It’ll take more than a schmaltzy closing ceremony to put an end to the Olympics. Athletes who won big in Atlanta can now get going in the real competition — squeezing the most out of movie, book, and endorsement deals. And the degree of difficulty for staying famous won’t be high. ”Let’s just say the phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” says agent Sheryl Shade, a representative of the gold-medal-winning women gymnasts. ”People have already put [TV movie] treatments in front of them…and there’ll be more before they sign anything.”
By all accounts, the gymnastics team was the biggest winner of the Games. In addition to the films, most of the members have been approached about book deals, understandable considering that 14-year-old Dominique Moceanu’s autobiography, An American Champion, published in July, just springboarded onto the best-seller list. And the Magnificent Seven’s Kerri Strug, whose heroic final vault electrified the nation, has emerged as the breakout star: Strug has been offered 11 book deals, three TV movies, and one feature film. ”She’s touched a chord,” says Leigh Steinberg, Strug’s agent.
Other athletes will also be able to parlay gold into green, most notably track star Michael Johnson, who’s negotiating a deal for a motivational book. And even athletes who didn’t win a medal will be able to score: Swimmer Janet Evans will cohost two TV sports specials, and weight lifter Mark Henry has signed with the World Wrestling Federation. ”The Olympics represent a wealth of opportunities,” says Steve Lindecke of the sports marketing firm IMG. ”Everybody’s waiting to see who’s the next big thing.” And for those who missed the boat in Atlanta, take heart: Sydney’s only four years away.