Looking back, forward on London's stars
The end of the Olympics is always bittersweet for lovers of so-called "fringe sports." Fans of gymnastics, track and swimming rarely get to watch big meets on national television; the Olympics provide them with a solid two weeks of action, features and profiles.
The Games introduced us to some new friends. Athletes of all ages and sizes let us in on their Olympic dreams and caused us to root for them as if they were family.
After watching hour upon hour of coverage, who isn't utterly charmed by 17-year-old swimming phenom Missy Franklin and totes crushing on the Bieber of British diving, Tom Daley?
I know I can't be the only person who wants to hit the dance floor with Serena Williams and hit the beach with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. And c'mon now ladies, you can't tell me going back to watching the boys of summer play baseball in their long pants and high socks doesn't have you missing those water polo "uniforms."
The good news? A few of our favorite Olympic men and women are planning on sticking around for a while.
Swimming sensation Michael Phelps is trading in his goggles and swim cap for a set of clubs, as he'll take tips from former Tiger Woods swing coach Hank Haney on the Golf Channel's "The Haney Project." If his swings are anything like his strokes, maybe he'll grab a spot on the Olympic golf team when the sport returns to the Games in Rio.
While Phelps hits the links, teammate and rival Ryan Lochte is hitting Hollywood. The 28-year-old swimmer has already announced he's taking his chiseled abs, blinged-out grill and trademark "Jeah!" straight to L.A. Lochte told "Today" host Matt Lauer he'd like to work on a fashion line and star on a reality show like "Dancing With the Stars" or "The Bachelor."
The gold medal-winning U.S. women's soccer team is hoping to keep "footie fever" at a high in the States, with friendlies against Costa Rica and Australia scheduled for early September and as many as 10 exhibition games before the new year.
Hope Solo's new book, "SOLO: A Memoir of Hope," (complete with an epilogue about the 2012 Olympics) just hit bookshelves and online retailers, so the oft-quoted netminder will have plenty to talk about with fans and media when the team hits the road.
Gabby Douglas will take part in a victory lap of her own, joining fellow U.S. gymnasts on the 40-city Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions. We've already seen her big, bright smile on the front of Kellogg's Corn Flakes boxes, and you can count on a number of other high-profile endorsements for Douglas, too.
While Douglas is busy counting her cash, the world's most talked-about track star might be taking his talents to another sport -- Usain Bolt has been invited to try out for famed British soccer club Manchester United. Bolt has also said he might consider taking up the long jump to give himself a new goal for Rio. I'm tempted to call the guy out for his big head, but then again, who's gonna be the one to say he can't pull it off?
Oscar Pistorius, by far the most inspiring of the athletes at the Games, will be back on the track in London in just a few weeks. The double-amputee from South Africa has a very good chance to win four golds at the Paralympics, where he is the defending champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and will be a part of his country's 4x100 relay.
And even when the running stops, it's hard to imagine Pistorious will get much time to himself -- endorsements, speaking engagements and honors are sure to come his way. And rightly so. Pistorious is a shining example of the Olympics at their best. A chance for the world to gather and marvel at what the human body can accomplish when pushed to its fullest capabilities.
The Olympic feeling may fade as the months pass, but it's clear Pistorious and the rest of these stars plan to stay in the spotlight well after the last firework flamed out over Olympic Stadium.
Now let's just hope the Spice Girls don't get any ideas. Once every four years is more than enough, gals.