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Olympians vying for post-Games dollars, too

On Day 5 of competition of the Summer Olympics in Sydney, when Lenny Krayzelburg won the first of his three gold medals in the 100-meter backstroke, it became clear that the American swimmer would be one of the endorsement leaders coming out of the 2000 Games.

By Tuesday, Day 5 of the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, no American athlete -- not even one of the three gold medalists -- had managed to generate a Krayzelburg-like buzz. It certainly didn't help that two media darlings, 1998 gold medalists Jonny Moseley and Picabo Street, didn't win a medal.

Handicapping the endorsement odds on Olympians is tough, because there are so many variables. How good is the athlete's story? What's the sport? How good was the performance? Did they win gold? In what fashion? Was the event seen live or on tape? How does the athlete come across in interviews?

With some early candidates already stumbling and some unexpected names creeping into the mainstream, here's a look at who has the best chance of cashing in big -- defined for our purposes as at least $250,000 -- on Olympic success:

Michelle Kwan
Sport: Figure skating
Age: 21
Odds: 3-to-1
The skinny: Kwan already has earned millions in endorsements, so it's a sure thing she'll earn plenty more if she can win Olympic gold, practically the only thing missing from her trophy case. But potential sponsors not already involved with Kwan, winner of six national titles, are hoping for a fresh face, such as 17-year old Sasha Cohen. Latching onto a new story is often ideal for launching a new product.

Ross Powers
Sport: Snowboarding, men's halfpipe
Age: 23
Odds: 4-to-1
The skinny: Putting odds on extreme athletes to cash in is a little risky, since part of their culture shuns the corporate dollar and commercialization. But snowboarding has taken off, and the three-medal sweep by the American men -- led by Powers' gold -- certainly helped raised Powers' profile. Powers figures to reap a good deal of in-sport sponsors, but the mainstream might be harder to come by. That's less important, though, because, unlike some other winter sports, snowboarding has plenty of avenues for exposure, including the X Games. Powers already makes between $500,000 and $700,000 from Burton, the leading maker of snowboards.

Apolo Anton Ohno
Sport: Short track speedskating
Age: 19
Odds: 10-to-1
The skinny: Ohno is a big-time contender, having won the 2001 World Cup title and the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter races at the World Championships. Ohno received a publicity boost by being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and he has the best chance to win multiple gold medals (he can win four) at the Games.

"He wants to be the Eric Heiden of these Games," said Scott Becher, president of Sports and Sponsorships, a sports marketing firm. "He's ripe for stardom, and should he win, he'll take it right to the bank."

Said David Carter, principal of The Sports Business Group, a sports consultancy firm: "Advertisers root for those that get a lot of airtime, and the more medals you win, the more exposure an athlete can get for themselves."

Ohno has big hair and a shapely soul patch that differentiates him from other speedskating winners, such as the blond-haired, blue-eyed gold medalist Casey FitzRandolph, who won the long-track 500 meters Tuesday. Ohno's one negative is that he was accused of fixing an Olympic qualifying race to enable his friend, Shani Davis, to make the team. The case was dropped, and if Ohno wins a slew of medals, the conspiracy cloud should dissipate entirely.

Bode Miller
Sport: Alpine skiing
Age: 24
Odds: 18-to-1
The skinny: Miller's odds are good because, like Ohno, he has a chance at four medals (the combined (silver), Super G, slalom and giant slalom). He has a good name, is supremely confident and already is well known in Europe, where he won four World Cup races this season. Miller also knows how to tell his story of growing up in the New Hampshire wilderness.

Kelly Clark
Sport: Snowboarding, women's halfpipe
Age: 18
Odds: 20-to-1
The skinny: Sure, she's a young, fresh face who won the first gold medal of the games, but Clark also has been a two-sentence girl in media interviews. Not many people knew her before and not many people feel they know her now, despite all the exposure she has received. If she makes more than $250,000, she does it because her sport couldn't be hotter.

Jean Racine
Sport: Bobsled
Age: 23
Odds: 30-to-1
The skinny: Racine and her former brakewoman, Jen Davidson, did tremendously well in the pre-Olympic endorsement market. The two earned more than $500,000 from corporate partnerships with Visa, General Motors, Northwestern Mutual Insurance and Kellogg's. But Racine fired Davidson, and general public sentiment seems to side with Davidson.

"She could win gold and still be despised and untrusted," said Rick Burton, executive director of the James H. Warsaw School of Sports Marketing at University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business.

If Racine wins, she might also face what Krayzelburg faced: If you sign too much before, there's not too much business to do after.

Jimmy Shea
Sport: Skeleton
Age: 33
Odds: 35-to-1
The skinny: As a third-generation Olympian, Shea already has received a lot of exposure. "A third-generation Olympian comes once every hundred years," said his agent, Keith Kreiter. "If that doesn't resonate, I don't know what will." The story gained even more attention when his grandfather was killed in an automobile accident just weeks before the Games.

Shea, who has endorsement deals with Sprint and Kellogg's, was introduced to the country when he and his father carried the Olympic torch on one of its final legs during the opening ceremony. If Shea gets any medal in this new Olympic sport, he can do well, though companies might want his father to be part of the deal to capitalize on the generation theme.

Lea Ann Parsley
Sport: Skeleton
Age: 33
Odds: 50-to-1
The skinny: She needs to win the gold medal to make a splash, but she has the strongest connection to Sept. 11, which definitely helps in these patriotic times. Parsley is a registered nurse and firefighter from Ohio whose sister-in-law lost her nephew in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Parsley was one of eight athletes selected to carry the tattered World Trade Center flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening ceremony. On the downside, she is old by Olympic standards and competes in a completely new sport.

Picabo Street
Sport: Alpine skiing
Age: 30
Odds: 60-to-1
The skinny: Street is a proven winner, having taken silver in the 1994 downhill and gold in the 1998 Super G. She could have been the story of these Olympics by simply winning a medal because she would have been the first skier to win medals in three Games. That storyline, combined with her comeback from injury -- Street was off the snow for 21 months after breaking her left leg and destroying her right knee -- would have done it. But she finished 16th on Tuesday, souring the appeal of the comeback story. Still, given her past prominence, Street should be able to make some cash from speaking engagements.

Jonny Moseley
Sport: Freestyle skiing
Age: 26
Odds: 75-to-1
The skinny: The 1998 gold-medal winner in moguls at Nagano has a great presence, is a good quote and proves he knows how to have fun. He's not a bad actor either -- check him out in his national Sprint ad. He even has his own video game -- "Jonny Moseley's Mad Trix," which hit stores two months ago. But he didn't even place in Tuesday's event, and in order to make the endorsement dollar, a medal is almost mandatory, preferably gold.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn.com.