Is the most popular Olympian also one of the oldest?

The Olympic Games will commence this week in what looks to be one of the most anticipated and controversial games in recent memory.  While part of the media coverage will undoubtedly be focused on issues such as human rights and pollution, there should be an abundance of media coverage focused on the amazing stories of several athletes.  With NBC hosting round the clock coverage via television and through the Internet, the Beijing Olympics will grant people unprecedented access to some of the more high profile athletes.  Spock.com, the world’s premier people search, looked into the people search figures surrounding early media favorites, gymnast Shawn Johnson, swimmer Michael Phelps, swimmerDara Torres, distance runner Lopez Lomong, and softball pitcher Cat Osterman, to see which athlete people are following the most.

On Spock.com, our people search figures saw that among the four sports, 74% of people were looking forward to swimming the most, with people displaying almost 162,000 swimming related tags.  Surprisingly, softball was the next highest figure with 17%, followed closely by gymnastics and track and field.  Among individuals, over the past 6 months, Michael Phelps was the most searched athlete in the group.  Within the past month leading up to the games, Dara Torres was by far the most searched individual on Spock.com.  Torres, saw her search volume query nearly quadruple.  Cat Osterman also had a sizable 15% search increase within that period as well.

Google reported similar findings, where within the past six months Michael Phelps has had the highest search volume, posting a score of 1.  Torres and Shawn Johnson had the next highest total with scores of .6.  Osterman and Lomong experienced the least search volume with .15 and .22.  Over the past the month, Torres once again experienced the biggest gain in search volume, posting an average search score of 1.25 with a high of 6.25.  During the same period Phelps maintained an average of 1 with a high of 2, while Shawn Johnson had an average of .62 and a high of 1.75.

Within the news and among blogs, Michael Phelps remained the most popular individual.  In a comparison of the five individuals over the past month, 49% of the news stories (nearly 6,000) and 42% of the blog entries (nearly 11,000) were about Phelps.  Once again Torres was the next closest individual with  23% of the news stories and 29% of the blogs.  Cat Osterman was the least talked about individual in the group, while Lopez Lomong had the third highest news story volume and fourth highest blog total.

Overall, it appears that swimming is by far the most anticipated and talked about sport for the Olympics. In a quest for a record eight gold medals, Michael Phelps appears to be the talking point for most of the discussion and fanfare.  However, should he falter in his record pursuit, it appears that many people may switch their attention to five time Olympian Dara Torres.  In a sport other than swimming expect to see Shawn Johnson receive additional attention for gymnastics now that Morgan and Paul Hamm have pulled out due to injury.

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