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Smallwood: Olympic gymnasts bask in glory; swimmers founder in scandal

John Smallwood, Daily News Columnist

Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2016, 3:01 AM

U.S. gymnasts Madison Kocian, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Aly Raisman pose with "Hamilton" actors who play the Schuyler sisters, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lexi Lawson and Renee Elise Goldsberry, after attending the performance at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

HERE IS THE difference between becoming Olympic heroes and Olympic dimwits.

On Tuesday, the gold medal-winning United States women's gymnastics team was in Manhattan for a taping of the The Tonight Show and just happened to swing by the Richard Rodgers Theatre for prime seats to the Broadway hit Hamilton.

On the secondary market, tickets to the high-demand show start at $300 to $500 for the cheapest seats, and reportedly average around $1,400.

Not only did "The Final Five" team of Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian score the prime tickets, their golden résumé allowed them access to meet the cast and take pictures.

At the same time, at the other end of the post-Olympics spectrum, Jimmy Feigen, a member of the gold-medal winning 4 x 100 freestyle relay team, issued a release in which he apologized for his role in the sophomoric actions that ignited an international incident at the Rio Olympics.

Feigen, along with Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz, decided it was better to embarrass the city of Rio de Janeiro and nation of Brazil by falsely claiming they were robbed at gunpoint than admit they stupidly committed minor vandalism to a gas station while drunk.

After settling the dispute with the store owner by paying about $50 for the damage, things could have faded away, but Lochte told NBC television the four knuckleheads were victims of an armed robbery.

An investigation by Rio police showed Lochte lied, which created a scandal that highlighted all of the negative stereotypes around the world about the "Ugly American."

Lochte scooted out of Brazil to the safety of North Carolina - leaving his teammates to face the wrath of the police and the international media.

Feigen agreed to pay a fine of nearly $11,000 so that he could get his confiscated passport back and leave Brazil.

Instead of being honored in some measure for their Olympic success, the swimmers have been in hiding to avoid more negative exposure.

The swimmers will soon find out whether there is a monetary price to be paid for their nefarious actions, which brought shame on the United States.

An athlete who wins an Olympic gold medal and projects the correct image can make a small fortune through endorsement deals.

Douglas, whose mother reportedly filed for bankruptcy just before the start of the 2012 Olympics, went from being an unemployed 16-year-old to having a current estimated net worth of $3 million because she became the first American gymnast to win the gold medal in the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics.

Three-time world champion Biles, 19, reportedly saw her net worth from 2015 increase 1,000 percent, to more than $2 million, going into Rio - her first Olympics.

With Biles winning gold medals in the all-around, vault, floor exercise and team events, plus a bronze on the balance beam, marketing and branding experts predict Biles likely will earn tens of millions of dollars during her lifetime, through continued endorsement deals and other things associated with her success in gymnastics.

While her teammates likely will not make as much as Biles, they will have plenty of moneymaking opportunities.

Besides Lochte, the swimmers involved in the "robbery" scandal were not likely to make millions of dollars in endorsement deals. Bentz and Conger would lose their NCAA eligibility if they accepted endorsement money. Feigen, 26, however, swims as a professional and, while it is not likely, he could be suspended from competition.

Absence the scandal, winning the gold in a glamour event such as the 4 x 100 would lead to endorsement money. But these swimmers are considered toxic.

Throughout his long swimming career, Locthe reportedly has reached a net worth of about $6 million - much of that from endorsement.

In the aftermath of the Rio scandal, Lochte lost four major endorsement deals. Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Remover and Airweave all said they were cutting ties with Lochte.

Forbes magazine estimated that Lochte, whose 12 Olympic swimming medals place him second behind Michael Phelps, could lose up to $10 million in endorsement income because of his behavior in Rio.

Feigen's two major sponsors, Mutual of Omaha and the New York Athletic Club, have not said whether they were considering dropping Feigen.

It's unlikely that new endorsements will be coming.

On Tuesday, the members of the "Final Five" got comped into the hottest show on Broadway.

On Tuesday, Feigen and Lochte were contemplating how they turned urinating at a gas station into an international scandal that will cost them all of the endorsement perks that normally come with winning a gold medal.

smallwj@phillynews.com

@SmallTerp

John Smallwood, Daily News Columnist

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