I used to wrestle—starting in the fourth or fifth grade and continued through my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the practice and media day.
While I was there, I got to interview and talk with many of wrestlers. Going in, I was most excited to talk with Sam Hazenwinkel, and I did just that. I talked to him for most of the media day. He was such a cool guy and had great stories to tell.
After talking with him for a while, we parted ways and I changed my focus to his roommate Tervel Dlagnev, the heavyweight. He was a fun guy to talk to as well. He had a great sense of humor, all the while keeping his seriousness at the forefront.
I traveled around the room for about 30 to 45 minutes, talking to as many wrestlers as I could before they started practicing. They began with a warm-up and then grabbed their wrestling partners and got to work.
Watching their practice made me miss wrestling and want to start back up again. In all reality, I probably won’t, but it was a nice thought at the time. I didn’t think I would miss wrestling that much after high school, but I do now. Getting back on the mat would be fun.
What may have not sounded fun to others was something I loved. I wish I could go back to more of their practices and media days. They were really cool guys and the atmosphere was awesome. It was easily the best day I have had during this trip.
Charlie Akers | Sports Reporter
I’ve attended and watched many sporting events in my lifetime, but there have been very few occasions where I was nervous. For example, when my Packers stomped the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, I was nervous the entire game. Or when the Cubs won the… yeah, never mind. But for the first time in my life, I was nervous watching U.S. Olympic Diving. Why? Because I made a friend.
By now, most of you know I’ve spent my entire life growing up on a dairy farm, and believe it or not we did have a television, so I was able to watch the Olympics growing up. I remember watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luikin win in Beijing back in 2008. But as I watched Diver Thomas Finchum try to make his comeback during the prelims for the U.S. Diving Trials last week, it was different. I knew him. I knew his story. I had told it. I knew what he had been through to make it back to the diving trials and I knew how much it meant to him to make it to London. It wasn’t just him though; it was all of the divers competing for their spot in London. I had interviewed them as well. I knew all of their stories.
As I watched the diving trials at 1 a.m. with my two farm dogs, Barney and Duke, that’s when I realized that this trip to London isn’t about our group; it’s about them. They’re the ones making the sacrifices, and we’re telling their stories. As much as I wanted Finchum to qualify for the Olympics so I could do another story on him for BSU at the Games, I wanted him to qualify for himself more. My stomach turned every time he did another dive. My mom even asked why I kept screaming from the living room at 1:30 a.m. and my answer came easy—each story I do on these amazing athletes gives me an insight into how passionate they are. They get little recognition, but they don’t let it faze them. They want London more than anything.
Finchum didn’t qualify for London, finishing third place in the finals. The top two travel to the games. I know he was heart-broken, and so was I. When you spend months getting to know these athletes, their success means so much more. And when they come up just short, it hurts the same. Since the trials, Finchum has announced his retirement from the sport of diving. He’ll never get his chance to go back to the Olympics, and yet his spirit never wavered. He said on Twitter, “Today has been filled with so many emotions… one chapter of my life is almost over, but there’s so much more to come with @Northern_Nights.” He’s right.
A wise man once told me it’s about building relationships and getting to know the people whose story you’re telling. For years Thomas Finchum was an amazing Olympic diver. Not enough people know that he’s a lead singer of an up-in-coming country band called Northern Nights. I just hope the story I did on Thomas and Northern Nights has made some kind of impact, because I know it’s impacted me. I’ve invested so much into the 2012 Olympic Games, and because of that I’ll never look at them the same. My friends will be out there representing the United States of America in London, and I’ll be cheering as loud as I possibly can for them to fulfill their dreams.
Josh Blessing | Sports Reporter
Meeting Olympians can be an intimidating thought. To even be given the opportunity to meet them is enough of a challenge. Ironically, Olympians Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva are just like us. They like to have fun, make jokes and even interact with others. To have two Olympians be as friendly as they were with me only a few months before the biggest event of their lives was incredible.
We started the day at the Natatorium in Indianapolis. With a few others from the BSU at the Games crew, we shot video and conducted interviews. We got there around 9 a.m., and Killman and Koroleva were already in the pool practicing. It wasn’t until 12:30 p.m. that we saw them get out of the pool after some rigorous training.
We interviewed Koroleva shortly after the practice, which consisted of her talking about her Russian background, injury, life at Stanford and love for swimming. The best part of the interview was hearing her speak Russian. She even endorsed our site by encouraging potential viewers to check it out.
From there, we traveled to the St. Vincent Sports Performance facility. It was here that Killman and Koroleva had a spinning (cycling) workout. As we shot more video, the two athletes really started to loosen up—laughing while we recorded them and even making faces at the camera. Eventually, they finished their workout and began stretching.
The Olympians, along with their trainer, were using foam cylinders to stretch, and I became curious as to what it felt like. The trainer told me to grab one of the cylinders and then helped me with the stretching technique. It was a fun experience interacting with Killman, Koroleva and their trainer.
After all of the fun, we headed back to the pool to interview Killman. The interview was very similar to Koroleva’s. We were able to get a lot of good information about her and her history with the sport of synchronized swimming.
Finally, the crew packed up and headed home. After all was said and done, I think it’s safe to say we built lasting relationships with these two athletes.
Slowly, but surely, everything is falling into place for London.
Michael Nauman | Sports Reporter
My classmates and I won’t be landing in London to cover the 2012 Games for another 46 days, but our work behind the scenes is already well underway. Another chapter in our preparation for the London Games will take place this week as we visit the Visa Championships at Chaifetz Arena at Saint Louis University.
Seeing that I’m from St. Louis, Chaifetz Arena is just a short drive down I-64. Having this fantastic opportunity is beyond what words can describe.
The Visa Championships will feature men’s and women’s gymnastics, with gymnasts in both the junior and senior divisions. This week-long event will determine the U.S. champions, as well as which gymnasts advance to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, which are scheduled for June 28 through July 1 in San Jose, Calif.
This year’s event marks the second time the Visa Championships have been held in St. Louis; the last time was in 2000.
Today is media day, with multiple training sessions open to reporters as well as opportunities to interview the gymnasts prior to competition, which begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
As I sit alongside the balance beams and bars sifting through the profiles of all these remarkable athletes, I take a minute to reflect on what I’m doing and how I got here. I’m within a few feet of these athletes who could be heading to London to compete for a gold medal. These are the best gymnasts this country has to offer. How cool is that? I’m most looking forward to having the opportunity to interview a few of these athletes and write about them.
One gymnast that caught my attention is Brenna Dowell of Odessa, Mo. Dowell is a member of Great American Gymn. Express and has been on the women’s national team for one year. Dowell brings a hefty résumé into the Visa Championships. She tied for fifth in vault, placed sixth in the all-around, uneven bars and came in eighth in the floor exercise in the junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in St. Paul, Minn. Dowell tied for third in vault and placed fifth in the all-around and uneven bars in the 2011 CoverGirl Classic in Chicago. She also competed in the 2010 Visa Championships in Hartford, Conn., placing fourth in the uneven bars in the junior division. In 2009, she tied for first in the vault and tied for second in the all-around free exercise during the Women’s Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships.
Another athlete that caught my eye is Sarah Finnegan, a native of St. Louis. Finnegan, also a member of Great American Gymn. Express, will compete in the women’s artistic program. Finnegan placed second in the free exercise during the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic in Chicago. She also finished third in the all-around junior division during the 2011 Visa Championships in Saint Paul, Minn.
So as I continue to sit along media row, I ponder the possibilities of what I can accomplish on this day, the interviews I can conduct, the precious stories I can write and I can’t forget about the athletes, who’s stories are so remarkable. From just skimming the roster, I’ve noticed a pair of athletes from my home state, which is awesome. Having the opportunity to go to the U.S. Olympic Trials by winning the Visa Championships in your home state has to be exciting.
After all, the Visa Championships are in my own backyard and I’m looking forward to taking full advantage of every interview I get, story I write and connection I make.
Tyler Poslosky | Sports Reporter
Today I made the trip to St. Louis, Mo., with USA Gymnastics for the Visa Championships. It is such a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to all that is to come over the course of my trip. I was presented with this opportunity while in Dallas for the Team USA Media Summit. Many thanks go out to Chris Taylor, for it was his connections with the media that made it possible for me to be here, and I am extremely grateful.
For the next week, I will be doing video work for USA Gymnastics. This includes conducting interviews as well as videoing routines during the women’s junior competition and the men’s first day of competition. As Chris put it, I am in my element.
Many people do not know about my past with gymnastics, but for 16 years I ate, drank and slept the sport. I was never at the level of the athletes competing this weekend, but I have always heavily followed USA Gymnastics, and it is special to me that I get to be part of the action at this year’s Visa Championships.
In 2005, the Visa Championships were held in Indianapolis. I remember watching from the stands and hoping that one day I would get the chance to be a part of this event, even if I was not competing. Seven years later, here I am.
Monday and Tuesday are registration days for the athletes. Competition begins on Thursday and will continue through Sunday. This is the last stop for gymnasts before the Olympic Trials on July 1, where the team for London will be selected.
Emily Barker | Sports Reporter
The same holds true for Thomas Finchum, Kayla Harrison, Travis Stevens, Joseph Diaz, Jr., and David Boudia.
And even though I haven’t met Miles Chamley-Watson in person yet, you can put a check by his name too. Chalk one up for the good guys (and gals).
Even though this is my first blog post about this amazing Olympic experience, the relationships have been building for many months. It was more than evident in Dallas.
Maybe it was because I was sitting inside the boxing ring at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Downtown Dallas, but it hit me harder than Spence’s signature south-paw punch, and I couldn’t have been happier.
While more than 450 other media members packed into a room to listen to Michael Phelps or First Lady Michelle Obama over at the Hilton Anatole, Josh Blessing and I were forming a bond with Spence, his coach, Derrick James, and his father, Spence Sr.—a bond that, after four days, will last a lifetime. Sign me up, I am officially a member of Team Spence.
I’ve worked in sports my whole life, and by this time, my instincts never have proven me wrong. I knew going to Dallas this was a chance to do something special. Just do a quick Google search on Errol Spence, Jr., and USA Boxing, and you’ll see what I mean.
His story is amazing. From the tiny, rundown Vivero Boxing Gym in Oak Cliff to becoming a three-time national welterweight champion and Olympic medalist hopeful in London. Oh, and he’s only 22 years old. He’s the son of a Jamaican immigrant. His biggest influence is his mother (mine too).
Josh and I spent the better part of our trip researching, making connections and shooting video for this story. Instinct.
When I picked up Errol from the hotel and we drove together to Maple Avenue for the interview, we connected. Not since working with former Ball State athlete, John Wooden Award winner and dear friend Peyton Stovall have I seen a smile or the charisma Spence has.
I can’t wait to unleash my own creativity and experience with Josh on this story. Spence deserves my best, and he’ll get it. And I’ll be in London—hopefully in the stands as often as I can—to support Spence every step of the way. He deserves that too.
Less than two hours later, it was the inspirational Shanteau who delivered the knock out.
We talked about his journey over the last four years as a cancer survivor, the loss of his father to the same dreaded disease and his mission to spread cancer awareness in young adults.
It too was more than an interview. We spent an hour talking about life and how it changed for him. Little did he know, it was changing for me too. We connected.
I collected more than 75 business cards in Dallas, shared stories and worked with our students in an environment I will never forget. We met with more than 100 athletes and logged more than 600 minutes of interviews. There’s more coming. Heck, we haven’t even made it to London yet.
But it’s more than just the connections and the stories, it’s the people. It’s building relationships. It’s being real, having a passion for what you do and caring for people.
Spence and Shanteau know all about those things.
Chris Taylor | Adviser
A common question we would ask is, what does wearing the red, white and blue and representing your country mean to you? It was incredible hearing all the different answers. Responses ranged from “it’s pretty cool” and “it’s an honor” to having the athlete nearly in tears.
Often we were able to quickly research the athlete when they walked in the room and find an interesting angle for our story.
For example, Wallace Spearmon is the U.S.’s top runner in the 200 and has beaten Usain Bolt. But what we were able to dig up was that in 2008 he won a bronze medal only to moments later have it taken away due to being disqualified for stepping out of his lane. As you can imagine, even four years later, he still is emotional about it.
We also found stories of a swimmer who had heart surgery and was forced to keep a defibrillator on site whenever she swam because doctors said her heart could give out at any time.
We heard stories of athletes growing up in poverty to make it, stories of athletes who were caught in drug scandals and have turned their lives around, stories of Paralympic athletes who lost limbs in the military and still compete at the highest levels of their sports.
It was an incredible process over the three days that saw us interview more than 100 athletes. Some personal highlights, of course, were the big names like Nastia Luikin, Maya Moore, Wallace Spearmon and, my personal favorite, Alex Morgan (guys reading won’t be asking follow-up questions as to why she was my favorite interview).
Coming to Dallas I was a bit apprehensive that I didn’t have enough material for London. Now we have so much material and so many story possibilities that we’re going to have to cut out some very good stories.
Be on the lookout for these interviews on the website.
Pat Boylan | Sports Reporter
So I waited to write this blog on the flight home for two reasons: 1) because these past six days for me have been so fast-paced I haven’t had time and 2) I honestly didn’t know what I would say, so I figured I’d use it as reflection. I’ll do my best to keep you guys entertained.
I first wanted to give a shout out to Pat, C.T., Brandon, Ryan, Emily (Thompson) and Emily (Barker) for somehow figuring out a way to make this flight in the first place with minutes to spare … Don’t ask.
I remember walking to class months ago when Ryan came up to me about the idea of traveling to London for the Olympic Games. If I said I wasn’t skeptical at first, well, I’d be lying. But after these past few days working alongside some of the top journalists in the country and speaking with some of the best athletes in the world, it’s safe to say I made the right decision to jump on board.
Being the only college students at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit, I assumed we wouldn’t get a fair chance. I assumed we would be shoved to the side and given limited access. Not the case—not even close. We had just as much of an opportunity to speak with the big athletes as anyone else, and we took full advantage of that.
As I registered, the lady behind the desk goes, “Oh, Ball State? We’ve heard about you guys.” We were respected. People knew who we were and we’d just arrived.
Perhaps the defining moment for all of us was the opening reception. There we were, a bunch of college kids (plus C.T. and Ryan) sitting at a table as America’s top athletes strolled on by. Having athletes come up to me and say they loved my USA Diving piece on Thomas Finchum … nothing can beat that. Nothing.
Interviewing one of the world’s top boxers, Errol Spence, Jr., in the middle of a boxing ring in downtown Dallas, are you kidding me? I’m just a college kid, I shouldn’t have these opportunities— but for whatever reason, I do. And amidst it all I never once took it for granted. I’ll admit I may or may not have gotten flustered when Olympic Beijing gold medalist Nastia Luikin stepped into the room. That’s because, well … no comment.
I could go on forever. I could sit here 30,000 feet up and ramble on about this trip and go through every connection I made or every amazing athlete I came across, but I won’t because I don’t know how long blogs typically go and I feel like I’m near that limit.
BSU at the Games has a chance to do something special here. We have the chance to build our résumés and gain experience in ways other college students will only dream of. This is our chance to stand out from the rest of the universities and show them what we do in sports media and journalism at Ball State. Let’s embrace this opportunity and hold onto it. I know I am. See you guys in London.
2014 Russian Winter Games … Any takers? I’m down.
Josh Blessing | Sports Reporter
With all the well-deserved fame and media attention these athletes get, one would think it would get to their heads at some point. But I haven’t detected one small sign of an ego. All of these athletes are outstanding on the field. But they’re even better people.
A lot of them aren’t much different than we are as students. In fact, a lot of Olympic athletes are students.
Alexander Massialas is a member of the U.S Fencing National Team. He’s 18 years old. Like me, he enjoys basketball a lot. We share a favorite videogame in NBA 2K12. Massialas is also a big Zion I fan. Safe to say he knows good hip-hop when he hears it.
April Ross is a member of the U.S. beach volleyball team. Her favorite hobby is mini-golf. I happen to be quite the Putt-Putt enthusiast myself.
And my man Phil Dalhausser, another beach volleyball player, loves women in bikinis. Me too.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s not a lot that separates us, and that makes the Olympic coverage all the sweeter. We listen to the same music, play the same games, and watch the same movies and TV shows. And while what we do for a living may be different, our goal in the end is the same. To do our best, be our best and aspire for higher.
I’ll never forget the connections I’ve made with these athletes. It personalizes the London Games for us. I’ll be sure to root them on as they represent our country this summer.
Brandon Pope | Sports Reporter
As a former gymnast myself, I was most excited about having the opportunity to talk to some of the U.S.’s top gymnasts at the Media Summit in Dallas. Even though we had been waking up early the past few days, I felt full of energy because the atmosphere was so exciting.
Having the chance to talk to Olympians Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Jonathan Horton was a dream come true. In 2008 I watched them compete in Beijing and saw them win their medals, so it was an honor to be in the same room with them. At first talking to them was extremely intimidating because they are such a big deal to me, but after a few minutes they just felt like regular people.
When I was watching the 2008 Olympic Games, I was 16 years old, the age of many of the contenders for a spot on the 2012 team. They are only in high school, and yet they have the chance to represent the United States in the biggest athletic event in the world. That blows my mind.
Jordyn Wieber, 16, said the pressure doesn’t really get to her because she competes all the time and she is ready for the trials. This was the case with several of the athletes; they handle their nerves like veterans, yet they are only teenagers.
Dallas has been such an amazing experience for me and I am even more excited about getting to London in July.