They've been called the first "Social Games" — and the London Summer Olympics have delivered on that promise, making social stars out of athletes like gymnast Gabby Douglas, who saw her Facebook fanbase grow by nearly 4,000 percent during the games.
Gymnasts Marcel Nguyen and Jordyn Wieber were also among the big winners on Facebook, according to a research firm that tracked athletes' fan numbers during the games.
Douglas took the Olympics and Facebook by storm when she coolly led her team to an all-around gold and then winning the individual all-around gold, as well. As of Sunday, she had 583,912 fans on Facebook. Back on July 27, the day of the opening ceremony, she had just 14,358. Those numbers are from the marketing firm Wildfire.
Here's the firm's top 10, ranked by percentage growth in their Facebook fans since July 27:
- Gabrielle Douglas (from 14,358 fans to 583,912)
- Marcel Nguyen (from 7,567 to 194,962)
- Camille Muffat (from 5,136 to 124,294)
- Yannick Agnel (from 5,672 to 89,739)
- McKayla Maroney (from 10,208 to 111,835)
- Jordyn Wieber (from 33,651 to 302,653)
- Daniel Narcisse (from 7,775 to 67,600)
- Chad Le Clos (from 6,090 to 52,532)
- Aly Raisman (from 11,132 to 94,304)
- Alexis Vastine (from 6,774 to 48,638)
Wildfire calls this group the "up and comers." The list doesn't include more famous names like Usain Bolt, who is a titan among Olympians with more than 8 million Facebook fans, or Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, who are established superstars.
If you discovered an athlete that you'll be following for some time to come, feel free to chime in below. Judo's Kayla Harrison comes to mind. So do the boxer Claressa Shields, the wrestler Jordan Burroughs and the runner Mo Farah. U.S. boxer Jamel Herring was also impressive, even as his team struggled.
The U.S. women's soccer team amazed me once again by being immensely likable — and winning. I now feel like I understand more about Bradley Wiggins, the cyclist not known for loving media attention. And Allyson Felix, who won as many gold medals in London as Usain Bolt (three), will be on the radar, as well.