: It's the big 5-0 for 007 franchise
    Find the queen! See opening ceremony in stunning detail
    Cheers! 6 British beers to quench your Olympic thirst
    Shawn Johnson's dare: On your marks, get set...jump for TODAY! 

  • 7 glammed-up Olympians who blow our minds

    Glamour

    "I feel like a performer out there," says Lowe. Dress, J. mendel; earrings, R.J. Graziano; bangles, Jennifer Fisher; sandals, Dolce Vita.

    Glamour

    A recent tweet from Maroney: "The weekend doesn't begin until you finish your Saturday workout #gymnastprobs." Bodysuit, Bill Blass; shorts, American Apparel.

    Glamour

    Random but hilarious: Three of Coughlin's chickens are named after True Blood characters, Sookie, Tara and Lafayette. Dress, Donna Karan New York; heels, Albino.

    Glamour

    "We know each other inside and out," says Solo, center. All clothing, Brood. On Morgan, left, and Lloyd, right: heels, Salvatore Ferragamo. On Solo: heels, Charles David.

    Glamour

    Lorig got her one and only tattoo, of the Olympic rings, after winning a bronze in 1992. Dress, Hervé Léger by Max Azria; cuff, Alexis Bittar.

    Click for more from the 2012 summer games in London.

    By Shaun Dreisbach, Glamour magazine 

    For the first time ever, the U.S. is sending more women athletes to the Olympics than men. Meet seven of those rock stars here — and cheer them on in London.

    Glamour

    "I feel like a performer out there," says Lowe. Dress, J. mendel; earrings, R.J. Graziano; bangles, Jennifer Fisher; sandals, Dolce Vita.

    Chaunté Lowe, 28: The high jumper who was back on the track two days after giving birth
    Chaunté Lowe literally sets the bar higher. In 2010 the two-time Olympian broke the American record in the outdoor high jump, clearing a height of six feet, eight inches. It was no small feat; before Lowe, the record had stood for 22 years. She did it again this February, smashing a 14-year record in the indoor high jump. And here’s where you start wondering if she’s hiding a superhero cape under her sports bra: She did all that record-setting less than a year after giving birth. “My doctor wanted me to wait six weeks before I started training again. I waited two days!” says Lowe, who lives in Loganville, Georgia. “I’m ready to win in London, to get on that podium.” She’s clearly got her eyes on the prize, but the rest of us are in for a treat: “I love to pump the crowd up before I compete. I want to give them a good show! If they’d let me jump in the types of outfits they wear on "Dancing With the Stars", I would.”

    Glamour

    A recent tweet from Maroney: "The weekend doesn't begin until you finish your Saturday workout #gymnastprobs." Bodysuit, Bill Blass; shorts, American Apparel.

    McKayla Maroney, 16: The best vaulter in the world, period
    “This little girl definitely has something special,” says Martha Karolyi, women’s national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics. “She is, without a doubt, the best vaulter in the world.” High praise for an athlete who was virtually unknown as recently as last year. Since then, McKayla Maroney has perfected the Amanar, which is widely considered the most difficult vault in women’s gymnastics and consists of a back handspring onto the horse, followed by two and a half twisting flips. (YouTube it. Insane.) This summer Maroney is hoping to prove her expertise in London. And because the U.S. women are favored to claim the top podium spot in the team competition, she stands to come home with more than one gold. The calm, scarily consistent competitor is ready: “I have been dreaming about the Olympics since I was so little,” says Maroney, who lives in Long Beach, California. “I remember thinking, OK, I have eight years before I can go, and then it was four years, and now it’s come down to days. The fact that it’s here is just crazy!” 

    Glamour

    Lorig got her one and only tattoo, of the Olympic rings, after winning a bronze in 1992. Dress, Hervé Léger by Max Azria; cuff, Alexis Bittar.

    Khatuna Lorig, 38: 'The Hunger Games' secret weapon — who used to practice archery by candlelight!
    When Khatuna Lorig was in sixth grade, she joined an archery club in her native country, the Republic of Georgia, rising through the competitive ranks and earning a bronze medal as a teenager at the 1992 Olympics. But when the club shut down a few years later, Lorig was forced to train for the 1996 Games in a tiny space in her basement, by candlelight. When she failed to qualify, Lorig knew she had to make a change. She moved to the U.S. and earned her citizenship in 2005. She now trains with top-notch equipment in Chula Vista, California, and has a strong shot to medal as an American this summer. Oh, and it was Lorig who taught Jennifer Lawrence how to use a bow and arrow for "The Hunger Games". “I told Jennifer, ‘I’ll be screaming, “That’s my student!” when I see the movie,’ ” says Lorig. “And she said, ‘Are you kidding? When I see you at the Olympics, I’ll be screaming, “That’s my coach!” ’ ”

    Glamour

    Random but hilarious: Three of Coughlin's chickens are named after True Blood characters, Sookie, Tara and Lafayette. Dress, Donna Karan New York; heels, Albino.

    Natalie Coughlin, 29: The swimmer on the verge of history
    Natalie Coughlin already has some major Olympic bling: The veteran of both the Athens and Beijing Games has medaled in every single Olympic race she’s ever entered, earning 11 in all — and if she takes home just two more in London, she’ll become the most decorated female American Olympian ever, in any sport. “There’s definitely pressure, but I’ve been here before,” says Coughlin. “I got a pretty severe injury back in 2000 and missed the Games at a time when I had been dubbed an up-and-comer. It taught me that there are so many things that could take the sport I love away from me in the blink of an eye — and I’d better have other interests to keep me balanced.” And she does. After five-hour training sessions, Coughlin goes home to her Lafayette, California, garden and five chickens, and makes risotto and fresh kale salads for herself and her husband. Oh, and remember her five-week stint on "Dancing With the Stars"? “All the things I do out of the pool make me a better swimmer, because I’m not completely fried from competing,” she explains. “When I get in the pool, I focus on my sport. And when I go home, I go home.” Shocking but true: an Olympian with a life.

    Glamour

    "We know each other inside and out," says Solo, center. All clothing, Brood. On Morgan, left, and Lloyd, right: heels, Salvatore Ferragamo. On Solo: heels, Charles David.

    Alex Morgan, 23; Hope Solo, 31; Carli Lloyd, 30: The soccer team with something major to prove
    The U.S. women’s soccer team wants redemption. Last summer they narrowly lost the World Cup title to Japan in a penalty-kick shoot-out: “A World Cup win hadn’t happened for the U.S. in 12 years,” says Carli Lloyd, “and we were inches away from taking it. It was really crushing. We sulked for a little bit, but we’re determined. We’re going to London to prove something, and we’re not going to leave without that gold.” And they just may get it: Despite the World Cup loss, the U.S. women’s team remains ranked number one in the world, in part because its roster includes forward Alex Morgan, who has been called “the next Mia Hamm,” midfielder Lloyd, a top scorer for the team, and Hope Solo, who is considered the best goalkeeper of all time. They’re also one of the tightest-knit teams off the field; they do movie nights and shopping trips, and several of them have been in one another’s weddings. “There’s a real level of trust and respect between us,” says Solo. “I think that’s what makes us the best.”

    Get more beauty and fashion coverage at Glamour magazine online.

    Click for more from the 2012 summer games in London.

  • Natalie Coughlin: I could swim again in London

    Natalie Coughlin may not be done making history just yet.

    Heading into the Olympics, sports media had reported that the 4x100-meter freestyle relay would be Coughlin’s only London race. After tying the record for the most medals of any female Olympian in U.S. history with a bronze on Saturday, Coughlin told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday that there is a chance she could swim another race. With a 13th medal, she'd set a new record. 

    Coughlin, 29, said that there is a chance she could be part of another relay team before the conclusion of the Games, as she did not qualify for any of the individual events. The 4x100-meter medley relay is on Friday. In 12 races over the course of her Olympic career, Coughlin has medaled in all 12.  

    “There’s a lot of factors that play into that,’’ Coughlin said about a potential race. “One of the great things about Team USA in swimming is we have so much depth and so much talent so we have options for the medley relays. That being said, I’m not trying to force myself on a relay. I’m there, and it’s 100 percent the coach’s decision.’’

    The U.S. swim team coach, Teri McKeever, also is Coughlin’s personal coach. It was McKeever’s decision that resulted in an unorthodox medal for Coughlin on Saturday. Though Coughlin did not swim in the 4x100 relay final, she swam in the preliminary round, which by rule still earned her a medal. McKeever decided to leave her out of the final in favor of Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt, who swam an American-record time of 3:34.24 to finish third.

    “I had a very, very fast relay takeoff (in the preliminary round), so I think that made them a little nervous, I don’t really know,’’ Coughlin said. “I was very supportive of the four that were up there and they did a fantastic job. I think a lot of it is (McKeever) wants to err on the side of being conservative being that she is my personal coach as well as the head coach.

    “She told me and I was fine with it. A lot of the coaches were really supportive of me. It’s a hard thing, but I’m glad for the four girls.’’

    Because she wasn’t part of the team that swam in the final, Saturday also marked the first time that Coughlin did not stand on the podium.

    “I still haven’t had time to really process it, and I earned this medal in kind of a strange way,’’ she said. “This is the first time that I haven’t been on the medal podium myself, so very unceremoniously Teri gives it to me in a meeting, of course, but it’s a little strange.’’

    While the assumption coming into London was that this would be the conclusion of Coughlin’s brilliant Olympic career, she did not completely rule out a potential run at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

    “My thoughts change on a daily basis,’’ she said. “I absolutely love swimming. I’m going to continue to train and be fit, so my thing is, if I’m healthy enough to compete, why not, because I love it. But I go back and forth, and right now I’m just trying to focus on this week.’’

    Read more:

    Natalie Coughlin: I'm older 'and much, much wiser'
    Best yet? Swim team makes 'Call Me Maybe' lipdub
    Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin: I'll win to 'shine some light' on Colo.

     

     

     

     

     

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  • From Olympic glory to reality TV gold: Athletes steal the show

    Getty Images (3)

    Kristi Yamaguchi, Johnny Weir and Bruce Jenner all went from the Olympics to reality TV.

    Getty Images (3)

    Kristi Yamaguchi, Johnny Weir and Bruce Jenner all went from the Olympics to reality TV.

    They spent countless hours training, made it through tough qualifying trials, and competed in the ultimate competition. They are, in short, the very best of the best. They’re ... reality TV stars?!

    Well, they didn’t start out that way, but more than a few memorable Olympians traded their medal-worthy accomplishments for small-screen fun once the games were over.

    As the 2012 Olympic hopefuls go for the glory in London and move on to their own reality TV efforts, let’s take a look at some of the athletes who’ve already paved the primetime way and the shows that gave them a shot.

    'Dancing With the Stars'
    No reality show can boast as big a list of Olympic participants as the ballroom bash. Gold, silver and bronze medalists, "DWTS" has had them all, and several have even moved on to mirror-ball trophy glory. Speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno was the season-four champ, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi dominated season six and gymnast Shawn Johnson triumphed in season eight. (Both Apolo and Shawn will be competing in the "All Stars" edition this fall.) Other Olympians who have shown off their fancy (and sometimes not so fancy) footwork include Misty May-Treanor, Maurice Greene, Natalie Coughlin, Evan Lysacek, Sugar Ray Leonard and Hope Solo.

    'Keeping Up With the Kardashians'
    When thinking about Olympic athletes on reality TV, the "world's greatest athlete," Bruce Jenner, immediately springs to mind. The man not only won a gold medal for the U.S. at the 1976 Olympics in the decathlon, he also set a world record with his 8,634 points. Since 2007, Bruce -- married to Kardashian matriarch Kris -- has been featured on the E! network's popular reality show as well as its spin-offs. He's shown mostly playing dad, but from time to time, offers tales and words of wisdom from his days as an Olympian. But Bruce isn't the only person on the show and its spin-offs who's competed in the games. His son-in-law/basketball star Lamar Odom -- Khloe's husband -- played at the 2004 games and helped the team win bronze.

    'Biggest Loser'
    A lot of hard work goes into getting ready for an event like the Olympics -- then again, there is no other event like the Olympics. That’s why when the world’s premier athletes take the field, they’re usually in the finest physical form of their lives. After the games? Things can change. That’s a fact Rulon Gardner, the man who took the gold for the U.S. in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2000 and the bronze for the same event in 2004, knows well. In 2011, after weighing in at 442 pounds, he found himself in need of the sort of training that he could get on "The Biggest Loser" ranch. While there, he lost more than 140 pounds before distinguishing himself as the very first player to quit the competition. Another past Olympian starred on the show too. Former "Loser" trainer and retired pro tennis player Anna Kournikova competed in the 1996 games on the Russian tennis team.


    'Be Good, Johnny Weir'
    Sure, some Olympians sign on to appear in established reality shows when the competition wraps, but then there’s figure skater Johnny Weir, who followed up his 2010 Winter Olympics performances with his very own show. The Sundance Channel’s eight-part docuseries "Be Good, Johnny Weir" followed the life of the charismatic ice star. But that’s far from Weir’s only reality TV experience. In fact, he’s just as much of a workaholic on the small screen as he is in the rink. He gave comedian Kathy Griffin skating lessons on "My Life on The D-List," was as a regular pro panelist on ABC’s short-lived "Skating With the Stars," served as a guest judge on "RuPaul’s Drag Race," and appeared on "The Rachel Zoe Project" and "Say Yes to the Dress." Whew!

    'Celebrity Apprentice'
    Summer Sanders, who won several medals for swimming at the 1992 Summer Games, like Johnny, didn't limit herself to just one reality show. Since her Olympic days, the swimmer has participated in three reality programs. Of her stints competing on TV, she lasted the longest on season three of "Celebrity Apprentice." Going up against the likes of Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne and Rod Blagojevich, she ended up lasting eight weeks on the show and raised $45,000 for her charity. She also cooked on Team Rachael for Food Network's "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off," and was eliminated in episode four of six.  Summer also hosted Fox's "Skating With Celebrities" in 2006.

    Which of today's Olympic athletes would you like to see on reality TV tomorrow? And what kind of show should they be on? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page! 

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