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Olympic Athletes Relieve Stress By Playing Video Games

August 7, 2008

Sega has rolled out the official video game of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and mobile phones.

The game lets you compete in 38 events from track and field to swimming to judo and has online play for the first time in an Olympics game.

Sega enlisted U.S. gold medal contenders Amanda Beard, Tyson Gay, Nastia Liukin and Reese Hoffa for the cover of “Beijing 2008: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games.”

These Olympians already considered themselves avid gamers.

“I was so excited to be on the cover,” said Beard, a seven-time Olympic medalist. “To be with these other athletes who are on the cover with me, now I can cheer and watch them at the Olympics and then go home and play the video game.”

Beard was the youngest U.S. swimmer to ever bring home the gold after her performance at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. But she was also playing virtual Olympics games at an early age.

“I played the old Nintendo Olympics game with the Power Pad, where you started out as the turtle and worked your way up to the cheetah,” said Beard.

“My family would have competitions against other families who were close friends and we’d rock it. We’d do the triple jump and the hurdles and all of that fun stuff.”

Making his second Olympic Games appearance in Beijing, Hoffa is going for gold in the men’s shot. The reigning world champion is a lifelong video games fan whose PlayStation 2 and PSP go where he goes.

“Like every guy, it’s a major part of my life, especially when you travel overseas,” said Hoffa, who enjoys the “Madden,” “MLB 2K8″ and “Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf” games.

Hoffa said video games pass the time so much easier than just playing cards.

“All the guys I know bring a PS2, PSP and a controller with them to the international competitions. They get into some pretty heated ‘Madden’ tournaments.”

Gay is one of the fastest men in the world; the International Association of Athletics Federations picked him as male athlete of the year in 2007. But he’s also pretty quick in the virtual environment.

“Olympic track athletes spend a lot of free time trying to be the best in their favorite video games. So much so, our fingers sometimes get more tired then our legs do in actual races,” said Gay.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, there was a room with about 30 PlayStation 2s and Xboxes and a large library of games, Hoff said. He expects the same set-up in Beijing.

He said the gaming experience keeps him off his feet and keeps him engaged. “I don’t waste a lot of energy playing them.”

Gay says playing video games take his mind off the nervousness he feels before competitions.

“‘Beijing 2008′ gives kids a chance to experience the fun of being in the Olympics when they are sitting right in their own home,” said Gay.

“Maybe some young kid will play the game and be inspired to go out and train in real life with the goal of really being in the Olympic Games some day.”

Also newly released, a new Sega arcade game is available on Wii and Nintendo DS, with “Mario and Sonic: Olympic Games” putting two of the most popular game icons together for the first time.

The Wii version encourages gamers to physically mimic 20 events like fencing and table tennis as they compete against friends.

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