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Olympic Year in Review: Social Media

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OlympicTalk takes a look back at the year in Olympic sports this week. Today, we review social media.

Gracie Gold’s ‘whimsical’ day trip with Taylor Swift

U.S. figure skating champion Gracie Gold enjoyed an Instagrammed day trip to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast with pop star Taylor Swift, among others, in January.

“It was just one of those whimsical things,” Gold said. “Just a casual text from Taylor Swift, no biggie.”

It looks like Gold wasn’t the only U.S. Olympic medalist to meet up with Swift this year.

U.S. cross-country skiers bring ‘Uptown Funk’ 

The U.S. cross-country ski team pulled off the closest thing the Winter Olympic world has seen to U.S. swimming’s “Call Me Maybe” video.

The skiers created an “Uptown Funk” music video over three weeks in Switzerland and Sweden with choreography by reigning World team sprint champion Jessie Diggins.

The video was played more than a half-million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours.

Michael Phelps announces engagement, fiancée’s pregnancy on Instagram

Michael Phelps kept his social media followers in the know regarding his family life, notably his engagement to longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend Nicole Johnson on Feb. 21.

Then, on Nov. 18, Phelps posted an Instagram with Johnson announcing she was 12 weeks pregnant.

That lines up for Phelps to become a father before the Rio Olympics. Stay tuned to his social channels.

Liu Xiang retires on Weibo

Liu Xiang, China’s first Olympic track and field champion, announced his retirement via social media, to his 32 million followers on Weibo on April 7.

In the 1,400-word post, the Athens 2004 110m hurdles champ said he was ”truly unwell and old and can no longer run and jump with you. Although it’s sad, although it’s painful, I really have no other choice,” according to track and field’s international governing body.

In comparison, Usain Bolt has 3.8 million Twitter followers and 16.9 million Facebook page likes.

@Caitlyn_Jenner breaks Twitter record

Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion formerly known as Bruce Jenner, broke President Barack Obama‘s record for fastest Twitter account to reach one million followers June 1.

Jenner’s account broke the one million mark about four hours after its first tweet, an image of the new Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair.

John Orozco’s heartfelt post

U.S. Olympic gymnast John Orozco tore his right Achilles for a second time in June, four months after his mother’s death, and questioned his career, life and faith on social media.

“I just keep asking myself ‘why is this happening right now?'” Orozco wrote. “‘Where’s the lesson in this?’ I’m counting my blessings and weathering this storm because it’s the only choice I have.”

Shawn Johnson gets engaged on Wrigley Field

Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson was in for quite the surprise after throwing a ceremonial first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game in July, and it was all posted on social media.

Boyfriend Andrew East, a Kansas City Chiefs long snapper, got down on one knee and proposed to Johnson.

Usain Bolt and the Segway Cameraman

The only man to take down Usain Bolt in the last two years was a CCTV cameraman at the World Track and Field Championships on Aug. 27.

In the viral moment of the year, the world’s fastest man was briefly grounded at the Bird’s Nest on his victory lap after winning the 200m at the World Championships.

“They tried to kill me. I don’t know what’s going on,” Bolt said on the BBC, adding later on Universal Sports, “accidents happen.”

Bolt tumbled to the track and somersaulted, with a smile, and quickly got back up. He anchored Jamaica to the 4x100m relay title two days later.

“I have a few cuts, but it’s nothing I haven’t done to myself in training,” Bolt said on BBC radio. “I wasn’t looking. I was waving to the crowd, and I just felt something take me out.”

The cameraman, Song Tao, presented Bolt with a red bracelet after Bolt’s 200m medal ceremony the following day.

They shook hands, and Bolt patted Song on the back.

“The important thing is that he is OK,” Song said via a translator, according to the Guardian. “I’m fine and ready to get back to work.”

YouTube Star beats Usain Bolt

Technically, Bolt did lose a race in 2015 — to 8-year-old YouTube trainer Demarjay Smith on Ellen in a head-to-head parking lot duel in October.

Bolt, wearing jeans, did not back down, even though the starting blocks were positioned backwards. Smith clearly false-started, but Bolt didn’t call it back.

They sprinted for about 15 seconds, with Bolt unable to catch Smith and pulling up before the finish line, holding the back of his right leg.

“I got cramps,” Bolt said. “You got lucky, man. I want a rematch, though.”

Viktoria Komova’s steroid comments and apology

Viktoria Komova, the Olympic all-around silver medalist, reportedly apologized to U.S. gymnasts for accusing them of taking steroids in a post on a Russian social media site.

Komova and her Russian teammates have been regularly beaten by the U.S. since 2011, when Komova tearfully took all-around silver at the World Championships behind Jordyn Wieber.

Olympic Year in Review: Winter Sports | Summer Sports | Photos | Social Media

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Michael Phelps’ fiancée was 12 months pregnant, rather than 12 weeks.

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban