Gabby Douglas Soars in Gymnastics and in Twitter Popularity

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) might not readily come to mind as a leading source of sports news from the London Olympics. But with the 30th Summer Games now complete, the newspaper should be rewarded with its own gold medal.

Where else could a Summer Olympics enthusiast read a front page article about former figure skating gold medalist Peggy Fleming and other former Olympians who have had successful careers as artists?

Gabrielle Douglas had huge Olympic and Twitter success during the Summer Olympics in London

And where else could Olympic followers read in such detail the trials, tribulations and impact of Social Media in London?

From the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing Ceremonies, no other social media platform was more discussed and utilized than Twitter.

The WSJ followed the Twitter coverage of the Olympics in detail, including an August 11 article that charted the most popular Twitter feeds among the London Games' most celebrated athletes.

For example, gymnast Gabrielle Douglas was an unheralded athlete prior to the Olympics, and the WSJ called her a “relative nobody” on Twitter. But that didn't last long. When Douglas claim

ed two gold medals in t

he first few days of the Olympics, her social media status soared into another stratosphere — much like she did while competing.

By the final weekend of the Olympics, Douglas had 576,654 followers on Twitter, an increase of 1,522 percent and the biggest jump among the top-20 most popular athletes on Twitter who competed in London.

Here's the top-5 largest Twitter popularity increases during the Summer Olympics, with name, sport, Twitter name, Twitter followers on July 27, followers on Aug. 10 and percentage increase:

1. Gabrielle Douglas, gymnastic, (@grabrielledoug), 37,888, 614,542, +1,522%
2. Missy Franklin, swimming, (@FranklinMissy), 29,694, 346,353, +1,066%
3. Jordyn Wieber, gymnastics, (@jordyn_wieber), 65,404, 446,108, +582%
4. Ryan Lochte, swimming, (@ryanlochte), 161,045, 911,290, +388%
5. Jake Dalton, gymnastics, (@jake_dalton), 16,939, 82,635, +342%

Michael Phelps was the most poplar American competing in the Summer Olympics via Twitter. Phelps had 319,427 followers at the start of the London Games and 1,246,351 after two weeks of competition. His popularity increase of 290 percent was the eighth-largest increase.

Equally interesting, of course, will be to re-visit the athletes' Twitter totals in the near future to determine if they retain their Twitter popularity.

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports, travel and leisure. Visit his cycling site at



  1. […] win the Olympic AA, she also won social media at London 2012. Articles today came out about her twitter followers (37,888->614,542) and Facebook “likes” (14,358 fans to 583,912). Almost as […]