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Saturday, April 17, 2021

In Market: Going for the Gold

One Fort Worth man

Takes home Olympic viral gold

One Fort Worth man is reveling in the gold he found at the Olympics.

“I can’t believe this experience. It’s out of this world,” Brent Folan enthused.

I should note that Folan was not actually competing at the Olympics, but was there as a volunteer. A volunteer with an Instagram account. With more than 1,600 Instagram followers, he was not only at the Olympics, his Instagram posts from Rio – full of Olympians from water polo team members to the big enchilada, Michael Phelps – have gone viral. In most, Brent is attired in an eye-shocking U.S. flag onesie sporting a smile as big as Texas with an Olympic athlete – or two, or three, or four or five in the case of the entire U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team.

Twenty-five year old Folan, a former student body president at TCU, has been planning the trip for three years. “I love America and I love sports,” he enthused from Rio (Brent doesn’t talk, he enthuses, gushes, etc.). “I come from a family full of Marines and we were raised to love our country and I’ve been a sports fan ever since I can remember.”

He took time off from his job at minerals producer Lhoist where he works in the supply chain area. He also reached out for some sponsorship opportunities, calling up Tipsy Elves, the “outrageous” clothing startup that got an investment from Shark Tanker Robert Herjavec. It didn’t take long for an answer. Two hours in fact. They sent him several items of clothing, including the onesie. “In retrospect it’s one of the best decisions they ever made, with all the exposure,” he enthused.

“I wanted to look like an American and wanted everyone to know where I’m from,” he gushed.

Brent’s goal was to get as many selfies with Olympic athletes as possible. He should have known he was in for a lucky streak as he met his first Olympian at the airport, posing with sprinter Allyson Felix.

Then, like the Usain Bolt of selfies, he got a photo with all five members of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. Shortly after that he ran into American shooter Virginia Thrasher and got to hold the first gold medal of the games.

It wasn’t all athletes. He’s also taken selfies with financial titan Warren Buffett, presidential daughter Jenna Bush and teen heartthrob Zac Efron.

Serendipity has been on his side. He met a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote a color piece on Folan’s viral success. Which brought Folan to the attention of ABC and other news organizations who have done stories on the viral gold medalist of the Rio games.

For all his success, he was still short of one goal: a selfie with Michael Phelps. Folan is a fan as only Folan can be.

“I mean look at what he’s done, it’s amazing, for a sports fan, he’s the ultimate,” Brent gushed.

He was scheduled to leave before the games were finished, but he then made a decision. He called his boss and got approval for a few more days off. No doubt the boss was convinced by Folan’s over-the-top enthusiasm.

“I’ve always been this way,” Folan enthused, “but never with this little sleep. I mean four hours is sleeping late for me here.”

One thing Folan did do was wash his American flag onesie. “It was getting pretty rank, but I had to wear it, that’s what drew a lot of these Olympians to come talk to me because of the outfit,” he enthused.

So, after deciding to stay until the end of the games, serendipity took Folan’s hand again. While being interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America about his viral success, as Brent was taking a selfie with GMA’s T.J. Holmes, Phelps photobombed them.

“He’s great, really, really a great guy,” he enthused, even more than usual.

Regrets? Nope. “I live for the thrill of life. This is the type of experience you love. A beautiful city, competition and fans from all over the world.”

Update: Folan met Usain Bolt.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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