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  • Michael Phelps conducts a swim lesson in Rio

    Antonio Lacerda / EPA

    Olympic record gold medal winner U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps adjusts his googles during his visit to the sport complex of the Alemao favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 30.

    Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

    U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps gives a swimming lesson to youths during a visit at the Alemao slum complex's Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Oct. 30.

    Silvia Izquierdo / AP

    U.S. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps trains young swimmers at Olympic Village Carlos Castilho in the Complexo de Alemao slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 30.

    Silvia Izquierdo / AP

    U.S. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps high fives young swimmers after leading them in a workshop at the Olympic Village Carlos Castilho in Complexo de Alemao slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Oct. 30.

    Micahel Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, held a swimming workshop in the Clomplexo de Alemao slum of Rio de Janeiro today. He was visiting to Rio de Janeiro to promote the 2016 Olympic Games.

  • Pistorius sorry for timing of outburst at Paralympics -- but is brand 'destroyed'?

    Tal Cohen / EPA

    Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, left, and Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira of Brazil shake hands on the podium after the Men's 200-meter final during the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sunday. Pistorius apologized Monday for the timing of his complaints about a rival's blades following his defeat in the final, but insisted that officials need to change the rules to prevent some runners from getting an unfair advantage.

    Updated at 6:15 a.m. ET Tuesday: LONDON - “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius -- the unofficial face of the Paralympic Games -- was clearly still reeling Monday after losing a key race over the weekend.

    Pistorius issued an apology for “the timing” of his remarks, which in essence accused race winner Alan Fonteles Oliveira from Brazil of not playing fair. But the usually mild-mannered South African did not step back from his statement alleging that Sunday’s race was not run on an even playing field.

    On Tuesday, some in the British media speculated whether he had already tarnishing his image. "If Oscar had run the time he can run I don't think we'd be having the debate about the length of the blades or how tall an athlete should be on blades," Gareth A Davies of the Daily Telegraph said on the U.K.'s Channel 4 News.

    "I think his outburst kind of ruined in a sense, or destroyed the Pistorius brand," Davies said.

    "He's running faster backwards now than he runs forward, (isn't he) with his retractions," anchor Jonathan Edwards joked.

    The 200-meter final was the Paralympic race Pistorius had said he was looking forward to the most, and his shock at losing was palpable. Simply put, he was the one to beat. In Saturday’s qualifying heat, Pistorius had set a new world record. He’d won the gold in the 200 meter in Beijing.

    Doctor Gerry Versfeld, Oscar Pistorius' doctor, describes the decision to amputate the sprinter's legs when he was a boy.  NBC Sports' Mary Carillo reports for Rock Center.

    But then came Sunday night’s race, and his stunning loss.

    'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage

    “We are not running a fair race here. I can’t compete with Alan’s stride length,” said Pistorius, who made Olympic history this year as the first disabled athlete to run in the able-bodied games. Pistorius himself fought claims that carbon-fiber prosthetics are advantageous when compared to human legs.

    ‘Absolutely ridiculous’
    In front of a sold-out stadium Sunday night, the 24-year-old South African had a clear lead coming around the final bend. Then Brazil’s Oliveira surged in the final stretch, passed Pistorius, and won the race by .07 seconds.

    "I don't know how you can come back, watching the replay, from eight meters behind on the 100 to win. It's absolutely ridiculous," Pistorius told British broadcaster Channel 4 in a trackside interview.  

    South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who lost both his legs as a child, talks with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, and says it was "difficult" to hear people say his prosthetics give him an unfair advantage.

    His comments jarred with the fact that he has said that this year’s Paralympic Games have led spectators to “focus really on the ability” of the athletes, rather than “focusing on the disability.”

    Usually known for his modesty and good sportsmanship, Pistorius accused Oliveira of having an advantage by adjusting the length of his blades, thus giving the Brazilian a longer stride.

    "The [International Paralympic Committee] have their regulations. The regulations allow that athletes can make themselves unbelievably high. We've tried to address the issue with them in the weeks up to this and it's just been falling on deaf ears,” he said on Channel 4.

    Uncharacteristic outburst 
    Pistorius’ remarks reverberated through the sporting world. 

    Iraq vet: 'Now it's time to win' at Paralympics

    “I’m quite shocked the way Oscar had a bit of an outburst because it’s not in his character, so obviously he feels very strongly that the rules need to be addressed,” Olympic silver medalist sprinter Iwan Thomas said on Channel 4. “But as we sit here tonight the rules are as they are and [Oliveira’s] done nothing wrong.”

    Eddie Keogh / Reuters

    The blades of Brazil's Alan Oliveira (R) and South Africa's Oscar Pistorius are seen after the Men's 200m T44 classification at the Olympic Stadium during the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sunday.

    Thomas did not hold out much hope that Olympic authorities would change their decision.

    “I don’t think they’re just going to suddenly tear up the rule book just because Oscar said something. Although he’s the king of the sport, rules are there and it probably takes a long process to get things looked at,” he said.

    Measured response
    Indeed, the International Paralympic Committee defended its rules by tweeting a photo showing the maximum heights allowed for individual athletes, and showing Pistorius at a height of 193.5cm and Oliveira at 185.4cm. 

    “There are rules in place with IPC Athletics whereby we measure the length of the blade prior to competition, check they're in proportion with the body and all of the athletes last night passed the test, so yes, he (Oliveira) was a legitimate winner,” IPC representative Craig  Spence said.

    Click here of The Science of Sport's findings on the race.

    Sorry for ‘timing’
    On Monday, Pistorius stuck by the essence of his post-race comments and did not step back from his complaint.

    He said in a statement:

    “I would never want to detract from another athlete's moment of triumph and I want to apologize for the timing of my comments after yesterday's race. I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong. That was Alan's moment and I would like to put on record the respect I have for him. I am a proud Paralympian and believe in the fairness of sport. I am happy to work with the IPC who obviously share these aims.”

    Meanwhile, Team South Africa and SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) issued a statement welcoming Pistorius' apology.

    Oscar Pistorius from South Africa became the first double amputee to compete in the games by running  the men's 400-meter race. He says that having the opportunity to represent his country in the Olympics "far surpassed" his expectations.

    "We note and welcome Oscar's apology for anything said in haste, and we obviously fully understand that he was emotionally upset immediately after such an important event here in London. We again congratulate Oscar on winning his silver medal on Sunday. As always we are fully supportive of all our athletes and will engage through the official channels from the National Paralympic Committee in South Africa to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on any concerns that Oscar may have."

    They’ll meet again
    Oliveira, who called Pistorius a “great athlete,” said he was saddened by the South African’s reactions.

    “I am just sad with the interview where he said my blades were too big” Oliveria said. “He was bothered by my time in the semi-finals and he wanted to get to me with his polemic but it did not work. For me he is a really great idol and to hear that from a great idol is difficult.”

    Pistorius and Oliveira are on course to meet again in round one of the 100 meters on Wednesday and round one of the 400 meters on Friday. Assuming they both make those finals, they will race again at the 100 meter final on Thursday and the 400 meter final on Saturday.

    More coverage of the London Paralympics from Britain's ITV News

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  • Ex-Marine Angela Madsen on her journey from homelessness to the Paralympics

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has since rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London.

    LONDON -- Angela Madsen's journey to the London 2012 Paralympics is nothing short of extraordinary.

    Complications following a back injury she sustained while serving in Marine Corps at the age of 20 led to her becoming a paraplegic when she was in her 30s.

    Bound to a wheelchair, she fell into a deep depression. She lost her job. Her marriage dissolved.

    "I lost my house ... I ended up homeless, kept my things in a locker at Disneyland. Happiest place on earth, right?" she told NBC News at the USA track-and-field training camp at RAF Lakenheath, near Cambridge, England, last week.

    But the native Californian missed surfing, so she set out to find a way back to the water, determined to turn her life around.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball."

    "I started taking responsibility … and started making the changes and decisions to move positively forward in my life,” she said.

    Now, her definition of a disabled person is "somebody who doesn't believe they can and doesn't try.”

    'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage

    She competed in the 2006 world surfing championships and then fell in love with rowing.

    She turned this hobby into history by rowing across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind soccer from Team Great Britain.

    "I didn't row across my first ocean until I was 47,” she said with a laugh.

    "I have six Guinness World Records for rowing oceans. I've circumnavigated Great Britain ... I've been places on this planet that no human being has ever been before. A thousand miles from land in any direction ... it's been a pretty amazing life."

    Read Angela Madsen's profile at the Paralympic Games' website

    Next year, she plans to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.

    Madsen rowed for Team USA in the Beijing Paralympic Games, narrowly missing the podium. "I missed the medal rounds by 7-hundredths of a second.”

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82nd Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics.

    In the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the 52-year-old is trying her hand at track and field events, competing in the women's shot put and javelin.

    "I don’t have any regrets about anything. If I could go back and change anything I wouldn't, except for the amount of pain I have with the rods in my back,” Madsen said. “That could definitely go. But I can’t foresee change in anything. I'm very, very satisfied with the life that I have now."

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  • From darkness to gold: Blinded Navy swimmer set to race at Paralympics

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics.

    The man who views only black today is visualizing all the colors of his London swims. In his mind, he sees the aqua-blue pool frothy with wakes, the home stretch of the lane lines painted red, and the dark, wide mouths of roaring fans.

    Behind prosthetic blue eyes — replacements for the natural pair he lost after an explosion in Afghanistan nearly a year ago — Navy Lt. Brad Snyder soaks in the scenery of a dream realized. The 2012 Paralympics open today in Britain. Snyder races for gold Friday.

    Already, though, he can glimpse a distinct, happy glow.

    Related: 'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage 

    “During the Olympics, I read about the races, about (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte and Missy Franklin. I heard the commentary and used that to pull out the details to produce this image,” Snyder said. “But instead of reading about Lochte, I just implanted myself in there.

    “I imagine stepping onto the block, hearing “take your mark,” the sound of the start, hopping in the pool then just being smooth and strong down the middle of the lane, executing some good turns, and hitting the pad at the end. I’m imagining success. I’m imagining the good feeling that comes with competing well.”

    As an elite athlete — among blind swimmers he is No. 1 in the world at three freestyle distances (50-, 100- and 400-meters) — Snyder draws such mental pictures as a preparation tool. As a result, nothing in or around the London pool, he said, should feel unfamiliar.

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    But in a life being rebuilt after severe injury, this ironic tactic is simply how the man endures.

    “I’ll tell you a little story,” said his mother, Valarie Snyder. “He was describing his apartment to me: ‘It has the most beautiful rooftop view.’ That’s how our conversations go all the time. It’s been rare that he gets down, and even then he apologizes for it: ‘Sorry I was in a bad mood.’ ”

    Related: Veterans push Paralympics back to battlefield roots
    Related: Wounded warrior seeks glory representing America in London

    The bright side is never far off. But total darkness came in a single stride. On Sept. 7, 2011, the former Navy bomb defuser was rushing forward to help two Afghan soldiers wounded in an initial IED blast. In his dash, Snyder stepped on a second hidden bomb in an irrigation ditch spanning a farm field. His eyes were irreparably damaged by the detonation and later were removed by a surgeon.

    Once a member of the Naval Academy swim team, Snyder returned to the water about a month later — this time, seeking a familiar, soft place in a world suddenly filled with surprise, hard edges.

    “I was there the first day he got back in the pool,” his mother recalls. “Just to see the sheer joy on his face. On the ride home afterward he told me: ‘I can do this, mom. I can swim competitively. Everything new that I can do just makes me realize: this isn’t such a bad thing.’ ”

    The warm water also rekindled an ultra-competitive, inner furnace, driving Snyder to begin training in Baltimore with Brian Loeffler, head swimming coach at Loyola University. His new goal: earn a spot on the U.S. Paralympic swim team and compete at the world’s second-largest sporting event, the Paralympics. He punched his London ticket in June after a series of spectacular sprints at the time trials in Bismarck, N.D.

    He strolls into London’s Olympic Stadium today with 226 other disabled American athletes — one of 20 active or former service members on the U.S. team, and one of six wounded during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    “There’s a girl who was in a coma for four years. There are people dealing with moderate cerebral palsy,” Snyder said. “It puts everything in perspective when I’m contending with my own little issue to see what everybody on the team puts up with. It humbles you. Every person on the roster is one of the most amazing people I’ve met.”

    Yet each teammate also is an accomplished athlete who outperformed hundreds of Paralympic hopefuls to make the cut. For context, simply peruse two of Snyder’s post-injury times. In the 50-meter freestyle: 26.54 seconds — better than 10 Olympians who swam in London; and in the 100-meter freestyle: 57.75 — quicker than three 2012 Olympians.

    The 100-meter free on Friday offers Snyder his first crack at a medal, and it unleashes an aggressive schedule of seven events over nine days. In addition to his three world-best times, he’s currently ranked No. 2 among blind swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly and No. 4 in the 200-meter individual medley. For each event, Loeffler works as Snyder’s “tapper,” using a walking cane to touch Snyder’s shoulders to alert him that the wall is near and that a flip turn or final push is required.

    “His order of events sets up well since the sprints are early in the week (and) I do expect he will do well in his early events,” said Loeffler, who also serves as the co-head coach of the American Paralympic swim team. “(But) we have focused his training toward the 400 free.”

    For Snyder, his coach and his family, that is the race of races, scheduled for Sept. 7 — exactly one year to the day he stepped on the bomb.

    “It’s difficult to imagine and quantify the emotions I’ll be running through that day. But it’s going to be a moment that I’m going to enjoy. Because to me, competing on that day means that I was presented a challenge and I experienced some success in my transition to blindness. I conquered my adversity to some extent. Obviously, the adversity is not conquered. I’m still blind at the end of the day,” Snyder said. “But it means I’ve walked the path from being chained to the bed at exactly a year ago to competing on an international level at event like the Paralympics. It means I won a little bit.”

    All of the people who huddled near that bed last September at Bethesda Naval Hospital outside Washington, D.C. will be in the crowd in London — his two brothers, his sister, an aunt and his mother — who calls herself “a weeper” and who fully expects a gush of tears, win or lose.

    “From getting the phone call that morning from his commanding officer to not knowing what we were about to go through to what we went through the past year and then to see all that he has accomplished, well, it’s going to be amazing,” Valarie Snyder said.

    “He shared something with me not long ago. He said that every little boy dreams of doing something great in their life in sports. If you’re a runner or a swimmer, you dream of one day going to the Olympics. But when you grow up," she added, "you realize that was just a dream."

    “He believes has been given the opportunity to actually fulfill his dream.”

    Bill Briggs is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com and author of “The Third Miracle.” 

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  • 'Meet the Superhumans': Paralympians burst onto world stage

    LONDON -- A battlefield explosion sends troops flying, a speeding car flips over on a highway, a "Murderball" player is knocked right out of his wheelchair, all set to a fierce Public Enemy soundtrack. 

    "Forget everything you thought you knew about strength. Forget everything you thought you knew about humans. It's time to do battle. Meet the Superhumans."

    That’s how British TV viewers are being introduced to this year’s Paralympic athletes by Channel 4, which is broadcasting the London 2012 Games. Its campaign is giving Superbowl ads a run for their money, going viral with more than 500,000 views on YouTube alone.

    The hard-hitting ad is designed to jolt the public into a state of awareness and awe of what many of these disabled athletes have had to deal with just to stay alive, let alone compete at an elite level. It highlights that the competitors have overcome disabilities and disasters most of us cannot begin to imagine or will ever have to face. And that was before they became world-class competitors.

    Transforming the despair of being paralyzed in battle into determination, Iraq War veteran Scott Winkler sets his sights on a medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

    More coverage of the London Paralympics from Britain's ITV News

    The campaign also aims to combat the impression that the Paralympics is essentially the "Olympics-lite." Among the sports the ad focuses on is wheelchair rugby -- which is so violent that it's been dubbed "Murderball." The sheer amount of full-force contact between players requires welders to be put on standby on the sideline to repair damaged wheelchairs.

    Some of the hottest tickets at the London Paralympics are for wheelchair rugby. The sport is so violent and fierce, that it has been dubbed "Murderball". ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain's inspirational captain.

    The International Wheelchair Rugby Federation has championed the "Meet the Superhumans" campaign and comments posted on its Vimeo page illustrate the ad's power. "Now that's what I'm talking about, 'Thank you for letting me be myself.' Public Enemy never sounded better," one fan wrote. "It's a great soundtrack for our ... lives whether we're Olympians or not."

    Channel 4

    This ad campaign for Channel 4's Paralympic coverage has captured the imagination of many people in Britain.

    The event was founded 1948 to help rehabilitate injured British veterans returning from the Second World War, though many Americans remain unaware that it exists. (There's also a tendency to confuse it with the Special Olympics, which is unrelated. Paralympic athletes compete despite impairments including amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy and mobility disabilities.) However, there are signs that 2012 will be its breakout year.

    Retired U.S. Marine Angela Madsen once lived out of a locker at Disneyland. But the 52-year-old paraplegic turned her life around and has rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She's now competing for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in London. Madsen told her story to NBC's Jamieson Lesko.

    London-bound veterans push Paralympics back to battlefield roots

    The success of the London 2012 Olympic Games has sparked a spike in public interest in Britain. Ticket sales have wildly exceeded expectations, with organizers saying 2.3 million tickets have already been sold, which is more than any other Paralympic Games in history. There's a high demand for the 200,000 remaining tickets, which will be made available in batches online.

    Soccer superstar David Beckham is serving as an ambassador to the Games and Prince William and Kate Middleton are expected to attend Wednesday night's Opening Ceremony.

    Ahead of the London Paralympics, L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham spent a day learning blind football from Team Great Britain.

    Team USA features 20 military veterans and active duty service members, including some wounded at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Among them is U.S. Army 82nd Airborne paratrooper Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed when her parachute got tangled with another in 2003. Doctors said she'd never walk again but Maczyk refused to listen. And she has proved them wrong.

    "I wasn't hearing it. In my heart, in my soul, I knew I could walk," Mazyck told NBC News. "To this day, I am walking."

    Centra "Ce-Ce" Mazyck, who was paralyzed during a parachute jump with the 82 Airborne in November 2003, will compete in the javelin at the London Paralympics. "This is my second chance," she tells NBC News' Jamieson Lesko.

    The South Carolina-based mother of one is now engaged to be married but admits shes also deeply "in love" with her javelin.

    'Very fortunate'
    U.S. Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder was blinded by a bomb while rushing to the aid of two fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

    His training regimen had him swimming 4,000 yards a day at his local pool in Baltimore. He is due to compete on the one-year anniversary of his injury. 

    Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight in an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year. The Navy officer will once again represent the U.S., this time at the London 2012 Paralympics in September.

    "I knew I was very fortunate to be in that hospital bed and not in a coffin in the ground," Snyder said. "I'm going to show people that I'm not going to let this beat me. I'm not going to let blindness build a brick wall around me. I am going to find a way forward."

    From darkness to gold: Blinded Navy swimmer set to race at Paralympics

    South African double amputee and sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who has been nicknamed the "Blade Runner," will compete in the Paralympics after making history by running in the 400-meter event at the Olympics.

    Pistorius is likely to face tough competition from Team USA, including a 25-year-old rocket scientist Jerome Singleton and the 22-year-old Blake Leeper.

    Pistorius, a double amputee born without fibulas in his legs, has trained hard to participate in the Olympics despite having to wear prosthetic legs. NBC's Mary Carillo reports.

    Pistorius, a four-time Paralympic gold medealist, will carry the flag for South Africa at Wednesday's Opening Ceremony. Coldplay will perform at the Closing Ceremony on September 9.

    "I believe these Games are going to change peoples' mindsets about disabilities," Pistorius told Reuters. "In the last two to three years I've seen a shift. For many years people have shunned disability, but I don't have anything in life I'm not able to do. I don't think of my disability, I think of my ability."

    Sixteen countries are competing for the first time. Among them, Haiti will make its debut with two athletes competing in track and field.

    This is the story of two paralympians from Haiti - a nation which is competing in the games for the first time. It's a country where disability is stigmatized and those who are disabled are shunned. ITV's Lewis Vaughan Jones reports on two pioneers who want to overcome prejudice and fill their nation with pride.

    British broadcaster Channel 4 will show 150 hours of programming and about 350 hours more online and across three temporary on-demand channel.

    The International Paralympic Committee predicts that, adding together viewers on each of the 11 days of competition, the total audience figure for the London Paralympics will reach 4 billion.

    It said that four years ago in Beijing, a total overall audience of around 3.8 billion in 80 countries watched the 2008 Paralympics - including a total of 1.4 billion viewings in China across 11 days, 670 million in Japan and 439 million in Germany. Calculating figures in that way means individual viewers are counted several times.

    More coverage of the London Paralympics from NBC News

    The daughter of the founder of the Paralympics told NBC News that the record-breaking ticket sales and interest in the London event would have made her father "immensely proud."

    Of all the events that will be showcased in the Paralympics, few are as intriguing as blind soccer. ITN's Lewis Vaughan Jones met Team Great Britain captain David Clarke who explained how it works.

    Eva Loeffler said Ludwig "Poppa" Guttmann – a neurologist who pioneered the rehabilitation of paralyzed Second World War service members at a hospital near London – would have been "extremely pleased" at how the Games had captured the public imagination.

    The 79-year-old said it was "very appropriate, in a way" that so many veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts were taking part in this year's event. "Helping the military wounded was where it all began, after all," she said.

    London 2012: Who were the real winners, losers?

    Guttman, who fled Germany in 1933 after being persecuted by Hitler's Nazi regime, challenged medical orthodoxy at Stoke Mandeville hospital, north–west of London, by encouraging patients to play sports rather than accept their paralysis.

    Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

    The Agitos symbol of the Parlaympics has replaced the Olympic rings on London's iconic Tower Bridge.

    When London hosted the Summer Olympics in 1948, he created the Stoke Mandeville Games involving just 16 competitors. In the years that followed, he built his competition into the parallel Paralympic Games.

    This year's event will feature 4,200 athletes from 166 teams competing in 20 sports.

    Although Guttman died in 1980, Loeffler has continued his work, becoming a key figure in disabled sport – and has accepted an honorary role as mayor of the Paralympic Athletes' Village at the Olympic Park in East London.

    'Second-class citizens': Wheelchair user's fury at Paralympics over seating

    Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is now training for the London 2012 Paralympics.

    One of Guttman's dreams was that disabled athletes would ultimately compete alongside their able-bodied counterparts – a wish that came true last month with Pistorius' historic participation at the Olympics.

    "He would have regarded that as a great moment, I'm sure," Loeffler said.

    How to watch the Paralympics from the U.S.

    • The International Paralympic Committee will live stream more than 780 hours of events.
    • NBC Sports Network will air one-hour highlight shows on September 4, 5, 6, and 11. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and www.UniversalSports.com.
      Check your local listings for channel info.
    • NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on September 16.
    • The United States Olympic Committee has created a YouTube channel dedicated to the Games.
    • The U.S. Paralympic Team will also provide in-depth coverage of Team USA on its website.

    Fahim Rahimi, is Afghanistan's only competitor at the Paralympics. He lost his leg in a land mine accident when he was just 12, but tonight the powerlifter is carrying the Afghan flag into the Olympic stadium. Jonathan Rugman, Britain's Channel 4 news reports.

    More London 2012 coverage from NBC News:


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    NBC News' Alastair Jamieson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • Olympic medalists beginning to rake in gold

    Getty Images

    For many stars of the games, it's time to temporarily switch attention away from the business of winning to the business of making money.

    Olympic stars who sparkled in London are raking in millions in an unusually active endorsement season, reaping the benefits as Americans show a hunger for heroes after five years of tough economic news.

    Sponsors appear to be paying extra this post-Olympic season compared to years past to sign golden names, such as gymnast Gabby Douglas, say endorsement experts, including Sheryl Shade, Douglas’ agent.

    “I think the deals are larger coming out of the 2012 Olympics,” said Shade, whose firm also has represented Olympic gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Shannon Miller. “Kids need someone to look up to and, let's face it, adults need that as well right now. We do need heroes.”

    The Olympic afterglow is reminiscent of the patriotic pride that flared following the 1980 gold medal win by the vastly overmatched U.S. men's hockey team. Americans dominated the London games with 104 medals including 46 gold, far more than China, the closest rival team.

    Quantifying the wave of endorsement deals is difficult without viewing and tallying each contract. But consider the reported pact Douglas recently signed with Kellogg’s, said to be worth $1 million to $3 million, and estimates that break-out swimming sensation Missy Franklin could have made $2.5 million a year had she not opted to eschew endorsements to maintain her eligibility for college sports.

    Related: Gabby's gold worth millions in endorsements

    Luke Macgregor / Reuters

    Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is expected to earn millions in endorsement deals.

    “The desire for heroes – in the U.S. anyway – is as strong as it’s been in years,” said John A. Davis, author of “The Olympic Games Effect: How Sports Marketing Builds Strong Brands.” “At the risk of sounding overly philosophical, we tend to reach for mythical heroes when times are particularly challenging.

    “It's natural to seek hope in those who exude a sense of optimism, and this year's Olympians, including Gabby Douglas, seem to be a particularly honorable bunch,” Davis said. “Given our propensity to create narratives around heroes, sponsors have understandably become willing authors.”

    While Olympic marketing insider Jan Katzoff said he, too, has seen “a slight uptick in endorsement money,” he ties that increase to a slowly rebounding economy, including stronger corporate earnings.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Committee, which funds athlete training and coaching, has successfully renewed some sponsorship partners (24 Hour Fitness) and landed new ones (Chobani), creating an even taller stack of Olympic-minded business backers. 

    “The third part, for me, is there is money coming from corporate support that is not necessarily Olympic-sponsor driven,” said Katzoff, whose agency Radiate Group represents 18 Olympic sponsors and forged sponsorship deals with hundreds of Olympic athletes on behalf of brands. “I would cite Subway as a brand that has become very aggressive in signing Olympic athletes – and that also drives the market.”

    At the quiet end of the revenue stream, quadruple-gold-medalist Missy Franklin has opted, so far, to stay out of the lucrative endorsement pool so she can swim for the NCAA school of her choice.

    “It is safe to say that she would be giving up between $5 (million) to $10 million over the next quadrennium (four years),” Katzoff said. “She really could be the next big story in U.S. swimming and could attract a variety of brands in addition to her endemic ones. She has to be confident that she has three more Olympic Games in front of her.”

    Davis added, “There’s so much commercial pressure on these athletes now to take advantage of this very short window because they may not have this opportunity again -- and it will take 30 to 40 years to earn that same amount. The flip side is, you have to admire the fact that she wants to go to college and have a normal life. But it is sort of tempting to look at it and say, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s instead going to college for four years?’”

    Many Olympic medalists, of course, never get a whiff of endorsement gold, largely due to the lack of TV coverage for lesser-known sports.

    But one of the London Games’ most satellite-beamed stars, American swimmer Ryan Lochte -- who snagged two golds, two silvers and a bronze -– hasn’t yet cashed in on endorsements as heavily as some marketers had expected.

    Lochte does have existing sponsorship agreements with Gillette, Nissan, Ralph Lauren, Procter and Gamble, AT&T, Mutual of Omaha and Speedo. Fortune Magazine calculated his endorsement payout reached $2.3 million this past year.

    Yet some in the sports-marketing community say Lochte should be raking in millions more.

    “He probably could have done more, based on the expectations,” said Shade, the agent for Douglas. “He’s handsome, speaks OK. People were expecting a lot more. It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe there’s more to come.”

    There are whispers in endorsement circles that Lochte might be a bit of a loose cannon, perhaps a risk to straitlaced companies when athlete missteps can erupt quickly into Olympic-sized scandals. (See: Michael Phelps.)

    When Lochte admitted to TODAY correspondent Ryan Seacrest that he occasionally pees in the pool, many marketers that had been considering the swimmer likely were relieved they had not signed him to an endorsement deal, experts said.

    “If you represent a company these days,” said Shade, not speaking about Lochte, “you’ve got to be absolutely, 100 percent pure.” 

    The swimming phenom lived up to expectations in London, winning five Olympic medals and setting a new world record. She talks about the events to celebrate her homecoming, starting her senior year of high school, and whether she plans to go pro or go to college.

    More money and business news:

  • Finally, McKayla's impressed...with Neil Patrick Harris


    And who wouldn't be? The Olympic gymnast paid a visit this week to the set of "How I Met Your Mother," and got some photos with the show's stars, including Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan.

    Harris tweeted this pic, writing: "Guess who visited HIMYM just now? Olympic Gold Medalist @McKaylaMaroney! Here I am pointing at her."

    Despite Maroney's viral "not impressed" Internet meme (which even she spoofed), it sure looks like she found the whole thing impressive. 

    More: Duchess Kate meets members of gymnastics' Fab Five 
    Settling for silver: Why second place is worse than third 
    McKayla Maroney: 'I was disappointed in myself, not the silver medal' 
    Video: McKayla Maroney's unimpressed face goes viral  

  • Missy Franklin reveals movie cameo: 'I'm so excited'

    After winning four Olympic gold medals in London, Missy Franklin has secured a coveted “internship.’’

    The 17-year-old swimming phenom from Colorado told Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday that she will make a cameo in the upcoming movie “The Internship,’’ starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. She will film the cameo in the next few months and the film is expected to be released next year, but Franklin's role remains top-secret.

    “I am so excited about it,’’ she said. “You’re going to have to wait and see.’’

    The five-time Olympic medalist began her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School last week, one day after making an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Another perk of her Olympic showing has been catching the attention of her favorite artist. Justin Bieber recently sent her a personalized care package.

    “He notices you!’’ Franklin joked about her new-found fame. “He sent me a huge care package, which was so awesome. I walk home and my mom is so cute. She took everything out and set it out on the table, and I had T-shirts and CDs and posters and all that stuff.’’

    Bieber is playing a concert in Denver in January, and Franklin is hoping to meet him in person.

    “My friend actually bought me tickets for my birthday, so we’re going to go, and I think we might be able to get backstage passes hopefully,’’ she said.

    In the midst of all the fun, Franklin is also mulling the serious issue of whether to turn professional. Throughout the Olympics, she professed a desire to remain an amateur so that she can compete in college, but still is weighing the decision now that lucrative sponsorship and endorsement offers have rolled in.

    “Right now we’ve definitely talked about it a little bit,’’ Franklin said. “I think we still want to talk about it more. As of right now, we’ve had college coaches coming to the house, and I will be taking my visits in the fall, and we’ll go from there.’’

    Franklin acknowledged concerns that deciding to go pro could look like she had gone back on her word.

    “It’s hard,’’ she said. “I’ve definitely put it out there that I do want to swim in college. It’s something that I want to do, and I don’t want people to think that’s not how I feel any more because it is. I still think that I would want to swim in college. I’ve always wanted to do it, whether I’ve said something or not about it, so hopefully I get the chance.’’

    One decision she has already made is to get the Olympic rings tattooed on her right hip, which she did last week.

    “It’s the only tattoo I’m ever going to get,'' she said. "I kind of grew up going to meets where I was watching kind of all my big role models have that tattoo, so I’ve always wanted it so bad.''

    In addition to her appearance on TODAY, Franklin, who is taking a month off from swimming post-Olympics, will participate in the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Saturday in Queens. She may be playing doubles with a celebrity partner and anticipates looking like a fish out of water.

    “I’m apologizing right now to everyone that has to watch,’’ she joked.

    More:Ryan Lochte dishes on Vegas party with Prince Harry
    Jeah! Lochte to guest star on '90210'
    Missy Franklin tweets new Olympic tattoo
    Missy Franklin plans to have tattoo along with medals
    Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?
    Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'



  • Ryan Lochte dishes on Vegas party with Prince Harry

    Who needs Michael Phelps? Prince Harry is all the swimming competition Ryan Lochte needs.  

    On TODAY Thursday, Lochte told Matt Lauer that Harry challenged him to a race in a nightclub pool last Friday, and the Olympian accepted. 

    Lochte had never met the prince until the royal's entourage approached him that night.

    "His people came over to my table and said, 'Prince Harry wants to meet you,'" he said. "I was like, 'Lets meet him.' I went over there. I was fully clothed, and he says, 'You want to race me in the pool?' I took off my shirt, jumped in and we started racing."

    Lochte enjoyed his brush with royalty, which began and ended with their impromptu race.  

    “He’s part of the royal family and everything, but he’s really a nice guy,’’ Lochte said. “He’s really talkative. He just wanted to meet me and honestly wanted to race me. I thought that was the coolest thing.’’

    Only hours later, all of the prince’s clothes came off in a now-infamous strip-billiards incident that took place in a hotel suite. Lochte did not get the invite to play strip billiards with the prince and his friends.

    “He never said anything like that,’’ Lochte said. “After our race and everything, we went our separate ways. I’m kind of happy. I don’t need that.’’  

    Nightclub swims notwithstanding, Lochte, 28, said that these three weeks out of the water have been his longest break from the pool since he was 10 years old.

    “After racing Prince Harry, I got that competitive edge back in me and I want to get back in the water,’’ Lochte cracked.

    After celebrating his birthday and dabbling in acting on '90210,' Lochte is ready to start gearing up for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He said he will get back to training on Monday.

    “Once I landed back in the States after London, I already had my goals in mind for Rio,’’ he said. “They’re a little different now. I can’t spill everything.’’

    Lochte did let it slip that he will not be swimming the same events as he did in London, where he won two golds, two silvers and a bronze to bring his career total to 11 medals.

    “Whenever I go up on the blocks, I don’t want to go for second or third, I want to win,’’ he said. “So I was definitely pleased and unpleased with some of my races, so hopefully I can change that in the next four years. I’m going to be swimming different events, that’s for sure. I’m getting older, my body’s getting older, so I can’t do those long events.’’

    His outside interests in fashion, acting and other pursuits will not distract him from his training, Lochte said.

    “Because of the training that I’ve been doing these past eight years, I have a good background, so I know that I’m able to do other things that I wasn’t able to do before so that leads to acting, doing who knows what,’’ he said. “The whole acting thing is definitely nerve-wracking. I can swim in front of 10,000 people, no problem, but acting, that’s a little hard.’’

    More: Video: Prince Harry returns to London amid photo scandal 
    Lochte: 'I'm going another four years' to Rio games 
    Jeah! Lochte to guest star on '90210' 

  • Reports: Somali Olympic sprinter died when migrant boat sank

    Kerim Okten/ EPA file

    Somalian athlete Samia Yusuf Omar at at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

    A woman from war-torn Somalia who rose to fame by running in the 200 meters at the Beijing Olympics drowned while trying to reach Europe ahead of the London 2012 Games, it has emerged.

    Samia Yusuf Omar died when a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank in April, according to a report in Italian by the Pubblico blog and other Italian media.

    The BBC said the Italian media reports suggest Omar may have been hoping to find a coach in Europe who could help her reach the London Olympics.

    Somali track and field legend Abdi Bile, who was world champion in the 1500 meters in 1987, was quoted as comparing Omar’s fate with that of Somali-born British runner Mo Farah, who won two Olympic gold medals at the London Games.

    "We are happy for Mo -- he is our pride," he said, according to Pubblico. "But we will not forget Samia."

    There were few details about what happened to Omar, but BBC News said Somalia’s National Olympic Committee had confirmed she had died. NBC News was unable to reach the committee on the phone number listed on its website and an email was not immediately returned.

    Italy's Coast Guard rescues 80 migrants from an overcrowded boat stranded just off the coast of the southern island of Lampedusa. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

    There were tributes to Omar from across the world on the comments section of a YouTube video of her race in Beijing.

    “Love, hope and peace from Barcelona Samia. Your still alive in ours hearts. RIP,” one user, frankiee78, said.

    Somali Olympic chief killed in Mogadishu suicide blast

    “Brave is the one who never give up ... Even being the last one on this heat, Samia was proud of being there for her country. Every time when a shooting star will shows in a Somalian sky, it will be Samia the one who is going to be running for her country.... RIP from Columbus, OH,” MrEmilito74 said.

    There were messages from people in the United States, Serbia, Mexico, Portugal, Uruguay and other countries.

    More world stories from NBC News:

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  • Missy Franklin tweets new Olympic tattoo

    @FranklinMissy / Twitter

    Swimmer Missy Franklin says that her new tattoo of the Olympic rings, a Team USA tradition, will be the only ink she ever gets.

    In addition to the five Olympic medals she took home in London, swimming phenom Missy Franklin has added one other permanent reminder of her breakout performance.

    Following Team USA tradition after a successful Olympics, Franklin has gotten a tattoo of the Olympic rings. She tweeted a photo of  her new tat on her right hip on Thursday. “All inked up. AHH!’’ she wrote. “Can’t believe it! My one and only!”


    During the Olympics, Franklin told TODAY.com that she had planned on getting the traditional Olympic tattoo found on numerous U.S. athletes, and that it would be her first and last tattoo.

    "Getting a tattoo has never been something ever thought I would do, but this one just has so much meaning to it and it is really something that you have to earn,'' Franklin told TODAY.com. "Not a lot of people have the opportunity to get it, so I just feel like it’s an honor to get it.'' 

    The swimmer's father, Dick Franklin, had already approved of the tattoo before it officially was inked on to her hip.

    "This will be the only one, and she's earned it,'' he told TODAY.com while in London.

    Dick also joked that he might get his own tattoo.

    "Yeah, 'Missy's Dad,''' he said while pointing to his bicep.

    Franklin told TODAY.com that she had initially planned to get inked while she was still in London, a day before her father's Aug. 10 birthday. While her busy schedule didn't allow that, she eventually was able to find time after attending the Olympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday and making an appearance on "The Tonight Show" that aired Wednesday night.

    Franklin flew back to her home in Centennial, Colo., on Monday before jetting off for the "Tonight" spot, and on Thursday she began her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School -- with a permanent souvenir of what she did on her summer vacation.

    Read more:

    Missy Franklin plans to have tattoo along with medals

    Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?

    Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'