As the world pulls together to weather the storm of a pandemic, our global village eagerly awaits the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, postponed until 2021. Right there waiting are the men and women who dedicate their careers to Olympic storytelling.
We caught up with a few of TEGNA’s sports journalists who shared some of their unforgettable Olympic stories — from hometown athletes living around the corner to those previously undiscovered competitors from around the world.
Matt Pearl has professionally covered three Olympics: Vancouver in 2010, Sochi in 2014, and Rio in 2016.
For Pearl, the rush and magic of the Games are felt immediately on location. “My favorite memories have always been walking through fan zones and interviewing people from the home country. There is always such enthusiasm and pride in the ability to play host and welcome the world.”
For sportscasters, there is a unique duality in being a journalist and a fan — the events and athletes they cover in their professional life, and the flood of sports memories that informed their childhood.
“I know its cliché, but as a kid in 1992 I was mesmerized by the Dream Team. As an adult, I have vivid memories in 2016 of watching both Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt in person. To see these greats in their final Games – still as exhilarating as ever – was an extraordinary experience.”
Nick Camino from WKYC studios in Cleveland, Ohio, has his own Olympic touchstone.
“I grew up in a wrestling family, so watching Rulon Gardner defeat Aleksandr Karelin at the 2000 Summer Olympics always sticks out. Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years and had not had a single-point scored on him in six years. Gardner was big in the wrestling community.”
“What most excites me for Tokyo is actually the Opening Ceremony, given this year’s games were postponed. It could truly signify a sign of unity for the entire world,” shared Camino.
A story of overcoming adversity sticks in the favorite Olympic memories of Adam Benigni, Sports Director at WGRZ in Buffalo, New York.
“There have been so many, from Carl Lewis to Michael Phelps … but I think my favorite would have to be Mary Lou Retton back in ’84 … to see her deliver such a sterling performance under such pressure. As someone who now covers sports for a living, it’s a memory I still draw on when I think of the all-time great clutch performances.”
Reflecting on what the Tokyo 2020 Games will mean when they are finally played in 2021, Benigni draws on his recent interview with Buffalo’s own gold medalist at the Rio Games, rower Emily Regan, who expressed frustration when the 2020 Games were postponed.
“In the midst of all that frustration, she thought these Tokyo Games would be among the greatest Olympics ever. Given the added dedication from the athletes, everyone would appreciate to an even greater degree just how meaningful the Games are.”
Sometimes it’s the battles waged separate and apart from the actual training for a competition that makes for thrilling profiles in courage. Matt Renoux, Reporter at 9News KUSA in Denver, Colorado remembers the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and American parallel snowboarder Chris Klug.
“Chris is from Aspen and back then was one of the fastest on a snowboard. He had primary sclerosing cholangitis and needed a liver transplant. This would seem to have ended his Olympics dreams. Instead, it fueled those dreams, and less than a year after surgery he was racing, qualifying, and competing at Salt Lake, where he earned bronze. He was the first and is still the only transplant recipient to compete in a Winter or Summer Olympics.”
Renoux will be covering his seventh Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. He remains unjaded, still seeing it as something completely unique. “It’s like no other event on the planet and unmatched in the energy and optimism it generates.”
From the inspiration of past games to the promise of more powerful performances to come in Tokyo, there is across-the-board consensus that good things come to those who wait.
What is Your Game Plan for the Tokyo Games?
At a time when the world needs hope and unity more than ever, the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo present brands with a unique opportunity to use their platform, voice and creative to deliver powerful messaging that inspires the masses. Using memorable Olympic moments can help brands deliver these messages in a meaningful way.