KARE in Minneapolis is one of NBC’s strongest affiliates. Dave Schwartz, sports reporter, and anchor for KARE has covered the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, and will be heading to Tokyo in 2021. While sharing many of Team USA’s inspirational stories, Schwartz has developed close relationships with several Olympic athletes.
“Normally as sports reporters, there’s always a barrier between professional athletes and us,” Schwartz said. “What I love most about covering the Olympics is the unique bond you develop with these athletes. Frankly, you become emotionally invested. We’re all Team USA. You are a part of that team, and you feel a part of that team because we’re all USA.”
Olympic swimmer David Plummer, curling skip John Shuster, and members of the women’s ice hockey team are just a few of the athletes Schwartz has connected with over the years.
David Plummer, Swimming, Wins Bronze in Rio
According to Schwartz, Former Minnesota Gopher David Plummer missed qualifying for the 2012 Games by fractions of a second. Not one to be discouraged, Plummer committed to four more years of training and all the sacrifice that goes along with it, despite being considered “old” for an Olympian.
“I was so emotionally invested. My whole family watched the swimming trials, and when David qualified, we jumped for joy. I just wanted it for him so badly,” Schwartz said.
Once at the Games in 2016 in Rio, Plummer ended up winning a bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke and a gold medal for his role in the 4×100-meter medley relay.
“I was so happy for him when he won the bronze. You get to know these people on such a personal level, and it’s such an honor to be able to tell their stories,” Schwartz said.
The Women’s Ice Hockey Team Comes Back to Beat Canada
Schwartz has also gotten to know the Women’s Ice Hockey team well over the years, covering the highs and the lows. Schwartz recalls, “I remember in 2014 when they lost in that crazy gold medal overtime game against Canada. After the game, I interviewed Anne Schleper, and she’s very positive, and she came through, and she said, ‘You know what? Silver is not bad. We’re still one of the best, and we’re so happy.’”
“You could tell she was trying to put on a good face and do what she could do. But when she left, she walked through a door, and you could just hear this guttural scream at the top of her lungs mixed with tears. And it’s like, oh gosh, they just committed their lives to this for so long, to get that close and lose.”
The Games in 2018 would be a different story. Again in overtime with Canada, Schwartz was stressing, and co-workers pointed out a nervous tick he had developed watching the game. Team USA came out on top, and after the game, Schwartz recalls, “I didn’t even get a question out to Gigi Marvin before she smiled at me and she says, ‘Now, isn’t this so much better than the last time?’ That was absolutely incredible.”
John Shuster & The Men’s Curling Team
The athlete that Schwartz has gotten to know better than anyone is John Shuster, the skip of the men’s curling team. Schwartz admits, “This is probably my favorite story from all the Olympics, to be completely honest. It may end up being a movie someday.”
In 2014, according to Schwartz, “The men’s team did horrible. I remember seeing John in Olympic Park, just shocked and upset.” To make matters worse, the high-performance program wouldn’t be inviting John back for the next Games in 2018.
“John recommitted himself, changed his whole lifestyle, lost a ton of weight, picked a new team of people he knew, and they started competing again. They ended up being so good that the high-performance program had no choice but to bring them back, and they won the Olympic trials.”
But then, out of the gate, the team seemed to be repeating its 2014 performance. What happened next was nothing short of inspirational, as Schwartz explains, “They go on this amazing run, and they go to the championships, end up winning. I was so happy for them because it was such a great story of vindication for John Shuster. Everyone wrote him off, and he battled all the way back.”
Looking Forward to 2021 in Tokyo
Schwartz is one of the few TEGNA journalists who will make the trip to Tokyo in 2021 and knows just how unique these Games will be after such a grueling 2020.
“I think all of us in TEGNA, all the people that I’ve covered the Olympics with, are all fantastic journalists who take this job so seriously. We understand that at its very core, it comes down to relationships, and those relationships allow us to tell better stories than anybody else,” says Schwartz.
Using gold-medal-favorite BMX-er Alise Post as an example, Schwartz says, “I’ve known Alise for four and a half years. We keep in touch regularly. I know her husband. Naturally, I’m going to be able to get, I hope, a better interview than someone who just met her and only knew her based on what they saw in an informational packet that they got from a producer.”
The TEGNA Advantage – What Does This Mean For Brands?
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 – and that’s where TEGNA comes in. No other company can provide both the scale of national media brand and the local athlete connection that comes with being hometown journalists. Contact us today to learn more and be part of this inspiring journey.