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  • Ex-Marine Angela Madsen on her journey from homelessness to the Paralympics

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has since rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London.

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82nd Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball."

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind soccer from Team Great Britain.

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has since rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London.

    LONDON -- Angela Madsen's journey to the London 2012 Paralympics is nothing short of extraordinary.

    Complications following a back injury she sustained while serving in Marine Corps at the age of 20 led to her becoming a paraplegic when she was in her 30s.

    Bound to a wheelchair, she fell into a deep depression. She lost her job. Her marriage dissolved.

    "I lost my house ... I ended up homeless, kept my things in a locker at Disneyland. Happiest place on earth, right?" she told NBC News at the USA track-and-field training camp at RAF Lakenheath, near Cambridge, England, last week.

    But the native Californian missed surfing, so she set out to find a way back to the water, determined to turn her life around.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball."

    "I started taking responsibility … and started making the changes and decisions to move positively forward in my life,” she said.

    Now, her definition of a disabled person is "somebody who doesn't believe they can and doesn't try.”

    'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage

    She competed in the 2006 world surfing championships and then fell in love with rowing.

    She turned this hobby into history by rowing across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind soccer from Team Great Britain.

    "I didn't row across my first ocean until I was 47,” she said with a laugh.

    "I have six Guinness World Records for rowing oceans. I've circumnavigated Great Britain ... I've been places on this planet that no human being has ever been before. A thousand miles from land in any direction ... it's been a pretty amazing life."

    Read Angela Madsen's profile at the Paralympic Games' website

    Next year, she plans to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.

    Madsen rowed for Team USA in the Beijing Paralympic Games, narrowly missing the podium. "I missed the medal rounds by 7-hundredths of a second.”

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82nd Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics.

    In the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the 52-year-old is trying her hand at track and field events, competing in the women's shot put and javelin.

    "I don’t have any regrets about anything. If I could go back and change anything I wouldn't, except for the amount of pain I have with the rods in my back,” Madsen said. “That could definitely go. But I can’t foresee change in anything. I'm very, very satisfied with the life that I have now."

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  • From darkness to gold: Blinded Navy swimmer set to race at Paralympics

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics.

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics.

    The man who views only black today is visualizing all the colors of his London swims. In his mind, he sees the aqua-blue pool frothy with wakes, the home stretch of the lane lines painted red, and the dark, wide mouths of roaring fans.

    Behind prosthetic blue eyes — replacements for the natural pair he lost after an explosion in Afghanistan nearly a year ago — Navy Lt. Brad Snyder soaks in the scenery of a dream realized. The 2012 Paralympics open today in Britain. Snyder races for gold Friday.

    Already, though, he can glimpse a distinct, happy glow.

    Related: 'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage 

    “During the Olympics, I read about the races, about (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte and Missy Franklin. I heard the commentary and used that to pull out the details to produce this image,” Snyder said. “But instead of reading about Lochte, I just implanted myself in there.

    “I imagine stepping onto the block, hearing “take your mark,” the sound of the start, hopping in the pool then just being smooth and strong down the middle of the lane, executing some good turns, and hitting the pad at the end. I’m imagining success. I’m imagining the good feeling that comes with competing well.”

    As an elite athlete — among blind swimmers he is No. 1 in the world at three freestyle distances (50-, 100- and 400-meters) — Snyder draws such mental pictures as a preparation tool. As a result, nothing in or around the London pool, he said, should feel unfamiliar.

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    But in a life being rebuilt after severe injury, this ironic tactic is simply how the man endures.

    “I’ll tell you a little story,” said his mother, Valarie Snyder. “He was describing his apartment to me: ‘It has the most beautiful rooftop view.’ That’s how our conversations go all the time. It’s been rare that he gets down, and even then he apologizes for it: ‘Sorry I was in a bad mood.’ ”

    Related: Veterans push Paralympics back to battlefield roots
    Related: Wounded warrior seeks glory representing America in London

    The bright side is never far off. But total darkness came in a single stride. On Sept. 7, 2011, the former Navy bomb defuser was rushing forward to help two Afghan soldiers wounded in an initial IED blast. In his dash, Snyder stepped on a second hidden bomb in an irrigation ditch spanning a farm field. His eyes were irreparably damaged by the detonation and later were removed by a surgeon.

    Once a member of the Naval Academy swim team, Snyder returned to the water about a month later — this time, seeking a familiar, soft place in a world suddenly filled with surprise, hard edges.

    “I was there the first day he got back in the pool,” his mother recalls. “Just to see the sheer joy on his face. On the ride home afterward he told me: ‘I can do this, mom. I can swim competitively. Everything new that I can do just makes me realize: this isn’t such a bad thing.’ ”

    The warm water also rekindled an ultra-competitive, inner furnace, driving Snyder to begin training in Baltimore with Brian Loeffler, head swimming coach at Loyola University. His new goal: earn a spot on the U.S. Paralympic swim team and compete at the world’s second-largest sporting event, the Paralympics. He punched his London ticket in June after a series of spectacular sprints at the time trials in Bismarck, N.D.

    He strolls into London’s Olympic Stadium today with 226 other disabled American athletes — one of 20 active or former service members on the U.S. team, and one of six wounded during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    “There’s a girl who was in a coma for four years. There are people dealing with moderate cerebral palsy,” Snyder said. “It puts everything in perspective when I’m contending with my own little issue to see what everybody on the team puts up with. It humbles you. Every person on the roster is one of the most amazing people I’ve met.”

    Yet each teammate also is an accomplished athlete who outperformed hundreds of Paralympic hopefuls to make the cut. For context, simply peruse two of Snyder’s post-injury times. In the 50-meter freestyle: 26.54 seconds — better than 10 Olympians who swam in London; and in the 100-meter freestyle: 57.75 — quicker than three 2012 Olympians.

    The 100-meter free on Friday offers Snyder his first crack at a medal, and it unleashes an aggressive schedule of seven events over nine days. In addition to his three world-best times, he’s currently ranked No. 2 among blind swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly and No. 4 in the 200-meter individual medley. For each event, Loeffler works as Snyder’s “tapper,” using a walking cane to touch Snyder’s shoulders to alert him that the wall is near and that a flip turn or final push is required.

    “His order of events sets up well since the sprints are early in the week (and) I do expect he will do well in his early events,” said Loeffler, who also serves as the co-head coach of the American Paralympic swim team. “(But) we have focused his training toward the 400 free.”

    For Snyder, his coach and his family, that is the race of races, scheduled for Sept. 7 — exactly one year to the day he stepped on the bomb.

    “It’s difficult to imagine and quantify the emotions I’ll be running through that day. But it’s going to be a moment that I’m going to enjoy. Because to me, competing on that day means that I was presented a challenge and I experienced some success in my transition to blindness. I conquered my adversity to some extent. Obviously, the adversity is not conquered. I’m still blind at the end of the day,” Snyder said. “But it means I’ve walked the path from being chained to the bed at exactly a year ago to competing on an international level at event like the Paralympics. It means I won a little bit.”

    All of the people who huddled near that bed last September at Bethesda Naval Hospital outside Washington, D.C. will be in the crowd in London — his two brothers, his sister, an aunt and his mother — who calls herself “a weeper” and who fully expects a gush of tears, win or lose.

    “From getting the phone call that morning from his commanding officer to not knowing what we were about to go through to what we went through the past year and then to see all that he has accomplished, well, it’s going to be amazing,” Valarie Snyder said.

    “He shared something with me not long ago. He said that every little boy dreams of doing something great in their life in sports. If you’re a runner or a swimmer, you dream of one day going to the Olympics. But when you grow up," she added, "you realize that was just a dream."

    “He believes has been given the opportunity to actually fulfill his dream.”

    Bill Briggs is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com and author of “The Third Miracle.” 

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  • 'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics in September.

    Channel 4

    This ad campaign for Channel 4's Paralympic coverage has captured the imagination of many people in Britain.

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    The Agitos symbol of the Parlaympics has replaced the Olympic rings on London's iconic Tower Bridge.

    This is the story of two paralympians from Haiti - a nation which is competing in the games for the first time. It's a country where disability is stigmatized and those who are disabled are shunned. ITV's Lewis Vaughan Jones reports on two pioneers who want to overcome prejudice and fill their nation with pride.

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind football from Team Great Britain.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball". ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain's inspirational captain.

    Of all the events that will be showcased in the Paralympics, few are as intriguing as blind soccer. ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain captain David Clarke who explained how it works.

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82 Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics. "This is my second chance," she tells NBC News' Jamieson Lesko.

    Pistorius, a double amputee born without fibulas in his legs, has trained hard to participate in the Olympics despite having to wear prosthetic legs. NBC's Mary Carillo reports.

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    Fahim Rahimi, is Afghanistan's only competitor at the Paralympics. He lost his leg in a land mine accident when he was just 12, but tonight the powerlifter is carrying the Afghan flag into the Olympic stadium. Jonathan Rugman, Britain's Channel 4 news reports.

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London. Madsen told her story to NBC's Jamieson Lesko.

    Transforming the despair of being paralyzed in battle into determination, Iraq War veteran Scott Winkler sets his sights on a medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

    LONDON -- A battlefield explosion sends troops flying, a speeding car flips over on a highway, a "Murderball" player is knocked right out of his wheelchair, all set to a fierce Public Enemy soundtrack. 

    "Forget everything you thought you knew about strength. Forget everything you thought you knew about humans. It's time to do battle. Meet the Superhumans."

    That’s how British TV viewers are being introduced to this year’s Paralympic athletes by Channel 4, which is broadcasting the London 2012 Games. Its campaign is giving Superbowl ads a run for their money, going viral with more than 500,000 views on YouTube alone.

    The hard-hitting ad is designed to jolt the public into a state of awareness and awe of what many of these disabled athletes have had to deal with just to stay alive, let alone compete at an elite level. It highlights that the competitors have overcome disabilities and disasters most of us cannot begin to imagine or will ever have to face. And that was before they became world-class competitors.

    Transforming the despair of being paralyzed in battle into determination, Iraq War veteran Scott Winkler sets his sights on a medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

    More coverage of the London Paralympics from Britain's ITV News

    The campaign also aims to combat the impression that the Paralympics is essentially the "Olympics-lite." Among the sports the ad focuses on is wheelchair rugby -- which is so violent that it's been dubbed "Murderball." The sheer amount of full-force contact between players requires welders to be put on standby on the sideline to repair damaged wheelchairs.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball". ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain's inspirational captain.

    The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation has championed the "Meet the Superhumans" campaign and comments posted on its Vimeo page illustrate the ad's power. "Now that's what I'm talking about, 'Thank you for letting me be myself.' Public Enemy never sounded better," one fan wrote. "It's a great soundtrack for our ... lives whether we're Olympians or not."

    Channel 4

    This ad campaign for Channel 4's Paralympic coverage has captured the imagination of many people in Britain.

    The event was founded 1948 to help rehabilitate injured British veterans returning from the Second World War, though many Americans remain unaware that it exists. (There's also a tendency to confuse it with the Special Olympics, which is unrelated. Paralympic athletes compete despite impairments including amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy and mobility disabilities.) However, there are signs that 2012 will be its breakout year.

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London. Madsen told her story to NBC's Jamieson Lesko.

    London-bound veterans push Paralympics back to battlefield roots

    The success of the London 2012 Olympic Games has sparked a spike in public interest in Britain. Ticket sales have wildly exceeded expectations, with organizers saying 2.3 million tickets have already been sold, which is more than any other Paralympic Games in history. There's a high demand for the 200,000 remaining tickets, which will be made available in batches online.

    Soccer superstar David Beckham is serving as an ambassador to the Games and Prince William and Kate Middleton are expected to attend Wednesday night's Opening Ceremony.

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind football from Team Great Britain.

    Team USA features 20 military veterans and active duty service members, including some wounded at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Among them is U.S. Army 82nd Airborne paratrooper Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed when her parachute got tangled with another in 2003. Doctors said she'd never walk again but Maczyk refused to listen. And she has proved them wrong.

    "I wasn't hearing it. In my heart, in my soul, I knew I could walk," Mazyck told NBC News. "To this day, I am walking."

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82 Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics. "This is my second chance," she tells NBC News' Jamieson Lesko.

    The South Carolina-based mother of one is now engaged to be married but admits shes also deeply "in love" with her javelin.

    'Very fortunate'
    U.S. Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder was blinded by a bomb while rushing to the aid of two fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

    His training regimen had him swimming 4,000 yards a day at his local pool in Baltimore. He is due to compete on the one-year anniversary of his injury. 

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics in September.

    "I knew I was very fortunate to be in that hospital bed and not in a coffin in the ground," Snyder said. "I'm going to show people that I'm not going to let this beat me. I'm not going to let blindness build a brick wall around me. I am going to find a way forward."

    From darkness to gold: Blinded Navy swimmer set to race at Paralympics

    South African double amputee and sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who has been nicknamed the "Blade Runner," will compete in the Paralympics after making history by running in the 400-meter event at the Olympics.

    Pistorius is likely to face tough competition from Team USA, including a 25-year-old rocket scientist Jerome Singleton and the 22-year-old Blake Leeper.

    Pistorius, a double amputee born without fibulas in his legs, has trained hard to participate in the Olympics despite having to wear prosthetic legs. NBC's Mary Carillo reports.

    Pistorius, a four-time Paralympic gold medealist, will carry the flag for South Africa at Wednesday's Opening Ceremony. Coldplay will perform at the Closing Ceremony on September 9.

    "I believe these Games are going to change peoples' mindsets about disabilities," Pistorius told Reuters. "In the last two to three years I've seen a shift. For many years people have shunned disability, but I don't have anything in life I'm not able to do. I don't think of my disability, I think of my ability."

    Sixteen countries are competing for the first time. Among them, Haiti will make its debut with two athletes competing in track and field.

    This is the story of two paralympians from Haiti - a nation which is competing in the games for the first time. It's a country where disability is stigmatized and those who are disabled are shunned. ITV's Lewis Vaughan Jones reports on two pioneers who want to overcome prejudice and fill their nation with pride.

    British broadcaster Channel 4 will show 150 hours of programming and about 350 hours more online and across three temporary on-demand channel.

    The International Paralympic Committee predicts that, adding together viewers on each of the 11 days of competition, the total audience figure for the London Paralympics will reach 4 billion.

    It said that four years ago in Beijing, a total overall audience of around 3.8 billion in 80 countries watched the 2008 Paralympics - including a total of 1.4 billion viewings in China across 11 days, 670 million in Japan and 439 million in Germany. Calculating figures in that way means individual viewers are counted several times.

    More coverage of the London Paralympics from NBC News

    The daughter of the founder of the Paralympics told NBC News that the record-breaking ticket sales and interest in the London event would have made her father "immensely proud."

    Of all the events that will be showcased in the Paralympics, few are as intriguing as blind soccer. ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain captain David Clarke who explained how it works.

    Eva Loeffler said Ludwig "Poppa" Guttmann – a neurologist who pioneered the rehabilitation of paralyzed Second World War service members at a hospital near London – would have been "extremely pleased" at how the Games had captured the public imagination.

    The 79-year-old said it was "very appropriate, in a way" that so many veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts were taking part in this year's event. "Helping the military wounded was where it all began, after all," she said.

    London 2012: Who were the real winners, losers?

    Guttman, who fled Germany in 1933 after being persecuted by Hitler's Nazi regime, challenged medical orthodoxy at Stoke Mandeville hospital, north–west of London, by encouraging patients to play sports rather than accept their paralysis.

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    The Agitos symbol of the Parlaympics has replaced the Olympic rings on London's iconic Tower Bridge.

    When London hosted the Summer Olympics in 1948, he created the Stoke Mandeville Games involving just 16 competitors. In the years that followed, he built his competition into the parallel Paralympic Games.

    This year's event will feature 4,200 athletes from 166 teams competing in 20 sports.

    Although Guttman died in 1980, Loeffler has continued his work, becoming a key figure in disabled sport – and has accepted an honorary role as mayor of the Paralympic Athletes' Village at the Olympic Park in East London.

    'Second-class citizens': Wheelchair user's fury at Paralympics over seating

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    One of Guttman's dreams was that disabled athletes would ultimately compete alongside their able-bodied counterparts – a wish that came true last month with Pistorius' historic participation at the Olympics.

    "He would have regarded that as a great moment, I'm sure," Loeffler said.

    How to watch the Paralympics from the U.S.

    • The International Paralympic Committee will live stream more than 780 hours of events.
    • NBC Sports Network will air one-hour highlight shows on September 4, 5, 6, and 11. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and www.UniversalSports.com.
      Check your local listings for channel info.
    • NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on September 16.
    • The United States Olympic Committee has created a YouTube channel dedicated to the Games.
    • The U.S. Paralympic Team will also provide in-depth coverage of Team USA on its website.

    Fahim Rahimi, is Afghanistan's only competitor at the Paralympics. He lost his leg in a land mine accident when he was just 12, but tonight the powerlifter is carrying the Afghan flag into the Olympic stadium. Jonathan Rugman, Britain's Channel 4 news reports.

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    NBC News' Alastair Jamieson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • Olympic medalists beginning to rake in gold

    Getty Images

    For many stars of the games, it's time to temporarily switch attention away from the business of winning to the business of making money.

    Luke Macgregor / Reuters

    Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is expected to earn millions in endorsement deals.

    The swimming phenom lived up to expectations in London, winning five Olympic medals and setting a new world record. She talks about the events to celebrate her homecoming, starting her senior year of high school, and whether she plans to go pro or go to college.

    Getty Images

    For many stars of the games, it's time to temporarily switch attention away from the business of winning to the business of making money.

    Olympic stars who sparkled in London are raking in millions in an unusually active endorsement season, reaping the benefits as Americans show a hunger for heroes after five years of tough economic news.

    Sponsors appear to be paying extra this post-Olympic season compared to years past to sign golden names, such as gymnast Gabby Douglas, say endorsement experts, including Sheryl Shade, Douglas’ agent.

    “I think the deals are larger coming out of the 2012 Olympics,” said Shade, whose firm also has represented Olympic gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Shannon Miller. “Kids need someone to look up to and, let's face it, adults need that as well right now. We do need heroes.”

    The Olympic afterglow is reminiscent of the patriotic pride that flared following the 1980 gold medal win by the vastly overmatched U.S. men's hockey team. Americans dominated the London games with 104 medals including 46 gold, far more than China, the closest rival team.

    Quantifying the wave of endorsement deals is difficult without viewing and tallying each contract. But consider the reported pact Douglas recently signed with Kellogg’s, said to be worth $1 million to $3 million, and estimates that break-out swimming sensation Missy Franklin could have made $2.5 million a year had she not opted to eschew endorsements to maintain her eligibility for college sports.

    Related: Gabby's gold worth millions in endorsements

    Luke Macgregor / Reuters

    Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is expected to earn millions in endorsement deals.

    “The desire for heroes – in the U.S. anyway – is as strong as it’s been in years,” said John A. Davis, author of “The Olympic Games Effect: How Sports Marketing Builds Strong Brands.” “At the risk of sounding overly philosophical, we tend to reach for mythical heroes when times are particularly challenging.

    “It's natural to seek hope in those who exude a sense of optimism, and this year's Olympians, including Gabby Douglas, seem to be a particularly honorable bunch,” Davis said. “Given our propensity to create narratives around heroes, sponsors have understandably become willing authors.”

    While Olympic marketing insider Jan Katzoff said he, too, has seen “a slight uptick in endorsement money,” he ties that increase to a slowly rebounding economy, including stronger corporate earnings.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Committee, which funds athlete training and coaching, has successfully renewed some sponsorship partners (24 Hour Fitness) and landed new ones (Chobani), creating an even taller stack of Olympic-minded business backers. 

    “The third part, for me, is there is money coming from corporate support that is not necessarily Olympic-sponsor driven,” said Katzoff, whose agency Radiate Group represents 18 Olympic sponsors and forged sponsorship deals with hundreds of Olympic athletes on behalf of brands. “I would cite Subway as a brand that has become very aggressive in signing Olympic athletes – and that also drives the market.”

    At the quiet end of the revenue stream, quadruple-gold-medalist Missy Franklin has opted, so far, to stay out of the lucrative endorsement pool so she can swim for the NCAA school of her choice.

    “It is safe to say that she would be giving up between $5 (million) to $10 million over the next quadrennium (four years),” Katzoff said. “She really could be the next big story in U.S. swimming and could attract a variety of brands in addition to her endemic ones. She has to be confident that she has three more Olympic Games in front of her.”

    Davis added, “There’s so much commercial pressure on these athletes now to take advantage of this very short window because they may not have this opportunity again -- and it will take 30 to 40 years to earn that same amount. The flip side is, you have to admire the fact that she wants to go to college and have a normal life. But it is sort of tempting to look at it and say, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s instead going to college for four years?’”


    Many Olympic medalists, of course, never get a whiff of endorsement gold, largely due to the lack of TV coverage for lesser-known sports.

    But one of the London Games’ most satellite-beamed stars, American swimmer Ryan Lochte -- who snagged two golds, two silvers and a bronze -– hasn’t yet cashed in on endorsements as heavily as some marketers had expected.

    Lochte does have existing sponsorship agreements with Gillette, Nissan, Ralph Lauren, Procter and Gamble, AT&T, Mutual of Omaha and Speedo. Fortune Magazine calculated his endorsement payout reached $2.3 million this past year.

    Yet some in the sports-marketing community say Lochte should be raking in millions more.

    “He probably could have done more, based on the expectations,” said Shade, the agent for Douglas. “He’s handsome, speaks OK. People were expecting a lot more. It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe there’s more to come.”

    There are whispers in endorsement circles that Lochte might be a bit of a loose cannon, perhaps a risk to straitlaced companies when athlete missteps can erupt quickly into Olympic-sized scandals. (See: Michael Phelps.)

    When Lochte admitted to TODAY correspondent Ryan Seacrest that he occasionally pees in the pool, many marketers that had been considering the swimmer likely were relieved they had not signed him to an endorsement deal, experts said.

    “If you represent a company these days,” said Shade, not speaking about Lochte, “you’ve got to be absolutely, 100 percent pure.” 

    The swimming phenom lived up to expectations in London, winning five Olympic medals and setting a new world record. She talks about the events to celebrate her homecoming, starting her senior year of high school, and whether she plans to go pro or go to college.

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  • Finally, McKayla's impressed...with Neil Patrick Harris

     

    And who wouldn't be? The Olympic gymnast paid a visit this week to the set of "How I Met Your Mother," and got some photos with the show's stars, including Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan.

    Harris tweeted this pic, writing: "Guess who visited HIMYM just now? Olympic Gold Medalist @McKaylaMaroney! Here I am pointing at her."

    Despite Maroney's viral "not impressed" Internet meme (which even she spoofed), it sure looks like she found the whole thing impressive. 

    More: Duchess Kate meets members of gymnastics' Fab Five 
    Settling for silver: Why second place is worse than third 
    McKayla Maroney: 'I was disappointed in myself, not the silver medal' 
    Video: McKayla Maroney's unimpressed face goes viral  

  • Missy Franklin reveals movie cameo: 'I'm so excited'

    After winning four Olympic gold medals in London, Missy Franklin has secured a coveted “internship.’’

    The 17-year-old swimming phenom from Colorado told Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday that she will make a cameo in the upcoming movie “The Internship,’’ starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. She will film the cameo in the next few months and the film is expected to be released next year, but Franklin's role remains top-secret.

    “I am so excited about it,’’ she said. “You’re going to have to wait and see.’’

    The five-time Olympic medalist began her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School last week, one day after making an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Another perk of her Olympic showing has been catching the attention of her favorite artist. Justin Bieber recently sent her a personalized care package.

    “He notices you!’’ Franklin joked about her new-found fame. “He sent me a huge care package, which was so awesome. I walk home and my mom is so cute. She took everything out and set it out on the table, and I had T-shirts and CDs and posters and all that stuff.’’

    Bieber is playing a concert in Denver in January, and Franklin is hoping to meet him in person.

    “My friend actually bought me tickets for my birthday, so we’re going to go, and I think we might be able to get backstage passes hopefully,’’ she said.

    In the midst of all the fun, Franklin is also mulling the serious issue of whether to turn professional. Throughout the Olympics, she professed a desire to remain an amateur so that she can compete in college, but still is weighing the decision now that lucrative sponsorship and endorsement offers have rolled in.

    “Right now we’ve definitely talked about it a little bit,’’ Franklin said. “I think we still want to talk about it more. As of right now, we’ve had college coaches coming to the house, and I will be taking my visits in the fall, and we’ll go from there.’’

    Franklin acknowledged concerns that deciding to go pro could look like she had gone back on her word.

    “It’s hard,’’ she said. “I’ve definitely put it out there that I do want to swim in college. It’s something that I want to do, and I don’t want people to think that’s not how I feel any more because it is. I still think that I would want to swim in college. I’ve always wanted to do it, whether I’ve said something or not about it, so hopefully I get the chance.’’

    One decision she has already made is to get the Olympic rings tattooed on her right hip, which she did last week.

    “It’s the only tattoo I’m ever going to get,'' she said. "I kind of grew up going to meets where I was watching kind of all my big role models have that tattoo, so I’ve always wanted it so bad.''

    In addition to her appearance on TODAY, Franklin, who is taking a month off from swimming post-Olympics, will participate in the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Saturday in Queens. She may be playing doubles with a celebrity partner and anticipates looking like a fish out of water.

    “I’m apologizing right now to everyone that has to watch,’’ she joked.

    More:Ryan Lochte dishes on Vegas party with Prince Harry
    Jeah! Lochte to guest star on '90210'
    Missy Franklin tweets new Olympic tattoo
    Missy Franklin plans to have tattoo along with medals
    Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?
    Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'

     

     

  • Ryan Lochte dishes on Vegas party with Prince Harry

    Who needs Michael Phelps? Prince Harry is all the swimming competition Ryan Lochte needs.  

    On TODAY Thursday, Lochte told Matt Lauer that Harry challenged him to a race in a nightclub pool last Friday, and the Olympian accepted. 

    Lochte had never met the prince until the royal's entourage approached him that night.

    "His people came over to my table and said, 'Prince Harry wants to meet you,'" he said. "I was like, 'Lets meet him.' I went over there. I was fully clothed, and he says, 'You want to race me in the pool?' I took off my shirt, jumped in and we started racing."

    Lochte enjoyed his brush with royalty, which began and ended with their impromptu race.  

    “He’s part of the royal family and everything, but he’s really a nice guy,’’ Lochte said. “He’s really talkative. He just wanted to meet me and honestly wanted to race me. I thought that was the coolest thing.’’

    Only hours later, all of the prince’s clothes came off in a now-infamous strip-billiards incident that took place in a hotel suite. Lochte did not get the invite to play strip billiards with the prince and his friends.

    “He never said anything like that,’’ Lochte said. “After our race and everything, we went our separate ways. I’m kind of happy. I don’t need that.’’  

    Nightclub swims notwithstanding, Lochte, 28, said that these three weeks out of the water have been his longest break from the pool since he was 10 years old.

    “After racing Prince Harry, I got that competitive edge back in me and I want to get back in the water,’’ Lochte cracked.

    After celebrating his birthday and dabbling in acting on '90210,' Lochte is ready to start gearing up for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He said he will get back to training on Monday.

    “Once I landed back in the States after London, I already had my goals in mind for Rio,’’ he said. “They’re a little different now. I can’t spill everything.’’

    Lochte did let it slip that he will not be swimming the same events as he did in London, where he won two golds, two silvers and a bronze to bring his career total to 11 medals.

    “Whenever I go up on the blocks, I don’t want to go for second or third, I want to win,’’ he said. “So I was definitely pleased and unpleased with some of my races, so hopefully I can change that in the next four years. I’m going to be swimming different events, that’s for sure. I’m getting older, my body’s getting older, so I can’t do those long events.’’

    His outside interests in fashion, acting and other pursuits will not distract him from his training, Lochte said.

    “Because of the training that I’ve been doing these past eight years, I have a good background, so I know that I’m able to do other things that I wasn’t able to do before so that leads to acting, doing who knows what,’’ he said. “The whole acting thing is definitely nerve-wracking. I can swim in front of 10,000 people, no problem, but acting, that’s a little hard.’’

    More: Video: Prince Harry returns to London amid photo scandal 
    Lochte: 'I'm going another four years' to Rio games 
    Jeah! Lochte to guest star on '90210' 

  • Reports: Somali Olympic sprinter died when migrant boat sank

    Kerim Okten/ EPA file

    Somalian athlete Samia Yusuf Omar at at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

    Italy's Coast Guard rescues 80 migrants from an overcrowded boat stranded just off the coast of the southern island of Lampedusa. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

    Kerim Okten/ EPA file

    Somalian athlete Samia Yusuf Omar at at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

    A woman from war-torn Somalia who rose to fame by running in the 200 meters at the Beijing Olympics drowned while trying to reach Europe ahead of the London 2012 Games, it has emerged.

    Samia Yusuf Omar died when a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank in April, according to a report in Italian by the Pubblico blog and other Italian media.

    The BBC said the Italian media reports suggest Omar may have been hoping to find a coach in Europe who could help her reach the London Olympics.

    Somali track and field legend Abdi Bile, who was world champion in the 1500 meters in 1987, was quoted as comparing Omar’s fate with that of Somali-born British runner Mo Farah, who won two Olympic gold medals at the London Games.

    "We are happy for Mo -- he is our pride," he said, according to Pubblico. "But we will not forget Samia."

    There were few details about what happened to Omar, but BBC News said Somalia’s National Olympic Committee had confirmed she had died. NBC News was unable to reach the committee on the phone number listed on its website and an email was not immediately returned.

    Italy's Coast Guard rescues 80 migrants from an overcrowded boat stranded just off the coast of the southern island of Lampedusa. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

    There were tributes to Omar from across the world on the comments section of a YouTube video of her race in Beijing.

    “Love, hope and peace from Barcelona Samia. Your still alive in ours hearts. RIP,” one user, frankiee78, said.

    Somali Olympic chief killed in Mogadishu suicide blast

    “Brave is the one who never give up ... Even being the last one on this heat, Samia was proud of being there for her country. Every time when a shooting star will shows in a Somalian sky, it will be Samia the one who is going to be running for her country.... RIP from Columbus, OH,” MrEmilito74 said.

    There were messages from people in the United States, Serbia, Mexico, Portugal, Uruguay and other countries.

    More world stories from NBC News:

    Follow World News from NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook

     

  • Missy Franklin tweets new Olympic tattoo

    @FranklinMissy / Twitter

    Swimmer Missy Franklin says that her new tattoo of the Olympic rings, a Team USA tradition, will be the only ink she ever gets.

    @FranklinMissy / Twitter

    Swimmer Missy Franklin says that her new tattoo of the Olympic rings, a Team USA tradition, will be the only ink she ever gets.

    In addition to the five Olympic medals she took home in London, swimming phenom Missy Franklin has added one other permanent reminder of her breakout performance.

    Following Team USA tradition after a successful Olympics, Franklin has gotten a tattoo of the Olympic rings. She tweeted a photo of  her new tat on her right hip on Thursday. “All inked up. AHH!’’ she wrote. “Can’t believe it! My one and only!”

     

    During the Olympics, Franklin told TODAY.com that she had planned on getting the traditional Olympic tattoo found on numerous U.S. athletes, and that it would be her first and last tattoo.

    "Getting a tattoo has never been something ever thought I would do, but this one just has so much meaning to it and it is really something that you have to earn,'' Franklin told TODAY.com. "Not a lot of people have the opportunity to get it, so I just feel like it’s an honor to get it.'' 

    The swimmer's father, Dick Franklin, had already approved of the tattoo before it officially was inked on to her hip.

    "This will be the only one, and she's earned it,'' he told TODAY.com while in London.

    Dick also joked that he might get his own tattoo.

    "Yeah, 'Missy's Dad,''' he said while pointing to his bicep.

    Franklin told TODAY.com that she had initially planned to get inked while she was still in London, a day before her father's Aug. 10 birthday. While her busy schedule didn't allow that, she eventually was able to find time after attending the Olympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday and making an appearance on "The Tonight Show" that aired Wednesday night.

    Franklin flew back to her home in Centennial, Colo., on Monday before jetting off for the "Tonight" spot, and on Thursday she began her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School -- with a permanent souvenir of what she did on her summer vacation.

    Read more:

    Missy Franklin plans to have tattoo along with medals

    Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?

    Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'

     

     

     

  • Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?

    Missy Franklin swam into our hearts, and won four gold medals, at the London Olympics. What's next: College, or lucrative endorsement deals?

    Plenty of advertisers would love Missy to represent their products, and she could probably make millions on endorsements — but that would mean giving up her amateur eligibility and missing the chance to swim at the collegiate level.

    “Right now, I’m still very set on swimming in college, but my decision has become a lot harder," she told NBC's Miguel Almaguer on TODAY Thursday. "It has become extremely difficult — there are so many pros and so many cons to consider.”

    And she said she does fantasize about the cash. "Turning down this amount of money is unheard-of. I mean, it's absolutely absurd. It's an amazing opportunity."

    It's a dilemma many parents would love to have: Do you let your insanely talented child go for the endorsement deals, the major-league contract, the Broadway auditions — or do you insist they go to college first? Supermodel Beverly Johnson recently told TODAY.com that her "biggest fear" was that her daughter would start modeling and not finish school. (Of course, that's exactly what her daughter Anansa did, though she eventually went back and got her bachelor's and an MBA.)

    It's Missy's future, and it's her decision — and from what we saw during the Olympic games, she certainly seems to have a good head on her shoulders. But we're sure her parents will weigh in on the decision. What would you do? 

    Related stories:

    Video: Missy Franklin's mom: Missy is 'always happy'

    Daughter has Olympic dreams, but does mom?

    Watch out, Lochte, these cute kids are pool hungry too

    Slideshow: The most marketable Olympians 

  • Gymnastics' Fierce Five look impressive -- but not impressed -- on Letterman

    John Paul Filo / CBS

    The Fierce Five, including Kyla Ross, Jordyn Weiber, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, share their post-Olympic thoughts with David Letterman.

    John Paul Filo / CBS

    The Fierce Five, including Kyla Ross, Jordyn Weiber, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, share their post-Olympic thoughts with David Letterman.

    There is a method to the U.S. women's gymnastics team madness.

    "You don't drink coffee beforehand, do you?" David Letterman asked the aptly named Fierce Five during their interview Tuesday on "The Late Show."

    "We eat cornflakes," offered McKayla Maroney, who may have won silver on the vault but deserves gold when it comes to marketing, the team of course currently being featured on boxes of Kellog's Corn Flakes at a supermarket near you.

    Miss Gabby Douglas on 'The Tonight Show'? Catch up on the highlights here!

    "That is the secret to our success," a similarly beaming Ali Raisman chimed in.

    "She's figured something out, hasn't she," Letterman said approvingly.

    Then, turning to all-around individual gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who jetted to New York to be with her team after last night's solo appearance on The Tonight Show, he asked how she felt about making history as the first Africa-American all-around champ.

    Check out McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross as even tinier gymnasts

    "I wanted to inspire a nation, so I can check that off my bucket list," the 16-year-old said, prompting incredulous responses, er, all around.

    "Wow, that's a hard bucket list," Raisman said.


    "Love it," chirped Maroney, who admitted when asked that she doesn't think that her teammates are so-called "normal" girls.

    "I think we're special," she said.

    Letterman also had to ask Maroney about the not-impressed memes, taking it upon himself to speculate that the cameras caught her in a contemplative moment and made it silly.

    Which of the Fierce Five made our list of 10 Olympians we'd like to see on 'Dancing With the Stars'?

    "It is pretty funny," Maroney said, obviously not impressed with the host's too-serious interpretation. "After I did it, the girls kept pointing it out, 'You're doing that face again.'"

    "Every time she does it, we're like, 'There it is!'" Raisman said. "We've all been working on it."

    And then he got the whole team to do their best McKayla-isn't-impressed impressions -- until the giggles took over, that is.

    Are you impressed with the team's success? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

    Related content:

    More in The Clicker:

  • Olympians return to all corners of the earth bruised, triumphant and laden with gold

    Paul Raats / EPA

    An aerial view made with the help of an Octocopter, a remote controlled helicopter, shows a ceremony for the Dutch Olympic contestants on a medal-shaped stage at the Stationsplein in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, on August 13, 2012.

    Alexander Nemenov / AFP - Getty Images

    Members of the Russian Olympic national team show their medals upon their arrival at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow on August 13, 2012.

    Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

    Brazil's volleyball player Adenizia Silva poses for a photograph with a fan in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 13, 2012. Brazil's women produced a dazzling comeback to win Olympic volleyball gold on Saturday, prompting a sneak preview of what life might be like in Rio de Janeiro in four years time.

    Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images

    Rio de Janeiro's city mayor Eduardo Paes, left, and the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman, center, wave the Olympic flag upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2012.

    EPA

    Taoufik Makhloufi, left, who won the gold medal in the men's 1500m final, parades in a car upon his return to Algiers, Algeria, on August 13, 2012. Makhloufi is the only Algerian among the 39 participants in the London Olympics to win a medal.

    Omar Sobhani / Reuters

    Taekwondo bronze medalist Rohullah Nikpai waves to the crowd during a procession for his homecoming in Kabul , Afghanistan, on August 14, 2012. Hundreds of jubilant Afghans packed the national stadium to welcome the nation's second Olympic medal winner.

    AFP - Getty Images

    Qatar's Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, center, son of the Emir of Qatar (and not an Olympic competitor, despite the medal), welcomes Nasser al-Attiyah, right, bronze medalist in the skeet men's final, and Mutaz Essa Barshim, left, bronze winner in the men's high jump, upon their arrival in Doha, Qatar on August 13, 2012.

    Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP - Getty Images

    Japanese women's volleyball captain Erika Araki, left, and her teammates are welcomed by wellwishers upon their return from the London 2012 Olympic Games at Narita airport, outside Tokyo, on August 14, 2012.

    Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

    Kim Hyeon-woo, front right, gold medalist in the Men's 66Kg Greco-Roman wrestling, sports a black eye as he poses with other athletes upon the South Korean national team's arrival in Incheon, west of Seoul on August 14, 2012.

    Click for more of the best images from the 2012 summer games in London.

    Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

    Kim Hyeon-woo, front right, gold medalist in the Men's 66Kg Greco-Roman wrestling, sports a black eye as he poses with other athletes upon the South Korean national team's arrival in Incheon, west of Seoul on August 14, 2012.

    Paul Raats / EPA

    An aerial view made with the help of an Octocopter, a remote controlled helicopter, shows a ceremony for the Dutch Olympic contestants on a medal-shaped stage at the Stationsplein in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, on August 13, 2012.

    Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP - Getty Images

    Japanese women's volleyball captain Erika Araki, left, and her teammates are welcomed by wellwishers upon their return from the London 2012 Olympic Games at Narita airport, outside Tokyo, on August 14, 2012.

    Omar Sobhani / Reuters

    Taekwondo bronze medalist Rohullah Nikpai waves to the crowd during a procession for his homecoming in Kabul , Afghanistan, on August 14, 2012. Hundreds of jubilant Afghans packed the national stadium to welcome the nation's second Olympic medal winner.

    AFP - Getty Images

    Qatar's Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, center, son of the Emir of Qatar (and not an Olympic competitor, despite the medal), welcomes Nasser al-Attiyah, right, bronze medalist in the skeet men's final, and Mutaz Essa Barshim, left, bronze winner in the men's high jump, upon their arrival in Doha, Qatar on August 13, 2012.

    Alexander Nemenov / AFP - Getty Images

    Members of the Russian Olympic national team show their medals upon their arrival at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow on August 13, 2012.

    Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

    Brazil's volleyball player Adenizia Silva poses for a photograph with a fan in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 13, 2012. Brazil's women produced a dazzling comeback to win Olympic volleyball gold on Saturday, prompting a sneak preview of what life might be like in Rio de Janeiro in four years time.

    EPA

    Taoufik Makhloufi, left, who won the gold medal in the men's 1500m final, parades in a car upon his return to Algiers, Algeria, on August 13, 2012. Makhloufi is the only Algerian among the 39 participants in the London Olympics to win a medal.

    Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images

    Rio de Janeiro's city mayor Eduardo Paes, left, and the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman, center, wave the Olympic flag upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2012.

    Click for more of the best images from the 2012 summer games in London.

     

  • Michael Phelps hops in the tub with Louis Vuitton

    Louis Vuitton

    Olympian Michael Phelps shows off his swimming Speedo for fashion giant Louis Vuitton.

    Louis Vuitton

    Olympian Michael Phelps shows off his swimming Speedo for fashion giant Louis Vuitton.

    Lucky for us, the end of Michael Phelps’ swimming career doesn’t mean the end of him strutting his stuff in a Speedo.

    Though the swimmer announced his retirement at the London 2012 Olympics, it looks like the most decorated Olympian of all time isn’t quite ready to pack up the goggles and call it a day — especially when it comes to hawking handbags.

    What is the first of what will probably be a maelstrom of product endorsements by Phelps, Louis Vuitton just unveiled a new ad for its iconic bags with the famous swimmer front-and-center. The ad shows Phelps, 27, giving a sultry look while reclined in a bathtub, goggles resting on his forehead. The Louis Vuitton bag is just beside him with a pair of folded jeans resting on top of it. We don't see a shirt anywhere, and that's ok with us. The campaign was reportedly shot by Annie Leibovitz. 

    In another photo for the fashion brand's campaign, Phelps has apparently emerged from the bathtub squeaky clean and ready to drink tea with Larisa Latynina of Russia, 77, who held the record as the most decorated Olympian. She held the title for the last 48 years until Phelps' performance in London. Phelps now holds 22 medals, and Latynina, a former gymnast, held a record 18 medals.  

    The ad marks Phelps' first post-2012 Olympics ad campaign and it comes ahead of his first television gig, a reality TV show on the Golf Channel called "The Haney Project," which follows his training by Hank Haney, the previous coach of Tiger Woods. We’d like to suggest Phelps keeps his current fashion statement of a Speedo with minimal accessories while practicing his golf swing.

    It was a surprise for some fashionistas to see Phelps in the ad for the bags, as his former teammate and rival Ryan Lochte is a noted clotheshorse and lover of high fashion. Lochte was also the unofficial heartthrob of the London Olympics, and could arguably be the more likely guy ladies would like to trap in their bathroom, especially since Phelps is happily coupled with model Megan Rossee. But perhaps Lochte is just in the next bathroom over, adjusting his grills in anticipation of his closeup.

    What do you think of Phelps' new ad campaign? Are you a fan? Let us know!

    More: Worth it? New $50 ponytail bar offers celeb-inspired services
    The TODAY talent's favorite summer perfumes
    7 glammed-up Olympians who blow our minds

  • Need a getaway from London? Try idyllic Richmond

    NBC News producer Chapman Bell takes a trip to Richmond, the last stop on the District tube line, which offers a relaxed, scenic getaway from the madness of the city.

    NBC News producer Chapman Bell takes a trip to Richmond, the last stop on the District tube line, which offers a relaxed, scenic getaway from the madness of the city.

  • How'd he do that? Olympic sprinter breaks leg, keeps running

    Anja Niedringhaus / AP

    United States' Manteo Mitchell competes in a 4x400-meter relay heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London on Thursday. Manteo had half a lap to go in the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries when he broke his leg, and was faced with a choice: keep running or stop and lose the race.

    Anja Niedringhaus / AP

    United States' Manteo Mitchell competes in a 4x400-meter relay heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London on Thursday. Manteo had half a lap to go in the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries when he broke his leg, and was faced with a choice: keep running or stop and lose the race.

    He heard the break. He felt the pain. And he just wanted to lie down.

    But after he broke his leg during the semifinal round of the men’s Olympic 4 x 400 meter relay on Thursday, sprinter Manteo Mitchell kept on running, even though, he said, “It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.”

    “It’s impressive both because he’s dealing with pain as well as not having all of his parts in an optimal situation,” says Dr. Balu Natarajan, a sports medicine specialist in Chicago.

    He attributes Mitchell’s feat to a combination of the highly trained athlete’s fight-or-flight response to pain and the fact that the bone he broke in his lower left leg, the fibula, absorbs less shock and does less work than the other leg bones.

    “Part of it was that the fibula contributes less to weight bearing as opposed to the femur and tibia and part of it is that in that high-energy situation, he has enough adrenaline and endorphins kicking throughout his body that he’s feeling a lot less pain at that moment,” said Natarajan, who also serves on the medical team of the Chicago Marathon.

    Had the 25-year-old Mitchell broken his femur or tibia, it would have been nearly impossible for him to finish the race, he said. If a leg bone had to break, he was in a sense lucky it was the fibula.

    “If it’s a short enough distance and a high level enough athlete, even with a broken fibula, someone can finish the race,” Natarajan said.

    In a statement released through USA Track & Field, Mitchell said the roar of the crowd was so loud that nobody heard his “little war cry,” and he said he didn’t want to let his teammates down. Mitchell finished his heat in 46.1 seconds, only 1.5 seconds longer than the runner of the next leg; the U.S. qualified for the finals and finished in the fastest time ever run in the first round of the relay at the Olympics. On Friday, the U.S. team went on to win a silver medal, thanks in part to Mitchell's sacrifice.

    In a high-stakes event like the Olympics after years of training, athletes sometimes will stop at nothing, experts say.

    “There’s so much that’s tied into the psyche during a race like this, it really can override a lot of things we would feel outside of such a high energy situation,” Natarajan said. “If the same thing happened on training run and no one was around, he would very likely have stopped.”

    “Anybody who has trained for a particular event for four years, really they have one goal, and between that and the tremendous conditioning and excellent biomechanics, it’s really the perfect confluence of factors that might allow someone to overcome a break like this,” he said.

    Mitchell said he had slipped on the stairs a few days earlier, but had it checked out, felt fine and didn't think much of it. Mitchell’s strong finish in the race was a clear example of a top athlete’s ability to put mind over matter, says Frank Smoll, a professor of sport psychology at the University of Washington.

    “It’s a very good illustration of how highly motivated they are and their willingness to pursue and persist and play through pain, so that the importance of what they’re doing really outweighs the potential negative consequences, in this case, physical harm,” he said.

    “They’re highly dedicated athletes, they’re courageous, and they’re willing to, at their own self-sacrifice, give it their all,” Smoll said.

    The training Olympic athletes receive in "attention control," the ability to block out distractions like pain, helps them succeed, Smoll said, adding: “It’s not just the physical ability that makes the elite athletes but the mental preparation is what makes them excel.”

    The U.S. men's 4 x 400 relay team won a silver medal on Friday; Mitchell, who has been fitted with a boot and crutches, will receive a medal with the rest of the team.

    Related: 

  • Silver screen, gold medalists: Olympians pick top sports films

    Warner Bros. Pictures; Sarika Dani, NBC News

    Left, Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"; right, boxing gold medal baby Claressa Shields, 17.

    NBC, MGM

    Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr loves "Rocky IV."

    NBC, Buena Vista Pictures

    NBC, Paramount Pictures

    Hurdler Dawn Harper credits Samuel L. Jackson as "Coach Carter" as a model for perseverance.

    Courtesy of Producers Distribution

    Silver medalist Leo Manzano (right) was fascinated by a documentary about Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna (left).

    Warner Bros. Pictures; Sarika Dani, NBC News

    Left, Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"; right, boxing gold medal baby Claressa Shields, 17.

    The London Games are winding down, and it's a long time until the 2014 Winter Olympics. But you don't have to wait that long to experience the thrill of victory again — there are plenty of inspiring and entertaining sports moments to be enjoyed through the magic of the movies. We asked Olympians from many disciplines to reveal their favorite sports films; here are the ones they put on their personal podiums.

    Claressa Shields, boxing

    The 17-year-old who won the first U.S. gold medal in women’s Olympic boxing names “Ali,” starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali, and “Million Dollar Baby,” which won Hilary Swank a Best Actress Oscar as a boxer who beats the odds, among her favorite sports films. “They both have something to do with boxing and they are both good stories,” she told TODAY.com.

    Jamie Gray, shooting

    “‘Miracle’ is such an inspiration,” Gray told TODAY.com, referring to the 2004 film about the U.S. men's hockey team's remarkable gold medal win over the heavily favored Soviet team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. “I always watch before matches,” she added, but confessed that at the London Games, “I fell asleep.” (No harm done; Gray is bringing home the gold in the women's 50m rifle, 3 positions.)

    NBC, MGM

    Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr loves "Rocky IV."

    Jenn Suhr, track & field

    Suhr is a pole vaulter, so it's a bit of a surprise that her favorite sports film is a boxing movie: "Rocky IV." Why? “Because of the fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago!” she exclaimed. “Plus, our training center in Rochester, New York is called the Meat Cooler," she added. "It’s a big metal and steel building. It reminds us of the scenes from the movie.”

    Serena Williams, tennis

    The tennis superstar was one of the two Olympians TODAY.com spoke to whose favorite sports film is a comedy (the other was swimmer Matt Grevers, who chose "Cool Runnings," the John Candy film about a Jamaican Olympic bobsledding team). "Easy, it’s 'Talladega Nights'!" Williams said. For motivation, Williams turns to the inspiring (and fully trademarked) words of NASCAR legend Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell: "If you ain’t first, you’re last."

    NBC, Buena Vista Pictures

    Aly Raisman, gymnastics

    Chalk up another vote for "Miracle": "It’s really inspiring and the captain of the team is from my hometown in Massachusetts.” So, does the multiple medal winner watch before every competition? "No, I’ve just watched it before so I like it a lot," she told TODAY.com. "I think it's a good movie."

    Marlen Esparza, boxing

    "Remember the Titans," the fact-inspired 2000 drama starring Denzel Washington as a football coach struggling with racial tensions on his team, is "super motivational," the Texas-born boxer told TODAY.com. In fact, she's lost count of how many times she's watched it; she lets it play "every time it comes on."

    NBC, Paramount Pictures

    Hurdler Dawn Harper credits Samuel L. Jackson as "Coach Carter" as a model for perseverance.

    Dawn Harper, track & field

    The silver medalist in the women's 100m hurdles chooses "Coach Carter," the 2005 Samuel L. Jackson drama, based on the true story of a high school basketball coach who benched his undefeated team for their low academic grades, and motivated them to success in the classroom as well as on the court. "It's about the perseverance," Harper told TODAY.com.

    Dremiel Byers, wrestling

    The Newark, N.J.-born grappler's instant choice was "Vision Quest," a 1985 drama starring Matthew Modine as a high school wrestler searching for meaning in his life. "Come on, I'm a wrestler," he told TODAY.com. But then he thought for a moment and added: "Actually, this is hard for me. I'm stuck between 'Vision Quest' and 'Prefontaine' (the 1997 story of long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, played by Jared Leto). "But I'm a wrestler, so I'd have to say 'Vision Quest.'"

    Courtesy of Producers Distribution

    Silver medalist Leo Manzano (right) was fascinated by a documentary about Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna (left).

    Leo Manzano, track & field

    Manzano was fast enough to win the U.S. silver in the men's 1500 meters, so it's natural that he chose a film about speed: "Senna," a critically acclaimed British documentary about Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna. "I didn't know anything about F1," Manzano confessed. "Then (I) watched this movie and fell in love with it."

    Read more:

    What's on Olympians' lock screens?

    Athletes reveal their post-Olympic pig-out plans

    Very superstitious: Olympians woo lady luck with rituals

    Olympians flash their bling while going for gold

  • Instead of gold, pin traders seek Olympic brass

    Don Bigsby

    Hungary's London 2012 athletes pin looks almost identical to Hungary's Berlin 1936 athletes badge, which was made by the Hungarian Mint and is highly-coveted because of its quality and beauty.

    Don Bigsby

    Complete with glass cases and informational captions, collector Don Bigsby has turned his house into an Olympic museum featuring pins, posters, and much more. This particular corner of his collection is designated to the Berlin 1936 and the London 1948 Games.

    Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

    Pin collector Johnny Ioannides of Greece waits outside the Olympic Village in Stratford in east London July 26, 2012.

    Sergei Grits / AP file

    Pin collectors chat next to Olympic Park in London, on July 25, 2012. Outside Westfield Mall, at the edge of the Olympic Park security zone, a dozen people set up shop to trade and sell pins from the 2012 games and Olympics past.

    Sergei Grits / AP file

    Pin collectors chat next to Olympic Park in London, on July 25, 2012. Outside Westfield Mall, at the edge of the Olympic Park security zone, a dozen people set up shop to trade and sell pins from the 2012 games and Olympics past.

     

    By Catherine Treyz
    NBC News

    While athletes in London are set on winning Olympic gold, self-described “pinheads” are focused on collecting Olympic brass. Pin traders from across the globe have gathered in London -- not just to watch the international competition, but to find unique, sought-after pins.

    “Some people are fanatics,” said Don Bigsby, 72, of Schenectady, NY. Bigsby, a retired telephone engineer, is preside­nt and founder of the world’s largest Olympic pin and memorabilia club, the Olympin Collectors Club. “I’m well past that sort of thing.”

    Don Bigsby

    Complete with glass cases and informational captions, collector Don Bigsby has turned his house into an Olympic museum featuring pins, posters, and much more. This particular corner of his collection is designated to the Berlin 1936 and the London 1948 Games.

    Since 1980, Bigsby’s Olympic collection has grown from just pins to include programs, torches, tickets, medals and more. To accommodate all of this he has turned his house into a museum. In 1999, Bigsby spent $150,000 to build a two-floor, 1,700-square-foot addition to his 1,000-square-foot house to hold his memorabilia.  

    “[Because of pin collecting] I know more about the world than I ever learned in school," said Bigsby, who carries a book of flags with him to help him “chase pins” by national colors and symbols.

    At the Games, merchandise and memorabilia are in high demand. Sales at London 2012 shops, according to the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have increased by 115 percent since the start of the Games. The Opening Ceremony pins have sold out.

    Although certain commercial pins are especially popular, true “pinheads” are not at the Games to buy or sell, but to trade. “Pin collectors, athletes, media people, etc. are really into pin trading, maybe more than ever before,” wrote Bigsby in an e-mail from London. “Every day, the ‘rules’ change for collectors. Where to trade, how many pins to wear ...

    Don Bigsby

    Hungary's London 2012 athletes pin looks almost identical to Hungary's Berlin 1936 athletes badge, which was made by the Hungarian Mint and is highly-coveted because of its quality and beauty.

    This year, one pin in high demand among niche collectors is Hungary’s athletes pin. Made by the Hungarian Mint, this year’s pins look almost identical to Hungary’s athletes’ pins of the past.

    When a trade is finished, however, returns aren’t allowed.

    “It’s a deal. Move on. Find somebody else to trade with,” said Bigsby said.

    Athletes join in the fun

    Earlier this year, tennis player and gold medalist Serena Williams recently told USA Today that she has been an avid pin collector since Sydney 2000.  Shooter and three-time gold medalist Kim Rhode of Team USA makes her own pins and gives them away on Twitter. She tweeted, “To win a pin I’m going to ask trivia type questions while I’m here @Olympics and the person who responds first with the correct answer wins.” So far, Rhode has given away three.

    Rhode is one of many pin traders who have shared their hobby online. The London Pins website, for example, is dedicated to organizing information about all of this year’s pins. On Twitter, users have expressed their surprise about how popular the hobby is and how surprised they are that they have, too, become addicted. “I didn’t think it would happen but I’ve become obsessed with collecting pin badges #gamesmaker,” one person tweeted. 

    Pins are usually made of metals like brass, copper, and tin. It's the sentimental value, not the monetary value, that keeps “pinheads” trading and inspires more traders each Olympiad.

    “Pins really have no monetary value,” said Navid Khonsari, whose 2007 documentary Pindemonium provides a lens into the Olympic subculture of pin collecting.  “Pins are really a vehicle for people to really interact with one another.”

    Pin trading: where it all began

    Khonsari said most of the American pin traders got their start at Lake Placid in 1980 or in Los Angeles in 1984. Although pins have been a part of the Olympic tradition since the first modern games in Athens in 1896, the Summer and Winter Olympics in the 1980s marked a turning point in the demand for Olympic collectibles with special venues emerging for the purpose of trading and selling commemorative goods. According to Coca-Cola, one of 10 worldwide Olympic sponsors, 17 million pins were traded at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

    Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

    Pin collector Johnny Ioannides of Greece waits outside the Olympic Village in Stratford in east London July 26, 2012.

    Bigsby, who was one of the three recipients of the International Olympic Committee’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Medal for Olympic Collecting this past June, began trading and collecting pins after attending the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. It was the year of the US men’s ice hockey team’s underdog victory against the Soviet Union and Eric Heiden’s record-setting five gold medals in men’s speedskating.

    “How could I not get hooked?” Bigsby said. “I love amateur sports and there I was in Lake Placid in the middle of it.”

    'It's amazing how it just takes over the Games'

    According to Maxine Chapman, marketing director at Coca-Cola, it's an unofficial rule that if you’re wearing more than one or two pins, you’re a trader. “A pin from the Olympics is so highly coveted,” said Chapman, who manages Olympic showcasing for international sponsor Coca-Cola. “It’s amazing how it just takes over the Games.”

    Since the 1988 Games in Calgary, Coca-Cola has opened pin trading centers at the Olympic Games. Khonsari filmed many of his interviews for Pindemonium at the Coca-Cola Pin Trading Center in Torino in 2006. This year’s pin trading centers are at two locations: London’s Olympic Park and Hyde Park. “The response has been very, very good,” said Chapman.

    One feature of this year’s trading centers is a giant map of the world where people tack pins they receive, encouraging Olympic fans to trade with the world.

    In an e-mail update from the Games, Bigsby wrote, “My daughter Calyn and I traded pins with two North Koreans, then three Iranians and had a great time chatting and gesturing a conversation. Made me wonder why everyone can't get along.”

    More from NBCNews.com

     

  • Nike takes marketing gold with neon-yellow shoes

    Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

    Ashton Eaton, left, and Trey Hardee of the United States, wearing (or not wearing) their distinctive yellow Nike Volt shoes, celebrate their gold and silver medals in the men's decathlon Thursday.

    The winner of the decathlon is often referred to as "the greatest athlete on earth," competing in 10 different events. Gold and silver medal winners Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee talk about how it feels to come out of the grueling two days of competition on top.

    Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

    Ashton Eaton, left, and Trey Hardee of the United States, wearing (or not wearing) their distinctive yellow Nike Volt shoes, celebrate their gold and silver medals in the men's decathlon Thursday.

    As the Olympics wind down, marketing experts are awarding a gold medal in ambush marketing to Nike, which scored with bold commercials, smart PR moves and its distinctive, ubiquitous neon-yellow Volt shoes.

    Nike, which always manages a high Olympic profile despite its non-sponsor status, outwitted big-money Olympic backers such as Visa, McDonald’s and adidas - which reportedly paid $155 million for its official London 2012 sponsorship - with its nervy campaign, according to marketing experts.

    “The shoes were one of the first things I noticed during the Games,” said Leslie Smolan, co-founder of Carbone Smolan Agency, a design and branding firm in New York. She just returned from London. “I thought Nike's approach was absolutely brilliant. Nike managed to integrate themselves into the games -- the best way to show your product, not just talk about it.”

    Indeed, London Games organizers considered legal action against Nike before dumping the idea, according to The Associated Press. The IOC, ever patrolling to block non-Olympic advertisers from crashing the lavish marketing party of official Games sponsors, banned athletes from tweeting about their personal sponsors. But the logo police couldn't thwart Nike-bedecked competitors from donning those incandescent kicks: Olympians can wear whatever shoes they feel offer them a crack at the podium. 


    “Nike cleverly leveraged the combination of their recognizable trade dress and logo to get Olympic-sized brand identification without an Olympic-sized budget,” said Adam Hanft, CEO of New York-based Hanft Projects, a communications and marketing consultancy. "It's exactly the kind of guerrilla product insertion that makes marketers smile and the (International Olympic Committee) nuts."

    Needless to say, Nike was unapologetic about its shoe campaign.

    "Over 400 athletes are wearing the Volt Nike footwear at the Games," said Nike spokesman Brian Strong. "The majority of those are in track and field but also in boxing and fencing."

    As of Friday 41 athletes had medaled wearing Volt shoes, including 43 percent of track and field medalists, Nike said.

    And the company didn't need its signature swoosh to strut its brand to the world. The Volt is scientifically designed to be a pupil-popping consumer magnet.  

    "Of all the colors of the rainbow, the human eye and visual system is most sensitive to the yellow/green zone," Strong said. "The power of this visual signal is capitalized on when the background is highly contrasting, which the London Olympic track is -- reddish.  The human eye has relatively low sensitivity to red vs. much higher sensitivity to Volt color."

    Cool hues aside, does Nike agree with the many advertising experts who believe the shoe was strategically picked by Nike to rev its "ambush marketing?" 

    Strong's direct response that question: "We’ll always look to provide our athletes with the best in design and innovation on the world’s biggest stages. Volt is a strong, dynamic color and it has certainly become a visible signature of ours during the summer of competition."

    Nike's promotion of the shoes skirts on the edge of Rule 40 of the Olympic charter, which "limits athletes competing in the Olympic Games from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic Games." The rule is intended to "prevent ambush marketing which might otherwise utilise athletes to create an association with the Games."

    But Rule 40 does not affect what athletes can wear, said Jennifer Escalas, associate professor in the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. 

    "It just says that if the equipment manufacturer is not an official sponsor, then the athletes cannot 'promote' the product outside of using the product during competition," she said. "The track and field athletes wearing the bright yellow Nike shoes cannot tweet about them or blog about them or post pictures of the shoes on Instagram."

    Early in the games, Nike scored a public relations coup after Egyptian athletes were discovered parading in counterfeit Nike warm-up outfits because they couldn't afford authentic gear. Rather than complain about the piracy, Nike offered free gear for the team.

    The winner of the decathlon is often referred to as "the greatest athlete on earth," competing in 10 different events. Gold and silver medal winners Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee talk about how it feels to come out of the grueling two days of competition on top.

    Nike also flirted with Rule 40 in its "Find Your Greatness" TV ad featuring rugby players, marathoners, cyclists, swimmers and wrestlers competing in London, Ohio; London, Norway; and East London, South Africa. There are no overt Olympic mentions and no images of London, England. 

    "The television commercial skirts very close to impinging on the connections in the minds of consumers between the official London sponsors and the positive thoughts and feelings consumers have about the Olympics,"  Escalas said. "I could see the official sponsors being justifiably upset about these ads."

    To which Nike's Strong responds: "The Nike 'Find Your Greatness' spots feature everyday athletes from multiple locations called London around the world, to illustrate that greatness can be found by anyone, anywhere. We think that is a powerful message at a time when the world is focused on London, UK." 

    And he sticks the landing. 

    "I love it," said Alex Campbell, co-founder Vibes, a Chicago mobile marketing and technology company, "because they weren't actually an Olympic sponsor -- but but they came off as one." 

    More money and business news:

     

     

     

     

     

  • Usain Bolt wins Olympics 200 meters title, breaks Twitter record

    Eddie Keogh / Reuters

    Jamaica's Usain Bolt poses with his gold medal on the podium after winning the men's 200m event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 9, 2012.

    TODAY's Natalie Morales takes a look at funny images of U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's unimpressed face Photoshopped onto iconic images, such as the walk on the moon and the Wright Brothers' first flight.

    Eddie Keogh / Reuters

    Jamaica's Usain Bolt poses with his gold medal on the podium after winning the men's 200m event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 9, 2012.

    When Usain Bolt won the 200 meters, the Twitter world went nuts — so much so that the Jamaican speedster generated another kind of Olympic record.

    "Record alert!" Twitter said in a tweet. "@usainbolt sets a new Olympic Games conversation record with over 80,000 TPM for his 200m victory."

    TPM is Twitterspeak for tweets per minute.

    Bolt, who became the only man with two Olympic titles in the 200, has never been shy about his skills.

    His Twitter profile says he is "The most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen."

    Now he has a Twitter record of sorts to add to his "living legend" contention.

    More Digital Life:

    TODAY's Natalie Morales takes a look at funny images of U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's unimpressed face Photoshopped onto iconic images, such as the walk on the moon and the Wright Brothers' first flight.

     

  • Ryan Seacrest answers TODAY Facebook fans' questions

    TODAY

    TODAY

    Special correspondent Ryan Seacrest has taken over TODAY's Facebook page, revealing a behind-the-scenes look from London. Below are fans' questions he answered. 

    Floetta Sanders: What events have you enjoyed the most? And just a note: I think Willie nelson would make a cool judge on “American Idol.”
    Ryan: Without a doubt, Usain Bolt has been one of my fav stories here in London. His speed is incredible, and I love "The Bolt." It's an indelible image of this Olympics. And Willie is a legend!

    Amy Kraft Cieslak: I know Matt must secretly own a Snuggy. Let's see him wearing it!
    Ryan: It was pretty warm here in London the last two weeks, so no Snuggy sightings. But Matt was sporting some snazzy white bucks today, without socks! 

    Deb Lamb: What Olympic athlete has really impressed you in a huge way??
    Ryan: All of the Olympic athletes are so impressive -- that goes without saying. A few in particular: Gabby Douglas stands out given her age and accomplishments; Michael Phelps for his tenacity and contributions to the sport of swimming; and the women’s soccer team for their relentless pursuit of gold. 

    Monica McAfee Burnett: Hey Ryan! I hope you had a great time in London! Will you continue to be a special correspondent for TODAY in the future? You are doing a great job!!!
    Ryan: Thanks, Monica! I am having a great time hanging out with the TODAY gang. and, yes, my work as a special correspondent will continue after the Olympics. 

    Mary Moon: How can I get a job like yours?
    Ryan: Visit your local radio or TV station and figure out how to be an intern. There is no better way to learn the business than in a job where you do everything – and interns really do everything. It’s a lot of work, but hard work pays off.

    C Susan Shields: Great job! What is the most exciting sport did you enjoy in London?
    Ryan: I'm fascinated by synchronized swimming. These women are amazing athletes.

    Dolores Ozuna Cruz: Are you going to stay for the closing ceremony? Post pictures!
    Ryan: Yes! I've been asked to co-host the closing ceremony with Bob Costas and Al Michaels, two sportscasting ICONS. I'm humbled to join them for such a big night. Should be fun and I definitely will take pics. 

    Christina Koran Johnson: I just wanted to say you are doing a phenomenal job on TODAY! I am very impressed with your interview and journalism skills! Would love to see you on TODAY more!
    Ryan: Thanks for the kind words. 

    Tasahia Toland: What's in the jar [in the photo above]?
    Ryan: Just some mixed nuts. :) 

    Andrea Montalbano: What was the weirdest thing that happened to you while in London???
    Ryan: The broadcasting team from India thought I was a basketball player. Seriously

    Vanessa Sanchez McCullough: OK, Ryan! Take a pic of you and [Olympics executive producer] Jim Bell! My question is where do you find the time to do as much as you do? Especially during the "American Idol" season. You seem to juggle 100 different projects without getting burned out. What is your secret, Seacrest?
    Ryan: Bell is pretty hard to pin down at the broadcast center, but I will try to grab a shot. And sure my schedule can be tough, but I have a lot of terrific people on my team who help make it all doable. I also believe in having a little fun too -- that makes the hard work worth it. 

    Cindy Rowe Zelbst: No questions. I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed you on the Olympics, and I can't wait for the closing ceremony. TODAY needs you as a contributor more often!!!
    Ryan: That's so nice. Thanks. 

    Lisa Sharrai O'Neil: Who pays for the Olympics? Where does the money come from to pay the winners? Who makes the medals?
    Ryan: NBC and other networks around the world pay to broadcast the Olympics, so a lot of the money comes from there. Other money comes from the host country and sponsors like Coca-Cola. For the London Games, the medals were made in Pontyclun, Wales, by a company called The Royal Mint. More than 800 workers made over 4,700 medals! 

    Jennifer Fisher Harris: While waiting for their Olympic events, how much time do the athletes spend training and conditioning without wearing themselves out for the games? And what activities or accommodations do they have available within the Olympic Village?
    Ryan; Athletes are given a lot of privacy at the Olympic Village so they can be comfortable and relaxed prior to competition. There is limited media access so they won't be bothered or distracted. That said, a lot of the athletes told me the food is pretty good.

    More on TODAY.com: 
    Ryan Seacrest shows his 'flexibility' with US gymnasts
    Seacrest: If Kim Kardashian was an Olympian, she'd play...
    TODAY tries Olympic racewalking (and things get awkward) 

  • Discovering London's lively Latin music scene

    Take a peek at the spaces in London that feature the spicy sounds of salsa all around the city, including Ronnie's Bar and numerous Latin restaurants.

    Take a peek at the spaces in London that feature the spicy sounds of salsa all around the city, including Ronnie's Bar and numerous Latin restaurants.

     

    Right on top of Ronnie Scott's, London's legendary jazz club, is Ronnie's Bar. You climb a dark set of stairs, and then the door opens to a well-kept secret: London's live Latin music scene.  Here, every Friday night, "Viva La Revolucion" celebrates  the Latin spirit.

    Latin fever hasn't passed London by: Salsa classes have been popping up all over town in recent years, and throughout the city, Latin-American restaurants offer atmosphere as well as unique cuisine.

    The Latin American expat community in London may not be as large as the ones in the U.S. or Spain, but it as vibrant. Touring Latin music bands often jam with the resident musicians at Ronnie's.  And since the United-States embargo on Cuba does not apply here,  Cuban musicians visit London frequently.

    Yet it isn't only traditional Latin music: Just around the corner, at Floridita and Bar Salsa, Latin bands mix traditional music with contemporary reggaeton. For the London Latin community, these venues are a home away from home, but the sounds are there for us all to enjoy.

    Related:
    Revealed: London's hidden haven for foodies
    Tales from the crypt (beneath London, that is)
    Yesterday, restrooms; today, hip London clubs
    London's colorful Wapping: Lift a pint where pirates roamed
    London's Portobello Market: A trove for treasure hunters
    Get a runner's eye view of London
    Discovering London's quaint Marylebone district

  • He's back! Skater Evan Lysacek to return to competition, has 'Olympic bug'

    Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

    From skaters to skiers, curlers to bobsledders, Olympic athletes sport flamboyant fashion and colorful gear at the Vancouver Games.

    American figure skater Evan Lysacek announced on TODAY Friday his return to competition later this year, along with plans to defend his Olympic gold medal at the next Winter Games.

    Lysacek told TODAY he took personal time off following his 2010 Olympic win in Vancouver, but that he’s mentally and physically prepared to return to the ice.

    “Nothing satisfied me as much as training and competing,” he said. “I still have the Olympic bug and I think I have one more (Olympics) in me.”

    Lysacek, 27, acknowledged that his body isn’t the same as when he earned the titles of world and Olympic champion several years ago, but said he believes he will be ready for the 2014 Winter Games in the southwest Russian city of Sochi.

    “I’ve had to be a smarter and more efficient athlete, so training has been definitely different, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this build-up to Sochi.”

    Lysacek plans to return to competition in October at the Hilton HHonors Skate America competition in Kent, Wash. He said his programs have been choreographed, his music selected and his costumes prepared by American fashion designer Vera Wang. 

    A “couple more months of preparation, the finishing touches, and I’ll be ready to go in October,” he said.

    Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

    From skaters to skiers, curlers to bobsledders, Olympic athletes sport flamboyant fashion and colorful gear at the Vancouver Games.

    More from TODAY in London:

  • Lochte on peeing in pool: 'Sometimes you just gotta go'

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte is going home with five Olympic medals, but it's what he left behind in the pool in London that has made some joking headlines as the Olympics wind down.

    Lochte was in the spotlight a week ago when he admitted to TODAY special correspondent Ryan Seacrest that he occasionally pees in the pool. Then came a "Funny or Die" parody video where he took the peeing theme to hilarious heights.

    Lochte jokingly reiterated his stance in an interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday. 

    “I mean, sometimes you just gotta go,” he said.

    British prime minister David Cameron was not amused once he heard how Lochte was using London’s Olympic pool. “I was surprised to hear that,” he told Britain's Metro newspaper. “It’s not OK to pee in the pool.”
     
     Lochte has certainly stood by his right to relieve himself in the water. When comedian Will Ferrell called and asked him to make a “Funny or Die” video on the subject, he jumped at the opportunity. In the video Lochte says, “The way I see it, the pool is the biggest, most expensive toilet and it’s all mine. That’s the only time I allow myself to pee. Animals, they mark their territory. I pee in the pool. That’s my territory.”
     
    Luckily for the pools of the world, Lochte isn’t going anywhere near one for at least a little while after a whirlwind Olympic experience.
     
    “I’m definitely going to take some time off," he told Lauer. "It's been four years of every day in the pool. I think it’s time for me to take at least a couple weeks.”

    Lochte isn’t worried that the come-down after the Olympics will lead to a crash. He has already said that he plans on making a run at a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when he will be 32 years old.
     
    “The Olympics is great," he said. "But for me, I treat every meet, every swim meet that I go to, the exact same. It just has a different name to it. And you know what? I love racing. And I want to keep doing it for another four years.”
     

    While the world waits to see him in Rio in 2016, he'll be keeping busy on dry land. He already is entertaining multiple reality TV offers, and he has plans to move to Los Angeles, which he said has been a big goal of his for a long time. He told Lauer he hopes it will help him get into fashion.

    “That is my passion,” he said. “When swimming is all said and done I definitely want to get into fashion and design my own clothing line.”

     

    Read more:

    Agent: Ryan Lochte fielding multiple reality TV offers

    Ryan Lochte: I'd like to do 'Dancing with the Stars'

    Ryan Lochte: 'I'm going another four years to Rio"

    Phelps rival writes his own London headline: 'Ryan Lochte takes over'

  • After gold win, women's soccer team glows with joy (not booze)

    The U.S. women's soccer team chats about its dramatic gold medal win over Japan, looks ahead to Rio in 2016 and jokes about Hope Solo's 'drunk' comment regarding their 2008 appearance.

    The U.S. women's soccer team chats about its dramatic gold medal win over Japan, looks ahead to Rio in 2016 and jokes about Hope Solo's 'drunk' comment regarding their 2008 appearance.

     

    It was deja vu all over again for goalie Hope Solo and her teammates from the U.S. women's soccer team on Friday when they appeared on TODAY the morning after a gold medal victory, just as they had four years ago in Beijing. But this time their smiles were fueled only by the euphoria of victory.

    That was in contrast to the morning after they beat Brazil in Beijing, when, according to what Solo admitted to ESPN the Magazine, she and some other players were still tipsy from the previous evening's revels when they appeared on TODAY.

    On Friday, Matt Lauer asked Solo if he would also be reading about this interview after the fact, but she assured him that the perma-grins on their faces were all natural.

    “We are well-hydrated this morning,’’ she joked.

    On Thursday Solo was part of an all-around sterling effort in front of 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium that resulted in a 2-1 win over Japan for the team's third gold medal in the last three Olympics. She made several acrobatic saves, including stopping a 2-on-1 breakaway by smacking away a point-blank shot with both hands in the 83rd minute to preserve a thrilling win.

    “I think my heart was in my throat as well,’’ Solo said. “You train so hard as a goalkeeper, you train day in and day out to make those saves, and then you never know if you’re going to have your moment. You never know when the game is going to ask you to make that save, so I had to make it in one game this tournament, in the final game in the 83rd minute.’’

    Solo had powerful emotions about the game, but she was able to rein them in to focus.

    "I actually was crying on the back of the bus going to the game,'' Solo told Savannah Guthrie in a later segment on TODAY Friday. "(I was) crying for the gratitude I have for this kind of opportunity to fulfill my dreams.''

    She also shook off a flare-up earlier in the games when she made headlines after tweeting some critical comments about NBC commentator and former U.S. soccer team member Brandi Chastain.

    "There's always controversy,'' Solo told Guthrie. "I think a lot of things are made out to be more than they really are or what is necessary. I have opinions about commentary and other things as well. Everybody can have an opinion.''

    In addition to Solo, midfielder Carli Lloyd was another hero as she scored both goals against Japan, four years after she scored the winning goal in overtime to beat Brazil.

    “I was counting down the minutes from 70 on,’’ Lloyd said about the pressure-packed game. “I think it’s all in the mind, so whatever you visually prepare comes true.’’

    “I think that more than anything, this was just a complete team win,’’ forward Abby Wambach said. “Carli, she comes on, plays a lot of minutes in this tournament - every single player from the first to the last. I just can’t be more proud of this group of people.’’

    Now that the Americans have made it three in a row, the focus turns to 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. A backbone of the team throughout its remarkable run in the last 12 years has been veteran defender Christie Rampone. Her teammates jokingly bowed to her on TODAY before making their bid to get her to return for another four years. A mother of two from Point Pleasant, N.J., Rampone, 37, did not rule out the possibility of Rio.

    “They keep trying to convince me,’’ Rampone said amid chants of “Four more years!” by her teammates. “I do have it in me, but we’ll see.’’

    Read more:

    Hope Solo admits to being 'drunk' on TODAY after Beijing win

    Slideshow: Gaze at pictures of 17 Olympic hotties

    Tearful Lolo Jones: Media 'ripped me to shreds' before race

    TODAY's complete London Olympic coverage

     

     

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