London 2012 (08.02.2012) – Happy ‘Cuse Day!

Nathan Adrian, Three Ways

Every sport has its signature event. For team sports, its usually the gold medal final or major championship game. For individual sports, its the event that everyone usually talks about, buys tickets to, and showcases the sport’s best stars. Golf has the Masters. Tennis has Wimbledon. American Football: The Super Bowl.

In the Olympics, for diving, it’s the men’s 10m platform. Track and field has the men’s 100m. Figure skating’s biggest night is always the ladies’ free skate. Gymnastics: The women’s all-around.

And in swimming, it’s usually the men’s 100m freestyle. And there may not be a Michael Phelps or a Ryan Lochte in this race. But this event has traditionally produced and featured some of the sport’s biggest stars such as Peter Van Den Hoogenband, Alexander Popov, Gary Hall, Jr., Ian Thorpe and Mark Spitz.

The final took place last night and it was a memorable one. It featured Nathan Adrian, one of the up and coming American stars in swimming, as well as Brazil’s Caesar Cielo, who holds the world record in the event, and the defending world champion (who we’ve written about before) Australia’s James Magnussen.

First, here’s how those watching the unbiased world feed saw the race.

Then, here’s how most Americans saw the race on NBC.

The race was that good that it deserved a look-back on Olympic O-Zone. The show features one look-back segment every night and that’s what one of the editors worked on during his 12-hour shift the day after the race (I recall nearly logging an old interview from Magnussen for this piece last night before being told to leave because my shift was over and that I should get some sleep.)

So after adding in some soundbites from old interviews, some feature shots, editing in some super slow-mo replays and alternate camera angles, here’s how one of my favorite Sports Desk editors (though all the editors are awesome) put together the redux of last night’s thrilling race.

There you have it. Three different ways to watch the same race. And just think about how different the Canadians, Brazilians and Australians saw the race. It all depends on how you look at it.

On Judo Watch

This is one of my favorite and more memorable stories that I got to log. In fact, this might be the most memorable of the many that I’ve helped produce.

Kayla Harrison is a judoka (aka someone that participates in judo). She’s the defending world champion and looks to win the U.S.’s first gold medal in the sport. But her journey to this point has been anything but easy. First off, here’s her story that aired on Olympic O-Zone.

Today, she competed and I was the one who followed the story from her preliminary round win to the final. I watched every one of her matches from my desk (thank goodness I had access to every feed so I can watch from my desk). Every time she came up to the mat, I’d yell out “Judo Watch”, which would get the attention of the producers and my supervisors to look at their TV and switch on the judo match.

Watching judo in a room full of people that don’t know anything about the sport (including myself) is quite an experience. The only rule I knew is that if you are able to throw down your opponent, you’ve scored an ippon and win the match automatically (that’s how Harrison advanced in each of her matches). And if the score somehow remains tied after an extra time session, the winner is decided by judge’s decision. Other than that, we didn’t know how anyone scored in judo matches. At times, we made up our own scoring system.

As expected, she made it all the way to the final. And at 4PM, all eyes were on the gold medal bout against surprise finalist, Great Britain’s Gemma Gibbons.

Just like that, history was made. And if it wasn’t the Olympics, we likely wouldn’t have cared about a story of a woman who had overcome obstacles like sexual abuse and self-doubt to reach her goal.

She was interviewed later during NBC’s daytime show and the producer of the O-Zone story said to me, “Hey David, let’s go stalk this athlete.” It sounded like a weird request but I wasn’t going to say no. We made the walk over, across the hall and stood outside Studio B. And after the interview ended, Harrison and her coach, Jimmy Pedro, walked out. My eyes immediately were drawn to what was hanging from her neck.

For the first time, I came face to face with an Olympic gold medal.

It looked heavy and I somehow found a way to resist myself from asking if I could touch it. It looked beautiful and the woman wearing it deserved it. As my producer chatted with the gold medalist, all I could do is put my hand out and congratulate the coach that helped her on her journey.

Reppin’ the pride of ‘Cuse

I had some talks a few weeks ago with some of the other interns from Syracuse and we discussed picking a day when all the SU interns should wear Orange. There’s interns from lots of other schools, but most were either from Syracuse, Ithaca or USC. Syracuse was the first school that NBC partnered with when they started this internship program back in 2004.

I was in charge of the Facebook group that all the SU interns were a part of so I decided to be proactive and choose a day. I decided for today because that’s when four of the five SU alums that were here in London were in action, including USA men’s basketball assistant coach Jim Boeheim, forward Carmelo Anthony, field hockey player Shannon Taylor and Canadian rower Natalie Mastracci. Last Sunday, I told everyone to wear Orange on this day, and most people who checked their Facebook did. I even got some of the interns working at 30 Rock in NYC to participate too.

The NBC interns from Syracuse (well, just four of them, including myself).
My friends working at 30 Rock taking part in ‘Cuse Day.
I thought it would be enough to get a pic with fellow SportsDesk colleague Taylor Costas, who represented her dad, Olympics Primetime host and SU attendee Bob Costas…
…but the primetime interns got the money shot from ‘Cuse Day at London 2012, with the man himself.
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