AND NOW this breaking news: Media influences kids. During the Olympic fortnight, coaches and other sports officials were flooded with inquiries from parents and young athletes who want in on potential gold medal glory. "I got between 10 and 15 e-mails every day about kids joining the team," said Tom Yetter, a coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, home of Michael Phelps and triple medalist Katie Hoff (below). "I normally get about five or six a week." At the New York City Aquatic Club, inquiries are up 15%. "There are many parents looking for the next Michael Phelps," said Kevin Carolan, NYCAC coach.
The less glamorous sports expect to see a bump as well. Cathy Zagunis—who helps run the Oregon Fencing Alliance, the club that turned her daughter Mariel into a two-time individual sabre gold medalist—said her organization saw a 10% increase in enrollment following the Athens Games and that they expect similar interest in the coming months. And the same thing happens in the winter. Following the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, USA Curling picked up 1,200 newbies. Of course Olympic Fever can subside just as quickly, especially after Phelps wannabes learn that their idol practices five hours a day.
JOHN BIEVER (HOFF)