The eldest U.S. Olympic gymnast, Alicia Sacramone, may have taken most of the blame for Tuesday night's loss to China after two notable screw-ups.
Yet Sacramone has gained a legion of new fans, apparently not for her athletic talents but for her looks. Call it the Anna Kournikova effect.
The flexible athlete spent much of Tuesday's NBC broadcast in the spotlight, though not for the proudest reasons, and viewers took notice.
Immediately after the women's gymnastics competition, the phrase "Alicia Sacramone is hot" shot to No. 1 on Google's hot trends list. Hordes of web surfers scoured the depths of Google for information on and photos of the athlete. (Psst! Right over here.)
Facebook groups sprang up overnight for fans ogling the Olympian. One was created Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. and has already netted 400 members. Group creator Tyler Herrick, a student at the University of Maryland, wrote on the message board: "Dont worry fellas ill put some pictures of her up when i get home from work. So you can imagine whatever dream youve got going there." Later, he made good on his promise.
Existing Facebook groups saw increased activity as well. The Alicia Sacramone Fan Club has more than 5,300 members, gaining 1,000 recruits since Wednesday, and experienced a jolt of activity on its message board. A similar effect took place on her official fan page. And there's hope for those who may have written off gymnasts as potential mates after seeing the baby-faced Chinese competitors. The description for "Guys (or Gals) with the hots for Alicia Sacramone," a clear competitor to Herrick's Facebook group, reads: "SHE'S 20, so she's not jailbait!"
Outside the social networking realm, the Alicia Sacramone's Fan Site servers seem to be getting hit pretty hard. Pages were taking considerably longer to load Wednesday than they did Tuesday night when some of us were looking for pictures of ... uh, never mind.
-- Mark Milian