winter games

PODCAST EPISODE #14: Dave Schwartz, sports anchor, KARE-TV

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“What is it like to cover the Olympics?”

I have heard this question from virtually everyone I know since I came back from Russia three weeks ago.

But before I answer, I generally need to ask a question of my own:

“Which part?”

Reporting from the Olympics combines an array of unique experiences for any journalist. On the list:

  • covering a massive international event
  • corresponding from a foreign country
  • working extremely long hours, with zero days off, for nearly a month

In the case of the 2014 Winter Olympics, you can throw a few more items onto the list, such as concerns about security and privacy in what many consider a hostile country.

I documented my experiences through my numerous on-air stories as well as fifteen blog entries from Russia. But I promised I would use this space, soon after I returned, to showcase the viewpoint of someone else.

Enter Dave Schwartz.

The sports anchor and reporter for KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul worked several seats down from me in Sochi, but in some ways he experienced the Winter Games far differently. He covered numerous local athletes and events, where I typically focused on the Olympic atmosphere. He worked with a partner from his station, while I mostly worked by myself.

And on a personal level, Schwartz spent three weeks in Sochi, ten time zones away from his wife and kids.

Schwartz joined me on the latest episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Culture shock? What culture shock?

I like to travel.

A lot.

And when I do, I seek the authentic – often to an absurd level.

When I toured Japan, I walked around one village in a white robe because to do otherwise would have been considered impolite. (It felt wonderful.)

When my girlfriend and I visited Italy, I demanded that we stop in Naples for the sole purpose of dining at the world’s oldest pizzeria. (It was delicious.)

And when I hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, I got so sick from food poisoning and altitude sickness that I had to spend two nights in a Peruvian hospital. (This one was not intentional.)

So naturally, when I got the call to go to Russia for the Olympics, I imagined numerous opportunities to scratch my authenticity itch.

After half a week, I’m still itching.

To be sure, the Olympic venues in Sochi are remarkable in many ways. The mountains are both imposing and impressive; the coastal cluster is full of fancy, brand-new arenas that look every bit as expensive as advertised.

But those sites seem more Olympian than Russian.

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MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: A tale of two Atlanta bosledders

The state of Georgia, with its scorching summers, may not seem like a hotbed of the bobsled.

And yet, in the past five years, the Peach State has produced two of America’s best.

Getting to know them has been a fascinating part of my Olympics journey.

I met Elana Meyers in 2009, months before she won the bronze medal in bobsled in the 2010 Winter Games. I followed her through the journey, from training in Lake Placid through her post-medal celebration in Vancouver. I interviewed family members and learned a great deal about her path to Olympic success.

But in the past four years, I have received a fuller picture.

Meyers is an active presence on Twitter and in the blogosphere. In fact, so are many of her teammates and fellow Olympians. And these athletes, unlike those in the major American sports, use their online platform to go into great detail about their lives.

And the lives of winter sports athletes are extremely atypical — and, some might say, full of contradictions.

First, consider this: Athletes like Meyers are professionals and among the best in the world at their sports. They shine on the world’s largest stage every four years; they receive access to some of the most advanced sporting equipment and technology; and they get to travel the world annually during their sports’ seasons.

Now, consider this: Athletes like Meyers often have to work part-time jobs to raise money for extra gear. They have a six-month off-season in which many study at online universities for their degrees. They rarely receive endorsements, have to hunt for sponsors, and, except for the Olympics, toil in anonymity despite their elite level of competition.

Perhaps that’s why athletes like Meyers put themselves out there online. They offer a window to anyone who is interested into their truly unique existences.

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