Posts tagged "Summer Olympics"

“Wrestling” my way into a Team USA event

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, I had the most fun I have had since arriving in London. I was lucky enough to attend the Team USA men’s freestyle wrestling practice and media day.

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

@The8thKing

I’ve seen a lot of places, but London trumps them all

This is not my first time being out of the country. In fact, this is about the fifth country I have been to in the past year and a half.

But London is the best so far, and all due to the Olympic atmosphere.

I thought my three months living on the beach in Australia was the best vacation I would ever have, but the best part is that I am only 21, leaving so much time to see more. I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef, island-hopped on jet skis in Fiji, driven across the countryside in New Zealand and spear fished in the Bahamas, but so far, London is my favorite.

This is actually my second time being in London. The first time, I came on a whim in the middle of my third semester at Ball State. I traveled here with my two best friends and it was a blast, but much of that time was spent pub-crawling and not actually seeing the sites and taking in the culture.

Seeing that the Olympic Games are being held here, I can’t think of a better time to come back. I’ve seen so much that I missed the first time I was here, such as Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

Another thing that I have found entertaining was randomly finding the very first pub I went to when I was here before with my friends. I was walking down the street and started to recognize the area. Then three minutes later, I ran straight into the George. I immediately took a picture and shared it with my friends back at home.

I have traveled many places, but I have never been back to them. There is something different about London, though. It’s a city that, in the end, I can’t seem to get away from.

Michael Kerkhoff  |  Sports Reporter

How do you get a coffee date with a sports-writing legend? You ask

Wednesday morning, on the eve of the women’s soccer final between the U.S. and Japan, I had an opportunity to have coffee in a London Starbucks with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

How did I manage this? The power of Twitter.

I sent a tweet last week saying how cool it would be to get to meet some professional journalists currently in England doing Olympic coverage and included his Twitter handle in it. Less than an hour later, he replied back saying he was getting into London on Aug. 7 and would be happy to meet for coffee. When the alert came on my phone, I had to read it over several times to make certain my phone wasn’t playing a trick on me.

It wasn’t. And after a few tweets back and forth, we had arranged to meet Wednesday morning in Russell Square.

For those who don’t know who Wahl is, I suggest you look him up. He’s perhaps one of the most established senior writers at Sports Illustrated. He’s been a senior soccer writer for SI since 2000 and covers World Cups, the Euro Championships and the Olympic Games. His biography on SI.com says he’s written 31 cover stories for the magazine. And he has more than 230,000 followers on Twitter. Getting the chance to meet and talk sports journalism with him is something I couldn’t pass up.

After getting our coffees, Wahl and I sat at one of the tables and he asked me a few questions about myself. I explained to him what BSU at the Games is and what we’re doing, and he was impressed with what we’ve been able to produce despite not having credentials to events. I also got to tell Wahl what I do for the Ball State Daily News and other events I’ve covered in my short career.

But I was more interested in learning about how he got to SI. He said after his internship at The Miami Herald, he received an offer from SI to be a fact-checker. Having just graduated from college, he said it was too good an offer not to accept. After doing some writing on college basketball and soccer on the side, ESPN offered him a position to be a full-time soccer writer. SI matched the offer, and he’s held the position since then.

The best piece of advice he gave me for trying to land a job after I leave Ball State is to have something on a résumé that makes you stand out. He laughed and said my experience for BSU at the Games will be the thing that makes me stand out on mine.

We talked more on how sports is becoming a big player in social media, especially on Twitter, and his experiences covering some of the major soccer events in the world. The biggest thing he is working on at SI is making sure he is being as efficient as possible because of the costs to send him around the world.

We wrapped up our conversation after about an hour, as he had to get in touch with his bosses and prepare for the women’s soccer final. I left the Starbucks inspired to work my way to Wahl’s level. Being able to cover soccer matches around the world, on its biggest stages, would definitely be a dream job.

Having more than 230,000 followers on Twitter would be pretty cool too.

Mat Mikesell | Sports Reporter

@MatMikesell

From my Grandmother’s backyard … To yours

We seem to think we always have to be on the go—our mindset programmed to fast forward. Living a life set on fast forward may be good for some, but when I remember to take a minute and press the pause button, I am overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling.

Working on stories, my body had been cemented to the kitchen chair for what felt like only five minutes, but in reality was tiptoeing on six hours. The emptiness in my stomach turned into a nauseating feeling taking over my concentration. When I finally succumbed to the growling noises in my stomach at 10 p.m., my flatmate and I went out in search of dinner.

Our decision was easily made for us as we approached the last restaurant on the strip of South Bank, “Giraffe”. The faultless scenery and perfect weather added to our very European dinner of nachos and bruschetta.

It was while we were waiting on our check I had unknowingly pressed my own pause button.  A serene feeling came over my body, and it was then when I finally allowed myself to be in the moment.

Our waiter seemed to enjoy chatting with us and didn’t hesitate to point out that we weren’t from Europe. He began to talk about his childhood of growing up in Peru and the memories he had as a child. For a minute, I thought that I was in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, too.

“Every morning, I would wake up and go sit outside on a swing my grandmother had in her backyard. The sunrises in Peru are unforgettable,” our waiter said. The picture he began to paint felt as if it was just yesterday morning he had been there.

“Sitting on the swing, the sun resting on my face every morning, I will never forget it. I miss it,” he said.

Not only was I living in a “pause” moment, our waiter was too. This moment is a universal place everyone around the world visits—the place we go in our heads that makes us feel at home.

The options of what to do in London at night are endless, and that’s why my flatmate and I decided to do nothing at all after dinner.  As we walked home, our conversations subsided and the serendipitous evening we had just had became one of the best moments I have had in London.

Charlotte Dunlap | Features Reporter

@charr_mariee

An unexpected day

While in London, I never expected to go to Olympic Park or the Main Press Center. That changed when I was told I was picked to receive a guest credential pass. I would tour the center and walk around Olympic Park.

I left the flat early in the morning to meet up with our contact, Peggy Manter, that was getting me in. On my way from one tube to the other, I ran into my first problem of the day — the tube I needed was down, so I had to take a train to Olympic Park. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t the case. I only knew where to go through the tube stations and the stops made on the above ground train are not the same. So, now, I am someone who does not know London very well trying to get to Olympic Park. It was very frustrating until I finally asked for help from the people who work for the trains.

I finally arrived at the proper station and got off the crowded train. I walked through the crowd of people, making my way to the area where I would get our guest passes. After about six minutes of battling traffic I got to the proper place.  I walked in and received my pass without any problems. I headed to security where I was told I could not go any further without an escort. I spent the next hour frantically trying to get a hold of Peggy. It was the most frustrating part of the whole trip because we had no WiFi outside Olympic Park. Whose idea was that? WiFi outside the park would have made too much sense. So, I had to keep returning to the crowded mall, which was a three or four minute walk, which I had to do almost 100 times. Peggy finally emails me and said she will not pick us up but someone named Nikki would.

Nikki finally showed up about 30 minutes later and took me through the park. She was my ticket to get through security. She walked us through the park, stopping and letting me take pictures of all the amazingly big complexes. I wanted to go inside all of them and watch what was going on. I arrived at the Media Center and was told I could go to a press conference being held.

Snapping a picture with Jorge Posada, former New York Yankees catcher

I knew there was one with Team USA Track & Field, but didn’t know if I could get in. Finally, I get in and I get a big rush as I realize I am a journalist covering the Olympic Games. It was an amazing feeling, making me for sure know this is the career field I want to get into. I sat and listened while other journalist shot questions at the Olympians. It was an amazing experience as I gathered material to write my own stories. The press conference is the best and most enjoyable thing I have been to this whole Olympics.

After the press conference we went to the official Olympic store. It was full of people trying to find the perfect gifts. I found a T-shirt for my younger sister and I got my younger brother, who is about to get his drivers license, an Olympic key chain. As we made our way through the mall, a fellow BSU at the Games student spotted a former New York Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. I am a huge Yankee fan, so I was star struck. I wanted to go get a picture with him didn’t want to bother him. After thinking it over, I was convinced to go and talk to him because what was the worst we could do? Say no and then we just keep on our merry way? So I walked up to him and shook his hand as I said I am a huge Yankees fan and he was one of my favorites. I then asked for a picture and he said he would. When he said yes I could not stop smiling.

I felt like I was on top of the world.

So, what started out as a rough morning of delayed tubes and not knowing who was coming to get me, ended with a great story to share with people and a picture with one of my favorite athletes.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter

@The8thKing

I got more exercise than expected while watching the women’s triathlon

For a second while I was watching the Olympic women’s triathlon, I thought I was in a race myself.

As my group of BSU at the Games members stood around Serpentine Lake, surrounded by thousands of people watching the triathletes furiously swim in front of us, some fans around us began to turn around. They started pushing through the massive crowd of people until they reached a clearing, and then it was a full-on sprint to the other side of Hyde Park.

Jonathan Batuello, one of our group members, was among those hurrying away from the lake even though the swimming portion wasn’t over. I hurried after him, but he ran so fast from the crowd I lost track of him.

At that point, it didn’t take long to figure out what everyone was running toward.

As the triathletes pulled themselves out of the water and onto their bikes, fans were racing over to the cycling track to get the best possible view of the next portion of the race.

It was funny to see how the rows of people next to the street worked itself out. Those who ran fast enough and knew they had to leave the swimming portion early earned the ultimate prize of getting great photos. Those of us who didn’t had to deal with photos that had heads and cameras in the way of the shot.

Our group learned from the first run through the park and made it over to the running track after the cycling was halfway finished. No running was necessary this time, and after a half hour of waiting, we were able to get a decent view of the triathletes sprinting by us.

For the first Olympic sport I’ve ever seen in-person, the women’s triathlon is memorable just for getting me out of a seat. That’s not something I’m used to as a football and basketball fan.

Still, the next time I sit down to comfortably watch a sport with a hot dog in one hand and a drink in the other, I know I won’t take it for granted.

Andrew Mishler  |  Sports Reporter

@andrewmishler

Chasm between sports cultures

Sports culture differs vastly depending on the sport, team or region, but watching abroad seems like a paradigm shift. Fanaticism in America amounts to Red Sox and Yankees fans hating each other, painting faces, decorating rooms for college football game days and tailgating in parking lots. The media and venues drive much of the fanaticism in the United States, with ESPN constantly reporting on the Miami Heat and stadiums’ P.A. systems encouraging the crowds to collectively chant specific phrases.

I’ve noticed things are radically different in England. Attending the USA women’s soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester drastically changed my outlook on British sports. The venue offered nostalgia for old stadiums like Wrigley Field and Fenway. Temporary video boards light up the corners of the stadium for spectators to watch the game unfold. As soon as the match started I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The only P.A. announcements after the national anthems were for the four substitutions in the match. Not a single promotion. Not a single pump-up chant. No music. No organist. No fun.

The communal atmosphere of collective cheers and chants disappeared, in their place sporadic and short USA chants. The British arena didn’t accommodate the American crowd.

When English Premier League’s Manchester United plays, Old Trafford is a different atmosphere, with constant chants and songs from the crowd. Football requires some form of audience entertainment during slow periods of play. The American crowd hadn’t been together years and years to learn team songs or chants. As a member of the crowd, I wanted an organist, similar to baseball games, to play “Charge,” “Defense” or even “Olé Olé” to build a better atmosphere in the crowd.

A silent baseball game best describes the atmosphere. Every fan remained seated except when a team attacked the net. Most of the crowd noise consisted of murmurs from conversation.

Maybe if the venue allowed alcohol into the stands the atmosphere would have changed the feeling. Alcohol is only permitted on the concourse. There are no beer-men or carts around the stadium. What fan wants to go drink hidden from the action during a match? This caused a mass exodus during halftime of the crowd disappearing into the bowels of the stadium for a drink or two.

The game was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the chasm between crowd and players widened more than I have ever witnessed as a sports fan. Without audience participation, the match wasn’t worth the extorted prices LOCOG and the IOC charge. I love England’s culture and atmosphere, but the presentation of sport is deeply disappointing for a nation so rich in sports heritage. Or I should be sure to come back when United plays.

Alex Kartman  |  Adviser

@ajkartman

Opportunities of a lifetime can be a little intimidating

I’m so excited to have been given the opportunity to partner with The Chicago Tribune. Although I am a senior in college and well into my major, it amazes me how much I’ve already learned from my editor, Alex Bordens, in less than a week!

Currently working in Worcester has allowed me to get my hands on some great graphics work. The projects have tight deadlines, and with the rest of my team working in London, I was able to help Alex out with a few graphics that were due back in Chicago on Saturday. I was a bit nervous, but obviously I took him up on the offer and got right to work.

Slowly but surely I’m going to get faster and better with these programs. I picked up a venue graphic about ExCeL, London’s largest venue, as well as a small locator map and a swimsuit graphic that Emily, Sarah, Jen and I were given a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, because of the results of one of the races, it seems as though our swimsuit graphic won’t be running any time soon.  Looks like the athletes are actually talented enough to win medals without that fancy swimsuit worn in the Beijing Games.

Anyway, working with The Chicago Tribune also means I have to follow its style guide and overall flow of design, work, research, etc. This is a big jump from my usual work, which has always allowed me design freedom and never had a strong student-media focus.

This is a huge step for me, but one that I am happy to take. This fast pace and strict way of working is keeping me on my toes as well as allowing me to explore newspaper design. In the long run, I am confident that this work will improve my overall skills as a designer, and that is something I am excited for.

During the summer weeks when a few other designers and I worked with Alex, we found it difficult to send our files back and forth for editing. Having him here now brings us such relief. I know what to change right then and there, what works and what doesn’t, and what needs more attention—all bettering my understanding of the Tribune’s design style.

I’m still finding myself struggling to really go out and show what I can do. Maybe it’s some sort of stage fright or maybe it’s not—either way I am hopeful that I will be able just to relax and realize that this what I love to do. I shouldn’t hold myself back for fear of failure. Besides, producing multiple drafts doesn’t mean that I’m failing. It means that I am moving one step closer to the final product.

Lastly, can I just freak out about the fact that my name, alongside my peers’, will appear in bylines in multiple issues of The Chicago Tribune? OH MY GOSH.  I am so lucky and could not be happier to be in this position. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and one that is stationed in the city of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Best. Summer. Ever.

Annie Gonzalez |  Designer

@annie_gonz