Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Today began with more bright, beautiful skies and warm temperatures...and a pocket full of "mugging money!"  At the advice of my coworker, I put some Brazilian money in my running shorts and headed off on this mystery run he told me about.  It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!  NO muggings and even a few "Bon Dias" from the locals! I cannot believe I just discovered this area and I leave in 48 hours.  The run is along a winding mountain road, with beautiful homes, farms and gated communities.  There are tons of bikers and other runners/walkers on this road.  Of course, I forgot my phone...so no pictures today, but I'll do the run again before I leave and promise to show some spectacular scenery. The place I turned around was a fork, where if you went to the left, you would head down to a beach and if you turned right, you would be able to run up a cliffside trail.  I so hope I can make it back out there to take some pictures.  My final working day is tomorrow (Wed), and since Gymnastics ended today, I cover Womens Golf tomorrow and therefore have to be at the course early.

So...today was the final day of Gymnastics competition and it was a big day for Team USA, wth lots of other storylines attached.

The Men's Parallel Bars was the first event and Danell (duh-NELL) Leyva (LAY-vah) won Silver for the USA!  What makes his story interesting is he was originally an ALTERNATE for this year's team, but John Orozco got injured before the Games, meaning Leyva was put on the team for Rio.
As you'll see by the end of this, he made the most of his second chance!  In the Parallel Bars, he went first and put up a score that only one other gymnast beat.  So the day started with Silver for Leyva!

Next was the Womens Floor Final.  Simone Biles and Aly Raisman had finished 1, 2 in the Qualifying Competition.  Raisman won the Gold in this event in the last Olympics and Biles was going for her record-tying 4th Gold Medal of these Olympics.  To make a long story short, Biles took the Gold and Raisman won Silver...and (another great name), Amy Tinkler, of Great Britain won Bronze!

What many people don't understand is Biles' level of difficulty is what gives her the advantage over the other competitors, even Raisman.  She can even afford a less than perfect routine because she is attempting such difficult moves.  That was the case today, and she edged out Raisman.
I'm free to discuss the following now since it's over...but Simone was tired.  This was her 1st Olympics and she competed every day.  The Floor is the most physically demanding event, so many behind the scenes were wondering if her fatigue would prevent her from bringing her best.  It did not!
So..Biles became the 1st American woman gymnast to win 4 Gold Medals in the same Olympics and the 5th overall in history.  Once it was confirmed they would win Gold and Silver, Amanda and I were sent down to the Interview area to talk to them, then would have to sprint back up to the booth to announce the Men's Horizontal(High) Bar competition.

We had to keep our eye on a monitor at our position to know when we would be getting the gymnasts and when the mens event would begin.  Here's a picture of the monitor we have to watch when we're in the interview area, because we can't see the competition floor:
Once we got set up, I looked at the position next to us because it's usually empty.  However, I was in for quite a shock, as standing next to me holding a microphone was none other than the "Today Show's" Matt Lauer!  Amanda and her 1996 Gold-Medal-winning team called the "Magnificent Seven" had just appeared on "Today" prior to coming to Rio.  Matt recognized her immediately and the introduction to me followed.  He was super nice and acted very normally.  We talked gymnastics, discussed where I lived and what I did at ESPN, and also joked around a lot...imagine that!
He's much taller than I thought, as I've been around the shorter Al Roker several times, but not Matt.  He's not out in public as much as the other Today Show personalities.  Once I felt like we were on good enough terms, I got him to pose for a picture to send to my family.  He did a shocked pose, though it was all staged...haha!  After that, Aly Raisman came through.  Matt interviewed her first, then Amanda and I got her.  She posed for us with her medal, since she and Amanda are such good friends.  Even Matt Lauer didn't get THIS!  Haha!
A couple of behind the scenes moments with Aly Raisman just after she posed for this...

On the monitor behind us, the mens high bar competition had begun.  We only had to call the American routines, so we had a few moments before we would have to leave.  At the time Aly finished with us, she said "wow...there's the flying Dutchman and I gotta see his routine!"  Google "Epke Zonderland", of the Netherlands.  He's a legend in the Horizontal(High) Bar event...does insane things that no one else dares to do!  Today at that moment, he went up for a crazy, high-flying move and came crashing down right on the side of his face!
Raisman looked at me and said, "Did you see that?!  Is he ok?!" (Amanda won't watch him because she's always afraid he's going to get killed!)
I said, "yes I saw it... and he face planted but hasn't gotten up!"
Raisman then turned and looked across the room where Simone had just started her interviews and screams, "SIMONE, SIMONE...you gotta come see THIS!!" Simone looked conflicted and the press officer told Raisman not to do that because Simone was being interviewed on LIVE television!! Haha!
Anyway...he was fine but had a huge welt and red mark on the top of his forehead...whew!

The other behind-the-scenes moment was Raisman telling us she couldn't wait to get home to see her dogs!  She said she had been gone a month and was so homesick for them...really sweet.

The worst part about Matt Lauer being there was he took WAY too long interviewing Raisman, so by the time we finished ours, we didn't have time to talk to Simone.  We had to literally sprint back up the booth...two steps at a time, 4 floors up, to be in position to call the Mens High Bar, as American Sam Mikulak was about to go.

So we got up to the booth out of breath and Mikulak was just about to begin.  He posted a good score that remained in 3rd until the final competitor went...Silver Medlaist from earlier in the day, Danell Leyva.  Leyva did the routine of his life and jumped up into 2nd place, knocking his US teammate, Sam Mikulak, into 4th!  Bittersweet...as Leyva won his 2nd silver of the day but Mikulak got no medal!

Afterwards, we interviewed Leyva and asked him about originally being the alternate and then getting on the team after Orozco got hurt.  He said that's why he won two medals, one for him and one for Orozco...really kind and touching perspective
So that ended a big night and an historic Olympics for Team USA in Gymnastics!

Simone Biles made history, becoming the 5th woman from any country to win 4 gymnastics GOLD medals at a single Olympic Games and also became the 1st American female gymnast to win 4 career GOLD medals. 

• The U.S. women’s team took in its largest medal haul ever at a single Olympic Games with 9 total medals – eclipsing its previous record of 8 set in 1984 and 2008. 

Aly Raisman contributed to those 9 total medals by winning silver on floor exercise, her 3rd medal of these Olympics.  So with 6 total Olympic medals, Raisman now ranks 2nd behind Shannon Miller (7 medals) amongst the list of top medal winners in U.S. women’s gymnastics history. 

• The U.S. men’s and women’s gymnastics teams combined for a total of 12 medals at these Games, its most since 1984 when the teams combined to win 16.

I've told people I've cried every single day of the Gymnastics competition, because I've seen something inspiring every day!

We took the Media Shuttle back the IBC and our office to wrap up the long day.  One of cool things about going to the studio is you never know who's going to be in there!  As we were meeting with our Executive Producer, he announced he had just found out the US' Gold/Silver Medal Triple Jumpers were headed in! For the second straight Olympic Games, Christian Taylor and Will Claye won Gold and Silver in the Triple Jump for the US!  They came into the studio and hung out for a bit after their interview.  Here's the scoreboard of them winning and also a picture of them signing a ball for our Track Analyst, Carol Lewis...a former Olympian and sister of legend Carl Lewis.  
**One interesting note is that Claye proposed to his girlfriend, 2008 track and field Olympian, Queen Harrison, after winning silver...she said yes!  Since they were really cool guys and we were having fun, I had to ask if he had not won a medal, would she still have said "yes" ?!  He said she probably would've asked HIM in that case, because she would've felt so bad for him...awwwww

So after they cleared out, Amanda started saying good bye to all the crew.  Our producer told her he had something he wanted to show her before she left.  He opened his laptop and began playing the 1996 Olympic Gymnastics Gala, which is a tradition that the night after competition ends, the medal-winning gymnasts from every event put on a light-hearted exhibition for fans.  It was HILARIOUS! 2016 Amanda Borden, now happily married and the mother of three beautiful children...was forced to watch 1996 US Gymnast Amanda Borden, performing the "macarena" and dancing to the song "YMCA"with all her teammates and other medal-winners...with a sporty 90s hairdo!  Haha...it was the first time since I've been here that I was glad NOT to be an Olympian!!

So that ends my work as a Gymnastics announcer but I still have a couple of days to go.  Tomorrow, I'll be reporting from the Womens Golf Competition, which is loaded with the top LPGA golfers in the world!  I'm looking forward to working an outdoor event!

Sorry the humor quotient was a little lower tonight, but it was a news-making kind of day!  

Since one of my friends' told me his kids love reading about the bathroom stuff I endure here, I'll slide this picture in of what men pee in here...(you're welcome... Carter, Lacy and Bentley Kennedy!)
(Please don't be mad at me, Wistie...totally Robert's fault...NEVER tell a journalist the truth...
and obviously, always be careful what you ask for! HAHA)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Today was a beautiful day in Rio...a temperature that got up to the mid-80's with not a cloud in the sky.  However, since it's actually winter here and we have the impact of mountains and ocean, the weather can change quickly.  When we went into the arena, it was hot...when we exited the arena at night, it was extremely windy, chilly and cloudy!  Just a little weather report there...

One interesting sight I see every day upon entering the International Broadcast Compound on my way to the NBC wing...a television monitor in front of the office of the South Korean tv network "KBS Sports.  It literally is showing a non-stop singing/dancing show, like "American Idol" meets "America's Got Talent"...it has nothing to do with the Olympics as far as i can tell, and they are the Olympics rights holder in South Korea.  Why in the world is this always on?!!  Is this what we'll all be doing at the South Korean Winter Olympics in 2018?!  Just had to share this random event I witness each day:

Today we had three individual event finals: Mens Rings, Mens Vault and Womens Beam.  Since we are a US network, it was decided we would only focus on the Americans today, which meant only covering one event...the Womens Beam.  Simone Biles, the two-time reigning world champion, would be going for a record-tying 4th Gold Medal at a single Olympic Games...and 16 year old Laurie Hernandez would be going for her 1st individual medal.  This event is the least predictable of all of them, since it involves doing moves and staying on a 4-inch thick balance beam...ANYONE can lost their balance at ANY time!  You can look at the results, but needless to say, Simone's streak was broken and she won Bronze, while Hernandez took Silver.

The Netherlands', Sonne (SAHN-ay) Wevers won the FIRST Gymnastics Olympic Individual Gold Medal in Dutch history and the Dutch hadn't won ANY medal since they won a team medal in 1928...more history!  Also,  the fact that she beat Simone Biles, the best gymnast in the world right now, made it even more impressive!

*One interesting note about the competition...Laurie Hernandez' score was not what the Team USA coaching staff thought it should be, so they issued what's called an "Inquiry"...meaning the routine is reviewed again by the judges at the request of the coaches.  This could be because the coaches felt the level of difficulty wasn't credited accurately or a gymnast didn't get the proper score on execution.  We now have challenges and electronic reviews in several sports. HOWEVER, in Gymnastics, each time an Inquiry is issued, it costs the team making the inquiry $300!! If the inquiry is successful, the $300 is returned to the team.  But if the inquiry is not successful, meaning the judges were right, the $300 is donated to a charitable fund they have.  Could you imagine a tennis player or NFL coach having to pay $300 for every challenge made?!

Funny story about new Gold Medalist, Sonne Wevers...her twin sister is on the Dutch team too and has one of my two favorite names in Gymnastics...it's Lieke Wevers, which in my American-English is LEAKY WEAVERS!!  I've had fun off-air with that name all week: "Wevers has leaked errors during this routine!..."Its a leaky day of mistakes for Wevers", etc!
OK...full disclosure...her name should correctly be pronounced "LEEK-eh VAY-vers", but that's no fun!!!  My other favorite gymnast name is a male Chinese gymnast named SHUDI DANG, or to me, "SHOO-DEE DANG"!!  Does that sound like a rap artist's name or what?! I could go on all night with that one...and I have to our crew...but I'll spare you!

Anyway...back to the actual historic event...Sonne Wevers and the Dutch Gymnastics team nicknamed themselves "Dutch Elegance" and her beam routine is an example of that.  Instead of high-flying aerials or layouts, Wevers stuns crowds and judges with her graceful spins.  For example, she does a double turn with a horizontal leg on a 4-inch thick balance beam(I actually have no idea what that means, but it sure does look impressive...hah!)

Personally, If an American couldn't win, then I would want a Dutch gymnast to win.  Julie and I have been going to Aruba and staying in the same place for almost 20 years.  We have dear friends in Aruba that we consider our "Aruban family."  When we go down there, we attend our friends' children's baseball games(hi Anushka!), go to their houses, play tennis with them(hi Paul!), etc!  I was so happy for Aruba, as Aruba is a Dutch island.  When you go to Aruba, the languages most everyone speaks are Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish and English.  In fact, when Bruce Jenner announced he was identifying as a woman(you go, Bruce...fine with me!), I actually told Julie that I was going to start identifying as an ARUBAN!!  You guys know I'm not being insensitive, just having some innocent fun!

SO here you go my Aruban/Dutch friends, the Wevers that didn't "Leak" errors...your 1st Olympic Gymnastics Gold Medalist!

More behind the scenes info...between you and me...
Simone Biles has had to put up with so many ridiculous questions while doing interviews with the foreign journalists.  Since I'm working with a former gold-medal winning gymnast, Amanda Borden, Biles is very comfortable with us and chats with us off air...just normal conversation.  Today a Brazilian tv host was live on air and asked her to kiss him on the cheek...she refused with a look that made me laugh and probably made him scared to death!  She is such a sweet young woman with a bubbly personality and beautiful smile, but underneath that sweetness is a toughness and self-confidence you can feel.  She would not be one to cross and seems like she would defend her teammates, friends and family ferociously.  You don't get to see a lot of that on TV, but she's exactly what you'd want someone representing our nation to be: kind, encouraging, intelligent, positive, tough and a self confident leader...in a 4ft 8in package! Hey...maybe she could run for President!!!

Upon returning to the IBC (International Broadcast Compound), Amanda and I got in a recording studio and had to record some discussions about the days' events and previewing tomorrow, which will be played in the live studio show and on newscasts around the country.  Across the hallway, a live show was being broadcast and the guest was Emma Coburn, who earlier in the day won a Bronze Medal in the Steeplechase event at Track&Field.  Google "steeplechase" because it's a fascinating event and one every person who's ever run through the rain or jumped over mud puddles can relate to..."it's worth a Google"
Here's a pic I took from one room to the other:
OK...so earlier today in our Production Office, one of my co-workers who has to come in to work
way earlier than I, told me about a media-member-run he had organized last weekend.  Our Media Village is located in a way out, remote area...so I just assumed I may be a prime sniper target if I ventured out, so I've been imprisoned with an elliptical machine since I got here! He laughed and said we were actually located in one the wealthiest, safest parts of Rio...that down the street are mansions and gated communities all along a remote road that leads to a beautiful BEACH!  What the heck?!  How am I just now finding this out, as I love to explore places I travel to by going for a long, scenic run!!  He emailed me the route to take and I'm going to do it first thing Tuesday morning.  I told him about my apparent false safety assumption and fear of danger and he said it was all good... THEN, he casually mentioned that it may not be a bad idea to take some "MUGGING MONEY in my shorts pocket!!
SAY WHAT?! He went on to proclaim that the murder rate and violent crime in Rio is actually way less than the rest of Brazil, but that most of the crime is petty crime...or mugging people for money!  He said most people here carry the equivalent of about $10 on them at all times for "muggings"...
meaning if someone approaches you with a knife wanting money, you just hand them that money and they leave you alone!  He showed me breathtaking pictures of the run, route, mountain side and beach...so the adventurer in me is going to try it AND take the mugging money, just in case!  I'll probably already have done it by the time you read this...so keep checking back to see if I made it and I'll also try to take pictures of the run, the beach if I make that far, and of course, of the person who mugs me!

So... I haven't written a blog since Thursday and there's a reason... I was too busy and sleep-deprived to write, but definitely not complaining, because it was an inspirational past few days...

There was no gymnastics on Friday or Saturday, so since I was here primarily to announce Gymnastics, technically I had two days off.  I got back to my room Thurs night after gymnastics had ended and was pondering what I was going to do for the next two days.  I then received a text from our Executive Producer.  He asked me if I would be willing to attend a US Womens Volleyball match on Friday, so I jumped at the chance, as one of my ESPN on-air partners is volleyball legend, Karch Kiraly, and he's our US Womens Volleyball coach!  They wanted me to watch, do some live updates to the NY studio and then interview Karch after the match.  No problem!

About 30 minutes later, I received another text saying after Indoor Volleyball, they also wanted me to head out to Copacabana Beach and do updates from Beach Volleyball...but (GINORMOUS BUT)...
the match didn't start until MIDNIGHT!!  However, I would be reporting on Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross' Round of 16 match!  Walsh-Jennings is the greatest womens beach volleyball player of all time and has NEVER lost an Olympic match!

If you're at home watching, you'll notice that several high-profile sports don't start until late.  That's to make sure they air in US primetime, or anywhere from 7pm-Midnight ET.  Rio is one-hour ahead of US Eastern Time.  I was still super excited.  Then they told me the process would involve taking 4 buses and using equipment I had never seen before...and there was no one to go with me, so I would be on my own!  YIKES!!  These Olympic Games are really spread out and shockingly, very few people associated with the Olympic transportation speak English.  It would take an hour to get to Indoor Volleyball, an hour to go from there to Beach Volleyball and two hours to get from Beach Volleyball to the Media Village Hotel!
There's a Media-Only App called, "TM", that you can download allowing you to put in the places you want to go, and it tells you what bus line to take and the approximate time it takes to get to your destination...here it is:

I figured it out and began my journey to indoor volleyball.  It started at 3pm and I was on my way by 1pm.  I arrived with no issues and despite very little English spoken, made it into the arena and into my designated spot.  Here's the equipment I had to operate that I also had never seen before.
But I was given a good tutorial and my UNC education kicked in, and I hooked it up properly!
I would not have been able to do this had I attended Duke!
This contraption is like a mini-studio.  It allows me to connect to the NY national studio, where they have a person monitoring my signal and I hear the show through my headphones.  At :16 and :46 after each hour, they would come to me for updates, which I would give through the headset (not pictured but connected to the unit)

I settled in and Team USA came out to a dramatic light show!  I had goosebumps, as Karch is the coach and I commentated every player on his roster when they were in college!  I was SO proud and excited to see them walk out.  Here's the many different looks of the court and they won the match over Italy
Interviewing Karch after the match was so fun!  It was surreal interviewing him when we usually work together!  After the interview, he asked about my family since he knows them,  and we talked about working together again this fall...normal stuff...despite the fact he's trying to lead his team to a Gold medal!  Of all the elite former athletes I'm blessed to work with, Karch Kiraly is at the top of the list... the only man to win Gold Medals in Indoor and Beach Volleyball, as well being an NCAA ACADEMIC Hall of Famer as a Biochemistry major at UCLA...
he is considered to be the "Michael Jordan" of volleyball, or the greatest male player of all time.

So...it was on to figuring out how to get to Copacabana for the midnight beach volleyball match.  I was leaving at 6pm, so I had SIX-hours to get there...haha!  Apparently, I was the only one desperate to get out there so early, as you can see from the empty shuttle bus I was on!
The entire day, the Barry Manilow song "Copacabana" kept playing in my head and it would not stop!  Like "It's a Small World"...just couldn't get it outta my head!!  I even arranged for our daughter, Lindsay, to call me at 11pm to ask me the question, "Where are you?"
I gleefully sung back to her, in my best Barry Manilow, "At the Co-pa...Copacabana!"
I figured it was the only time in my life I could actually make those lyrics work in a real-life, telling-the-truth situation...so I had to go for it!!
Lindsay's response was, "So THAT'S why you had me call and ask that?!"
Classic...love that girl...

Anyway, I need to back up...since I arrived 5 hours before the match, I decided to walk the paved walkway along the beach to our NBC compound.  It seemed like it was taking a long time, but I finally saw some lights and trailers and signs that said "NBC".  I walked up to two security guards and said, " I need to find the Broadcast Manager...can you help me?" To which they happily replied, "NO English"!
So I held up my pass and asked, "NBC?"...and they erupted in smiles and said "Ahh, NBC!" and directed me in.  The place was a ghost town, but I found a trailer with what looked like a few people in it, so I walked in.  Immediately a lady said, "Hi!  Would you like to eat dinner?!"  I was in the catering tent!  "YES, Yes I would!", I replied.  So I got a nice plate of grilled salmon, steamed broccoli and fruit salad.  I wolfed that down and headed back out...still no one around.  I saw a dark set, and as I approached, I came upon a door...here it is...

I had accidentally walked a half-mile too far to the "Today Show" set and compound!!!  And...
I ate their food!! Sorry Matt and Al!  All good, as I later found out, all NBC employees at the Games can eat in ANY catering area...whew!  I was finally directed to the Beach Volleyball Broadcast Compound, taken to my position, and was ready for some Beach Volleyball.  The smell of salt hung in the air and I loved it!  I was worried about getting too tired though.  I've never been a coffee drinker, so a few years ago, I would down a Costco-brand, 5-hour energy product each morning.  I decided that wasn't a good habit, so now I take a caffeine pill each morning and I'm good to go!  However, for this trip, I brought some of the Energy Shots with me.  I told my wife, Julie, that at 10pm I was going to take it, so I did!
Lindsay made the infamous "Copacabana call" perfectly at 11pm (she is SO sweet...actually set an alarm to make sure she called on time...did I mention I love that girl?!)  After she indulged my silliness, Julie got on the phone.  Another match was going on and the atmosphere was loud and electric.  I said, "honey, this is so cool! I'm not tired at all! The environment here has woken me up and I don't have any idea what time it is!"  She paused and then, in her sweet but incredulous voice, said "That's because you drank a 5-HOUR ENERGY!!"  Oh man...she was right...DUH!!!

So the prematch festivities included a light show which I posted on Instagram, and then the legend Kerri Walsh Jennings and her new partner, April Ross were introduced...awesome...more goosebumps...in the presence of volleyball greatness again!

They crushed the Italian team, I interviewed them and then began the two-hour journey back to the hotel...getting in at 3:30am!

During the Beach match, our producer texted me again and said that since there was no gymnastics on Saturday, would I like to report on the womens tennis medal matches?  I said "sure" obviously, as tennis is the sport I work in most.  It meant I would have to be up by 7:30am however...ugh...but then I thought, "hey, you're at the Olympics...who cares...go for it!!"  The silver lining was that I knew i could get a good breakfast at the NBC Commissary, since during Gymnastics I typically eat a protein/green powder shake and Quest bar for breakfast, then get a workout in, and then get to the IBC for our production meeting and lunch.

So I got to sleep at 4am and woke up at 7:30am.  I'm a morning person, which means I wake up fully alert regardless of how much sleep I've gotten.  My struggle comes the afternoon after I've not gotten enough sleep.  I got up easily and headed to work.  I was able to walk to the tennis venue from the IBC, which is something I had not been able to do in the other sports I've worked.  It was a bright, crisp, sunny morning (remember is Winter here...more like Miami-type of winter)
Up first was the Womens Bronze Medal match between Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys.  Good match but Kvitova won in 3-sets.  I headed to Centre Court from Court 1 and had a match to wait on before the Gold Medal women's match...but it was Rafael Nadal playing Argentine, Juan Martin DelPotro!  WOW!! I stood and watched one of the best mens matches I've seen all year.  The atmosphere was amazing and since we were in Brazil, most were pulling for DelPotro!  People were yelling and screaming...babies were crying...chanting and songs were being sung...it felt more like a soccer game than a tennis match!  One fan would scream out something in Spanish or Portuguese and then people would start booing them!  At one point, the umpire had to remind everyone that this was a TENNIS match and that they must be respectful of the players!
Delpotro won in a 3rd set tiebreak and collapsed to the court in joy, as it meant he would play Andy Murray next for the Gold Medal.  Here's some pics of Kvitova's match and Delpo's match/reaction:

I had a little break, so I decided to get a snack and actually spend some Brazilian money...something I hadn't ended to do yet, since all my meals are free in the NBC Commissary and I haven't even seen a souvenir shop...really!  The Brazilian money is called "Real" and is pronounced "Ree-AL".  I bought the popcorn and the only reason I bring this up is that they DON'T salt their popcorn when it's popped!  You get a box of unsalted popcorn and they motion for you to grab salt packets and salt to taste.  I did, and went back to the Media Workroom to get my stuff.  Not thinking, I was down to a few kernels, so I tilted the box up to pour the rest in my mouth...it hit my tongue and I immediately wanted to spit it out, because I had just gotten a mouth full of all the SALT I had been during on it!!!  DUH!!!!

Next up was the Gold Medal Womens Singles match between world-#2 and heavily favored, Angelique Kerber, of Germany, and Puerto Rican, 35th ranked, Monica Puig.
Puerto Rico had NEVER won a Gold Medal in ANY sport at ANY Olympics.  Puig played the match of her life, blasting 45 winners in front of a passionate, packed arena all pulling for her!  She made history and won the match and Puerto Rico's 1st Gold Medal!!!!  It was one of the most emotional and inspirational moments I had experienced so far, because she was a HUGE underdog.  Earlier in the day, her agent coincidentally sat next to me during the Kvitova match and he was annoyingly taking phone calls while I was trying to file reports and commentate the match.  He was negotiating deals, setting up interview requests for Puig,  and at one point, took a call from someone who was illegally using her image on an ad for a company she didn't endorse.  I remember thinking, "Dude...Monica Puig is gonna get crushed by Kerber today, so all this interest is not going to last!"  Haha!  Shows you that no matter how well you know a sport and the athletes that play it, the match still has to be played!  Now she's the most famous athlete in Puerto Rico and their first Gold Medalist!

As I was leaving the arena, I was so inspired and overwhelmed with emotion after watching what Puig had done against all odds!  I actually got a lump of humility in my throat and thankful. moist tears in my eyes, as I reflected on how blessed I was to witness that and be attending these Olympic Games.  I have literally seen something inspiring every day I've been here!

I was allowed to go back to my room...done for the day at 9pm...whew!  I would be back to gymnastics tomorrow but it was an action-packed, fulfilling two days "off"...haha!

SUNDAY, Aug 14:  Mornings are my favorite time in the room at the Media Village.  The sun rises early here and sets early.  For example, it's usually completely dark by 6pm.  From my bed, I can lean over and open the curtains to a glorious Brazilian mountainous sunrise, perfectly placed between two  buildings!  It is from this spot I read my daily devotions, pray and look at emails/texts to start each day:

After my morning "quiet time", I drank a Green Foods/Protein shake, took my vitamins and ate a Quest bar for breakfast.  This peaceful time was about to be interrupted.  I headed out to the balcony and did a light workout of pushups, sit-ups and air squats.  Once I hit my target number of each, I turned around to go back into the room...only to discover the sliding glass door locks from the INSIDE!  Yes, I was locked out of my room on a balcony, three-stories up, while most people were sleeping!!  So...I took a deep breath, tried not to panic, prayed again and went over to my bedroom window.  It was unlocked!!  Praise the Lord...I crawled in and all was good!!  No need to do anymore cardio though, as my heart rate had definitely maxed out during that ordeal!  Haha!

I arrived at the IBC for lunch and our production meeting.  It was a day that would feature 3 event finals...Mens Floor, Mens Pommel Horse, Womens Vault and Womens Parallel Bars.
Going into the day, Great Britain had NEVER won a gold medal in Mens Gymnastics...that was about to change!  Max Whitlock shocked everyone and won Gold on Floor!  What made it even more exciting was 2 Brazilians won Silver and Bronze!  The arena went absolutely bonkers!  We've laughed the entire time here because it doesn't matter what a Brazilian gymnast actually does, the crowd here treats it as if it's the greatest routine they've ever seen!  The Brazilian gymnasts were crying tears of joy and poor Max Whitlock had to put up with this heavy display of Brazilian emotion...and he had just won the first Gold Medal in Great Britain's history!!

To add to the drama of the day...Max Whitlock won a SECOND GOLD MEDAL on the Pommel Horse and the Union Jack was flying high and proud!  The first two Gold Medals for Mens Gymnastics in Great Britain's history...all won by Max Whitlock in the span of one hour!

The other massive moment of the day was Simone Biles wining her 3rd Gold Medal of the Olympics, today was for Vault.  She went last in the rotation and it was SO clear she's the best in the world.  Her next event is the Beam.  She could still leave the Olympics as the winningest gymnast in history...a potential 5 Gold Medals!  Three down...two to go!

Later in the day, Madison Kocian, our Bars Specialist, won the Silver Medal and I was able to interview after.
So that wraps up my Fri, Sat and Sun!  More to come after Monday's competition!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thurs, Aug 11- Simone!! AND...A work problem I have, you've never thought of...hmmmmmm

Before describing one of the best nights of my work announcing gymnastics, I want to attempt to describe one of the dilemmas and difficult decisions I face while working so many international events, especially this one:
Whether when walking toward someone, the decision to walk by them on the right or the left!  Think about it...because we DRIVE on the right-hand side of the road in the US,  you always know to go to the right when walking toward someone.  BUT... if you're walking toward a foreigner from a country that drives on the LEFT- hand side of the road, they always want to go to the left...which means you collide head-on!  At these international events, there are a lot of head-on collisions, but they typically involve people who don't always speak the same language and are definitely not from the same country.  It's a work hazard I face every day here and soon again at the US Open...haha!

Moving on...this is NOT a self promotion, but when I decided to write this blog, I also wanted it to be a journal for myself to document my experiences.  Someday I'll probably have no idea who I am anymore, so one of my grandkids can read this to me and show me the following:

Link: wralsportsfan.com/15920120  If you click the hyperlink in the story, supposedly you can see the video piece, but I can't watch it here in Rio because of it being a US video.  If I look and sound like a dork, don't tell me!
Seriously, this Olympic gig IS a dream come true...I'm forever blessed by this experience and since I have no idea if I'll ever get to do it again, I wanted to blog/journal about it to preserve the memories!
This whole Olympic assignment has reminded me of a quote from a book I've been reading:

So...tonight's work experience.  In Womens Gymnastics, we moved from the Team to the Individual competition.  The "Final Five" women's team won Gold two nights ago, but only two of them could qualify for the Individual All Around competition.  Those two were Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. Here's how the All Around works: 24 gymnasts qualify overall and each country is only allowed 2 competitors.  The 24 are divided into 4 groups of 6, and compete over the course of 4 rotations on vault, uneven bars, beam and floor.
Prior to the event, Amanda and I had to appear on a NY radio show to discuss the competition with a sports anchor, as well as give a report.  After that, the lights went out and another really entertaining pre-event show was performed by some Rio-based dancer/gymnasts:
You can read and/or watch the coverage as to how they did it, but Simone Biles won the Gold and Aly Raisman won the Silver!!  The US became the first nation in the history of the Olympics to have a gymnast win the All-Around title in 4 straight Olympic Games.  It was such an emotional night again, as when Raisman finished her Floor routine, she immediately burst into tears of joy, as this is probably her final Olympics.  Biles was AMAZING...never looked like she was under any pressure at all.  The US gymnasts are so fun to watch because they are SO good!  They are also really kind and sweet people, as since I'm working with Amanda Borden, they've come over and talked to us a lot.
Here's a picture I took of the TV monitor at our interview position...it's of the Medal Ceremony and we watch this monitor to know when they will be coming to us:
FINALLY, couple of pictures of Simone Biles in the interview area after getting her Gold medal.
The first is of her being interviewed by the Russian TV journalists, but the second is my favorite picture so far!  After we interviewed her, we asked her to pose for us with her medal... and she sweetly and giggly did!
Such a sweet sweet young woman and I'm so proud she represents my country. She is kind, strong and intelligent...and she still has the chance to become the first gymnast in history to win 5 Gold medals, as she will now compete in the events finals of Floor, Beam and Vault!

Gymnastics takes two days off now, so I have the honor of next covering the US Womens Volleyball team!  Ironically the US coach, legendary Karch Kiraly, is one of my most consistent on-air volleyball announcing partners at ESPN...can't wait!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WED AUG 10 at the Rio Olympics:  KING KOHEI and the Pommell!! 
Today at the Olympics we moved from Team Finals to the Mens Gymnastics All Around Finals...another big moment to crown a Gold Medal to the best male gymnast in the world.
It was also a wet, cool and soggy day in Rio, and since a lot of areas didn't get paved due to budget problems, it was a big mess!  Here's a picture from our "it-was-supposed-to-be-paved" NBC gymnastics compound!

The day started quickly for me, as I had an earlier than usual production meeting, was asked to record some previews and was also requested to be interviewed for a piece on WRAL-TV in Raleigh, which happens to be the station I grew up watching most often when I lived in Fayetteville!  They are doing features on North Carolinians at the Olympics and somehow got my name.  Renee Chou, the WRAL morning show anchor, contacted me and asked if I would meet them at the Rio Arena to do the feature.  We searched for a spot to do the interview and since the arena was empty, we ended up on the cushy and very stylishly British, BBC Gymnastics set! Shhhh...don't tell anyone...but obviously James Bond wasn't around to guard it and the door was open!
After she finished interviewing me, the photographer wanted us all to go down to the competition floor, as all the broadcast booths are located at least two-levels above the floor.  He had us walk and talk while he filmed us to use as more video for the feature.

This was really cool to be walking around the dimly lit arena in the same spots the Team USA "Final Five" women had been competing the night before.  It was set up for the men, as tonight was the Mens All Around Individual Final.  I had a good chance to see every apparatus used in each rotation of competition.
Upon inspection and upon reflection, how in the world did POMMEL HORSE get to be an Olympic sport?!

I mean, I can somewhat relate to the other events in mens gymnastics...I've played on the rings on my childhood jungle gym(Rings) , I've swung on a bar at the playground(High Bar), I've inched my way across and balanced myself on monkey bars(Parallel Bars) and have even vaulted over a few couches onto cushions in my day(Vault)!  But NEVER have I walked up to a bench and thought...hmmm...if I raise this up and put a couple of handles on this bad boy, I could twirl myself around, while going  back and forth, and see how close I can get to destroying my male anatomy!  I mean...what is the history of this event and how did it become an Olympic sport?!  Do you think a couple of original Greek Olympians were drinking too much wine one night and made this up?!  Somewhere in history, someone had a good laugh that this actually became a judged event...but it DID!

Sorry for the digression, but can you tell I'm starting to get homesick, since I'm now pondering such things!?

Anyway, tonight was another big-time dramatic moment that yes, I cried at the end of!

To boil it all down, the mens All-Around Gold medal came down to the last two competitors on the same and final event...the high bar.

Backstory...6x World Champion and defending Olympic Gold Medalist, Kohei(KO-HAY) Uchimura, was slightly trailing a Ukrainian gymnast, Oleg Verniaiev(Ver-nyEYE-ehv) heading into the last rotation.  All the Ukrainian had to do was score 14.899 or better and he would dethrone the gymnast they call King Kohei, considered to be the best male gymnast of all time.
Verniaiev stumbled a bit on his landing and scored a 14.8!!!  Therefore, by less than a tenth, the reign of King Kohei continued and he won his second straight Olympic All-Around Gold Medal!!
It was SO dramatic, as I can't imagine the pressure of that final routine!  The Ukrainian was the last gymnast to go, knew what he had to score, and the entire arena was watching him!

Anyway, Kohei seems so cool, got married right after the London Games and they've had two little girls in the past 4 years.  He announced that despite the next Olympics being in Tokyo, this would be his final Olympics competing in the all-around...he will only compete in the team competition and specific events in Tokyo.  He seems like such a quiet, disciplined and kind person...but since he doesn't speak a lick of English, I didn't have to go interview him and was able to watch my first medal ceremony in person(all the other medal ceremonies took place while I set up for interviews)  When they put the Gold Medal around his next and the Japanese national anthem started, I got really choked up...imagine that!

So long live King Kohei!

However, next up is the Womens All-Around Final and a chance for Simone Biles to win her 1st individual Gold Medal, after leading Team USA to the Team Gold on Tuesday.  She and Aly Raisman will compete for the US and there's a very realistic chance they could finish with Gold and Silver...stay tuned...more medals and more memorable moments to come!

Good night...time to go find a pommel horse and practice!