Javelin thrower Leryn Franco is a model athlete

Norberto Duarte / AFP - Getty Images

Olympian Leryn Franco has become an online favorite for much more than her javelin skills.

Javelin thrower Leryn Franco placed 51st in the 2008 Olympics, yet she finished only behind Michael Phelps among Yahoo! searches for Olympic athletes during the Games. 

It's clear that the 30-year-old from Paraguay is popular for more than just her javelin-throwing technique.

A model and beauty pageant contestant, Franco has participated in the Miss Bikini Universe pageant, released her own calendar, and was the runner-up to Miss Universo Paraguay in 2006. She has brought a bit of glam to her sport as well, posing in heels with her javelin for a photo shoot and wearing earrings with bling during competition. 

Franco has fared far better on the magazine and Internet hot lists than in international javelin competitions. She appeared in the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and was most recently ranked No. 64 on AskMen.com’s “Top 99 Women” of 2012. She also made Maxim's "Sexiest Women of the Olympics'' list and has an endorsement contract with Nike.  

"My career is media,” she told Spanish-language news agency Efe. “One can turn on the TV or look at a magazine and see me."

While she has gained fame for her pursuits away from javelin, she has shown improvement since Beijing, throwing a personal-best 55.66 meters at a meet in Buenos Aires last year. However, that is still far short of the current world record of 72.28 held by gold medal favorite Barbora Špotáková of the Czech Republic. Franco is not expected to be a medal contender in London, but the fact that she is back in the Olympics is an accomplishment she is savoring.

 "To qualify for London, the Olympics, is already a medal," she told Efe.

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