Posts tagged "Thomas Finchum"

The power of passion

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

@JoshJBlessing

Daily VIdeo: Thomas Finchum | USA Diving

BSU at the Games daily video series featuring Team USA athletes.

Thomas Finchum – USA Diving

Photo of the week: Olympic diver David Boudia

David Boudia has been a member of the U.S. National Diving Team since 2000 and competed in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the 10-meter platform and synchronized 10-meter platform (with partner Thomas Finchum). He’s currently attending Purdue University and training for this summer’s Games.

Look for our story on Boudia, coming soon!

US Diving's David Boudia at practice

Behind every great story—a great relationship

Errol Spence, Jr., doesn’t know what I am about to write.  Neither does Eric Shanteau.  But I am convinced those two individuals entered my life for a reason this week.

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

@BallStateCT

2012 Team USA Media Summit


Seven members of the BSU at the Games team interviewed athletes and viewed sports demonstrations at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas in May. Read more about it here.

Photos by Ryan Sparrow and Chris Taylor.

 

Athletes in order of appearance:

1. Kayla Harrison (Judo) 2. Mary Killman and Maria Koroleva (Synchronized Swimming) 3. Brady Ellison (Archery) 4. Brady Ellison 5. Errol Spence, Jr. (Boxing) 6. Michael Phelps (Swimming) 7. First Lady Michelle Obama 8. Rau’Shee Warren (Boxing) 9. Mary Killman (Synchronized Swimming) 10. Alex Meyer (Swimming) 11. Alexander Massiaslas (Fencing) 12. Hunter Kemper (Triathlon) 13. Jessica Long (Paralympic Swimming) 14. Thomas Finchum (Diving) 15. Joseph Diaz, Jr. (Boxing) 16. Wallace Spearmon (Track & Field) 17. Trey Hardee (Track & Field) 18. Nastia Liukin (Gymnastics) 19. Joshua Richmond (Shooting)

Thoughts from a plane over Dallas

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

@joshjblessing

Photo of the week: Olympic diver Thomas Finchum in practice

U.S. Olympic diver Thomas Finchum, pictured here about to dive from a 33-foot platform, will travel to London this summer to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Photo by Tyler Varnau. Check out the entire album of Finchum at practice for more diving photos.

Go the the full story and video: U.S. Diving’s Thomas Finchum Performs on Many Stages.

 

U.S. Olympic Diver Thomas Finchum prepares to dive from a 33-foot platform

Practice with Olympic diver Thomas Finchum

Photos from our interview with U.S. Olympic Diving Team member Thomas Finchum after practice. Go the the full story and video: U.S. Diving’s Thomas Finchum Performs on Many Stages.

Photos by Tyler Varnau.

USA Diving’s Thomas Finchum performs on many stages

By Josh Blessing | BSU at the Games

US Diving's Thomas Finchum

USA Diving's Thomas Finchum | Photo by: Tyler Varnau

VIDEO:  The Thomas Finchum Story

On any given afternoon, you can find Thomas Finchum standing 33 feet above a diving well. He has about two seconds to perform a perfect routine, recalling the hours of practice that have guided him to this point.

The scene happens over and over.  It has to for one of the world’s elite divers.

However, the Olympic diving stage isn’t the only stage for Finchum.  There’s another platform where he performs, but one not everyone sees—yet.

While many people spend their whole lives searching for something to strive above and beyond in, Finchum has managed to exceed in another area along with diving—his music.

“I was always singing in choir,” Finchum said while his band, Northern Nights, set up for a concert just over his shoulder. “It was always so different being in a choir. You never have the chance to stand out.

“You’re always in a big group so it was never intimidating or nerve-racking at all. Doing this, being out front and center—it’s totally different.”

The nonstop lifestyle of training for the London 2012 Olympic Games takes its toll not only physically but also mentally.

The demanding hours to be an elite athlete can be pressing, but Finchum’s dream of becoming a country music star keep him moving forward.

“He’s extremely dedicated,” said Chelsea Kogg, Finchum’s cousin and band manager.  “A lot of people get envious because he’s so good at a lot of things. People overlook everything he gives up to be good at two things in such a huge way.”

The fast-paced lifestyle the Olympian lives is evident in his musical journey too.

During summer 2011, Finchum and friends Brock Bell, Drew Beechler and Nathan Ayer formed Northern Nights. Less than six months later—Dec. 1, 2011—he celebrated his birthday by receiving a unique present.

The band’s debut single, “Baby I’m Gone,” was released on iTunes for the whole world to hear. Northern Nights officially began its music career.

“That was a pretty cool present,” Finchum said. “It was crazy. Our song was up on iTunes. The whole world could pretty much hear it.  It was that point where, well, I can’t really turn back now.”

Finchum knows there is no limit for what Northern Nights can become.  The single downloads and live performances added to his schedule weekly prove it.

“We want to do as much as we can in music,” Finchum said. “It’s a crazy industry. It’s a lot of rejection and a lot of hard times. I’m used to working hard—and I’m used to having big dreams.”

 

 

Josh Blessing is a junior telecommunications major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Josh and the BSU team at @JoshJBlessing@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Photo of the week: diver and singer Thomas Finchum

U.S. Olympic diver Thomas Finchum performs with his band Northern Nights when not training for the 2012 Summer Games.

Photo by Alex Kartman. Check out the entire album of our interview with Thomas Finchum and Northern Nights.