2016 summer games

PODCAST EPISODE #43: Cheryl Preheim, morning anchor, KUSA-TV

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I may have said this a time or two in the past month:

The Olympics are an extraordinary assignment.

I have had the privilege of covering the event three times, most recently this August in Rio de Janeiro. I find the assignment tests me in a variety of ways, both professionally and personally, and provides both unique challenges and wonderful memories.

I have not been alone. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of journalists descend upon the Olympics every two years, and they are all tasked with providing a window for their readers and viewers that enables a greater connection to both the Games and their host city.

I saw few handle this as deftly as the team at KUSA-TV in Denver. The NBC affiliate (and TEGNA sister station) comes equipped with a team of journalists who consistently make the extra push to tell the best story for their audience.

One of those journalists, morning anchor Cheryl Preheim, is my guest on this episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I got to know Preheim at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and worked with her again in Rio. In both cases I marveled at her abilities as a storyteller and her disposition as a person. Through a grueling 25 days, she always seemed to find the energy and optimism while putting together great work for her viewers.

Listen to this podcast, and you’ll get a window into what makes Preheim such a strong storyteller — and what makes the Olympics such a daunting yet rewarding assignment.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: One day, two legends on a stunning Saturday in Rio

The following statement should not come as a surprise, as I imagine it has become evident through my Olympic blog posts so far:

I am a huge sports fan.

I grew up wanting to broadcast the Super Bowl. I religiously followed my favorite teams and, for three years, wrote annual football preview magazines that filled 200 pages. I never sold them, and I never published them online because “online”, at that point, barely existed. But I loved writing them, just as I loved every way I could find to soak in the world of sport.

Back then, I longed for the moments when I could watch, in person, the best athletes in the world.

I still remember, in the early Nineties, going to the Meadowlands in New Jersey to see my hometown Nets take on the Chicago Bulls – and, of course, their superstar, Michael Jordan. That night His Airness played an average game (for him) but still provided a handful of highlights that dazzled the crowd. I savored that game because, for one night, I got to witness the best.

This past Saturday, covering the 2016 Summer Games, I experienced that again – twice.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Watching a Bulldog go for gold

“This is what it’s all about.”

That was my thought while I stood in the bowels of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium, peeking around a curtain to watch one of the most exciting races of the Summer Games’ first weekend.

I had been following a slew of local Olympians leading up to my assignment to Rio, but few impressed me quite like Chase Kalisz. I had read a Washington Post article that profiled his recovery from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that forced doctors to induce Kalisz into a coma. Kalisz was eight at the time; by 18, he had developed into one of the top young competitive swimmers in the country. He signed on with the University of Georgia and proceeded to set school and NCAA records.

He continued his rocket-like rise this year, upsetting Ryan Lochte at the US Olympic Trials to qualify for the 2016 Summer Games. I interviewed him the day that I left for Rio; he seemed like a genuinely gracious person. But I found myself more moved by a previous interview, after he won at Trials, when he spoke of how much he had dreamed of this moment.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said with a grin that wouldn’t go away. “This is the one thing I’ve been wanting to do my entire life. This is been my dream since … it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted this bad.”

That quote told his story. It tells the story of so many athletes who compete in various races and meets that simply don’t approach the grandness of the Olympics. Kalisz would say after his Rio race that he felt less nervous at the Games than at Trials, because he almost felt more pressure to qualify for the Olympics than to medal at them.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: I tried a coxinha, and Brazilian Twitter went wild

I can barely believe it, but I have already been in Brazil for nearly a week. In that time, I have done multiple reports and made numerous posts to Facebook and Twitter, cataloging some of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic sights and elaborate Olympic venues.

But nothing has gained as much attention as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about a Brazilian culinary staple.

On Wednesday, a large group of us went on a day-long tour of the city, and midway through we stopped at the famous Selaron Steps. As we wrapped up and awaited our buses, one of my colleagues began talking with a Rio resident and pointed at an item in her hand from a street vendor.

It was a coxinha.

I had no idea what a coxinha was, but my colleague described it as a chicken hush puppy. Then she started passing it around.

I had to try … and I’m glad it did, because it was delicious. Within minutes, I posted the proof of my culinary victory to Twitter. It received a few likes and re-Tweets but quickly sank into the ether, like nearly every other Tweet, never to surface again.

Except it did.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Getting up-close and in the clouds in Rio

“It is what it is.”

That’s the sentence I heard from several of my colleagues as we stood among the clouds, barely able to see ten feet in front of us.

The site? Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. It’s most famous for the landmark that stands atop it: the Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands 124 feet tall and in 2007 was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Hundreds of visitors flock daily to the statue, but they equally admire the views that extend from it.

Not on this day.

We found ourselves awash in a mixture of fog, mist, and full-on rain. We had seen peeks of the vistas as we rode a cable car to the top, but by the time we arrived, we could hardly see the statue.

It is what it is.

And, in this case, “what it is” was pretty freaking surreal.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer seemed like a silhouette in the distance, even as it towered over us. I could not help but be impressed and awed.

We visited the statue as part of a day-long tour arranged by NBC. We hit a number of Rio’s most iconic spots and came upon a barrage of beautiful views and eclectic sights.  I plan to put together a full video report about the day, but in the meantime I figured I could provide a photo gallery so you can see what I saw.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: I’m my own boss. And I’m working myself wild.

I have always fancied the life of an entrepreneur.

“I have good ideas,” I think to myself. “How romantic would it be to seize one of them, start my own business, and be my own boss? Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the control?”

Then I talk with friends of mine who run their own companies, and I immediately come back to reality.

The entrepreneur’s life is as daunting as it as rewarding. Such a person must serve as a company’s permanent last line of defense, working to exhaustion to push forward his or her product. One must possess an extraordinary drive and passion to do it well. When I remember that, I more greatly appreciate my non-entrepreneurial existence.

But at the Olympics, I get a taste of what such a life would be like.

And, it turns out, I’m a pretty demanding boss.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Life out here is just … different

This is me.

This is me, above, on the bus home after a 14-hour workday, writing this blog entry.

This is me, below, working so late that I missed the cafeteria dinner and had to settle for a cup of yogurt.

(And they had no spoons or forks left, so I drank it out of the cup.)

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This is me on a relatively light day covering the Olympics.

And it’s only Day 1.

I have received this assignment twice before, at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. As a result, I know quite well how I will likely, over the next few weeks in Rio de Janeiro, redefine a “normal workday”.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Rio is stunning, on the surface

There’s a feeling that hits me every time I travel that reminds me why I travel.

It happens early in the trip, usually within a few hours of landing at the airport.

You see, I love the jolt I receive when I first click “BOOK” on a flight to an uncharted destination. I swell with anticipation and wish I could pack my bags and depart that minute. But then I return to real life, focus on my many responsibilities at home, and struggle to regenerate that jolt of excitement. During the days leading up to a vacation, I rarely get the chance to think about it because I must complete a bunch of last-minute errands. Even when I get on the plane and land in a new city, I feel eager but also sluggish from the long flight.

Then I escape the airport and head to wherever I’m going, and soon I arrive upon some spot — a vista, building, monument, or special site – that freezes me with its power and beauty. I stop mid-conversation or mid-thought to savor the moment, and I instantly think (sometimes out loud): “Wow … this is cool. This is why I wanted to come here.”

It happened again Sunday, roughly two hours into my current travel experience: a three-week trip to cover the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Ready for Rio, preparing for the grind

Eight years ago this week, I received my first opportunity to cover a major national event … and thus my first experience with, for an extended period of time, working to the limit.

I flew to Denver to report from the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the eventual nomination of our current president, Barack Obama. I operated by myself in a sea of tens of thousands, lugged 50 pounds of equipment to and from my workspace each day, turned roughly a dozen stories, and used any brief window of free time to gobble down enough food to sustain me for the next few hours.

Exhausting, right? Not enjoyable at all, right?

And yet, when I returned home, I wrote this — in all sincerity — to my boss:

This was one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life. I ended up working some 60 hours in four days in Denver, and it was partly because I kept looking for new things to cover, because I didn’t want to waste a minute of the experience.

Yup. When the work is that riveting, I actually crave it. And as I stare into my immediate future, I spy another extended brush with extended hours:

On Saturday I head to Rio de Janeiro to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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