USA Gymnastics: The Big Show

Last week was one of the busiest weeks of my life. From Monday at 9 a.m. to Saturday night at 10:30, I was going non-stop in Louisville for the USA Gymnastics Championships — the national championships for trampoline and tumbling, rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics. It was my first time seeing any of these disciplines live and I have to say, I’ll be going back for more.

Not only is rhythmic gymnastics a photographers’ dream, but trampoline, double-mini and tumbling keep you on the edge of your seat the entire competition. Not to mention my back ached just watching the acro pairs and groups perform.

Monday was setup day for the competition. My boss, Leslie, and I drove down mid-day, IMG_4125checked into our hotel, picked up our USA Gymnastics-issue apparel for the week (!!!) and headed to two hour-long meetings from 9-11 that night. We also had dinner with Karl Schmitt of the Louisville Sports Commission. He’s been around forever and knows just about everyone in the business, so he’s not a bad person to know, that’s for sure. Greg Fante of the sports commission also was at dinner. Hearing the stories Karl and Leslie threw around so casually about Richard Mellon (yes, of Carnegie Mellon), the nine gold-medalist boxers at the 1984 Olympics and so many more was very cool.

The real fun started the next morning with the first day of competition. My main setup wasIMG_4164 IMG_4160 at the Kentucky International Convention Center where all of the Junior Olympic and elite tumbling and double-mini competition would be held. My job while I was there was to collect results and type up the champions in AP style for the website (Elizabeth Grimsley, Decatur, Ga./Atlanta Gymnastics Center) as well as help with media coordination. Leslie was the KFC Yum! Center contact. We were set to have our first media come in, so instead of throwing me into shark infested waters without a chainmail wetsuit, she setup shop at the convention center to show me the ropes before heading over to the Yum! I’d like to pause for a second and say how much I like the Yum! Center. It’s one of my favorite arenas I’ve been in and even has a whole side of windows that looks over the Ohio River to Indiana. it’s pretty cool to say the least.

IMG_4158Whitney Harding of WHAS11 and her camera man arrived to shoot pieces on the tumblers’ rod floor and the event itself as well as interviews with our COO Ron Galimore and former acro world champion Arthur Davis. We escorted her to the rod floor and then to the acro floor to get b-roll. Whitney was a former gymnast with the infamous Bela Karolyi and was very friendly, so she was a great first media relations project for me.

That morning Leslie and I also scoped out the best spots for photographers to shoot from should they come. I took test shots from the stands, the competition floor and various other parts of the arena to find the best area for potential photographers. All week, I only had one photographer come to the convention center and she decided the angle was better from the spectator areas, so my job was made much easier since I didn’t have to escort her through the training areas or on the competition floor.

Wednesday was the day before the elite competition was set to begin as well as media day. Six of the top competing elites from the three disciplines came over to the Yum!IMG_4149 Center to talk to reporters about the event, their stories and anything else they might have been asked. Preparing for media started a while back. We had to lineup the athletes in advance, create fact sheets for the athletes and send our information to the media so they would know where to come, what to do and why they should be there. While were were expecting only a couple people to show up, we were surprised with at least six or seven photographers, TV crews and reporters. I also went around with our video services coordinator, Peter, and did video interviews of each of the athletes. After the interviews photographers and TV crews were allowed to go anywhere in the arena and shoot footage of the training going on at the time.

After media day ended, I ran back to the convention center to meet a radio reporter to do an interview with a local louisville kid competing in the J.O. competition as well as talk to Karl about the economic impact of the championships.

That day I also wrote a couple releases for things not having anything to do with the championships. Just because you’re spending all your time at an event doesn’t mean the other disciplines are at a standstill. The men’s national qualifier was being held in Colorado Springs that weekend and the Pan American Olympic Festival was set to begin the next day. We also released the names of all the competitors competing in Chicago at the Secret Classic in two weeks (which I also found out I will be going to!).

After a hectic day of running back and forth between the Yum! Center and convention center about four different times, my feet were seriously starting to hurt. But the day wasn’t over yet. That night we had our staff dinner and I got the privilege of meeting 2000 bronze medalist at the Olympic, Elise Ray, who would be commentating on the live webcasts at the Yum! Center.

IMG_4179If I thought I was busy Tuesday or Wednesday, I was in for a rude awakening with the start of elite competition Thursday. My day began at 8:30 that morning at the convention center. Once competition ended there at 4:30, I ran over to the Yum! Center to take video of the Kick-off Celebration at the plaza out front for Karl. Then the senior elite competition began at 6 p.m. and I was on the clock for results, releases and anything else that came up. The scoring system we use for these disciplines doesn’t have the ability to give us results in any form besides a PDF, so I had to manually type and track results after each routine to be able to get the top three put into AP style in time for newspapers’ deadlines. The IMG_4274spreadsheets I had made the previous week with the athletes names, hometowns and clubs ready to go in AP style were a lifesaver. While I worked on the results and took some pictures, Leslie worked on the release. After the competition we traded tasks to fact check all the scores and names as well as check for grammar mistakes and anything else. In the end, everything turned out fine as we got our results published in the agate of the Louisville Courier-Journal each day of elite competition.

Friday was much of the same with more competition at both buildings, more running back and forth, more results and more releases. The highlight was definitely the doube-mini and tumbling senior elite prelims. I have to give a shout out to Jerrett Jensen who stuck the crap out of a tumbling pass that I’m still in awe about. He not only qualified in second to the tumbling final and second to the double-mini final but qualified to the individual trampoline final as well. Saturday was a fun day and not just because the week that felt like it was lasting forever was finally almost over. In the morning, Leslie and I talked to the trampoline youth Olympians Nicole Ahsinger and Cody Gesuelli and put them through a short media training session. Both junior gymnasts, neither had much experience talking to the media, so we told them the dos and don’ts as well as what to expect and how to handle sticky situations. it was definitely interesting seeing what Leslie told them to do around media and be on that side of things. Now I know why interviewees act the way and answer the way they do somethings. It’ll help me better understand the process and hopefully help me become a better interviewer as well. After the media training, Nicole and Cody then got some practice in as I interviewed them for features I’m doing on the youth Olympians for the website (yay journalism!) with Nicole going before her competition and Cody just after he won his third consecutive junior national title. I have to say, even though they’re basically rookies in the interview game, both were great subjects, and I’m pretty excited to write up their stories. So keep an eye out for those coming to the USA Gym website soon.

That night was the final day of competition for the senior elites. Individual trampoline, rhythmic and acrobatic titles as well as national team spots were on the line. After finishing trampoline prelims, Jeffrey Gluckstein was in third. After semifinals, he was in second. After finals, Jeff made his way up to first and grabbed his second consecutive national title. After the meet, I took Kenzie Winstead of the Courier-Journal down to the floor to talk to Jeff for his story. I also got rhythmic co-champions (for the first time ever) Rebecca Sereda and Jazzy Kerber for Kenzie to talk to. After interviews we rushed to get results, the recap releases and the national team releases finished and sent out to the media before deadlines. By the time we left the arena it was 10:30 and the event was finally over. I might have been stressed and anxious the majority of the week, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Not only was the job part of my time there fun, but I truly enjoyed getting to watch the competition as well.

Logan DooleyIt all seems so crazy and hectic when I tell it this way and it may not seem like it, but there was some time to sit back and really enjoy the competition. I have a new respect for all three disciplines and hope that everyone can be exposed to them in some way. Gymnastics isn’t just the stuff you see on TV or watch during the Olympics (although, not to shock you, but trampoline and rhythmic is at the Olympics). I think if more people watch just one routine, they’ll be hooked and the sport will grow, which is the ultimate goal in the end anyway. I’m still amazed at how high theIMG_1256 trampolinists jump in the air or how they can correct their bounce when it looks they’re
about to crash. I’m still amazed at how double-mini trampolinists can do such difficult flips on a trampoline no bigger than a twin bed. I’m still amazed at how a power tumbler can do the equivalent of three artistic tumbling passes Hannah Silverman, Christina Antoniades, Emily Ruppertin one go and make it look effortless. I’m still amazed at how acro gymnasts can bend then bodies inRonit Shamuilov such a way or have the strength to hold up a 60- or 70-ish pound person in the air for long periods at a time. I’m still amazed at the ease rhythmic gymnasts do their skills and how they are able to catch a ball or hoop or clubs or ribbon from the air all while doing a leap or walkover.

Overall I really did enjoy my time in Louisville. Sure it might have been stressful or chaotic at times, but what job in media isn’t? Now it’s time to get back to the office after a much needed day off today and start final preparations for Chicago in just 10 days. I’ll also be a guest on THE gymnastics podcast Gymcastic this week to talk about the championships. And if you want to see all the best pictures I took at the event, go to the public Facebook album I created. Or check out the best of the best below.

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I have two weeks left in Indianapolis, and I intend to make the most of it.

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LeBron to the Cavs

Yesterday was payday. But not just any pay day. I can pretty confidently say that I can almost entirely thank LeBron (and Lee Jenkins) for my paycheck. As you all know, LBJ decided to break the news that he was heading back to Cleveland to SI writer Lee Jenkins. I’ll be the first to admit that I found out the news at the same time as Chris Broussard a.k.a. anyone with a Twitter account or smart phone. No one came running to SI Kids cubicles with the initial scoop, but it was still cool to hear the humming, buzzing, and cheering throughout the office when WE were the ones to break the biggest news in the NBA, if not all of sports. So, for that, I thank you LeBron.
On a more scalable and relatable level, I got my first byline in our print magazine, which came in early this week. It’s small, oh but it is there. While I’m still bitter they wouldn’t let me put Michigan State in our Top 10 for the CFB preview, it’s pretty cool seeing my name in the mag. You’ll have to wait until August for your copy. I’ve pretty much finished up the majority of the work I’ll be doing for our September issue, which includes our Tips page & a feature. Going to UGA has its perks when Chris Conley decides to become the next king of short films halfway through your internship. (PS- the September issue, our NFL issue, is full of UGA guys and I couldn’t be more proud.) I initially really pulled for a Shilique Calhoun (DE for Michigan State and my current obsession) feature but I’ll settle for Conley.
Since I only have two and half weeks left here, I’m really trying to make the most of it. We went and watch SI Now during the live broadcast on Tuesday (?) and the guest star was Jake Owen. Swoon. Also, the Rays were projected to go to the postseason by one of the SI Assistant Managing Editors during the show so it was a great day for me to be there. More likely than not, I’ll mosey on down to watch another show or two before I leave. It’s a really great opportunity to take advantage of and I have no problem cutting an hour out of my day to break eye contact with my computer. I also plan on spending copious amounts of time up in the SI library before I leave. You know the scene from Beauty and the Beast where Belle gets all starry-eyed over the beast’s library? Picture that, but more dimly lit and every piece of literature is sports-related. I can’t explain my fascination.
Yesterday the interns had a meeting with Peter King. If you don’t know who he is (what rock are you living under), he started the MMQB for SI and is basically the man of the NFL. He is one of the most inspiring and wonderful people I have met in my short-lived sports journalism career. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to have time to talk to him, do it.
Because I more or less just ramble about my life, I’m really bad at wrapping up these blog posts. So, I guess that’s all from New York City.

 

Michael Phelps is a funny guy

I’m about six weeks into my internship at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and I’m finally contributing to this blog. It’s been a long time coming, I know. But really, don’t thank me.

Thank Michael Phelps.

Let me just start off by saying that “I’ve been really busy” would be a grosser understatement than describing the city of Cleveland as “happy” today. But such is life.

I’m now taking advantage of some recreational writing time I’ve somehow come across today to tell you all about the single greatest moment of my juvenile journalism career: I asked Michael Phelps a question.

Now, let it be noted that feeling starstruck rarely happens when it becomes your job. At a point you realize that as Matt Ryan is starring you in the face answering whatever it is that just crawled out of your mouth, he’s just another human being. It’s a weird feeling, especially having lived in Atlanta my whole life and having grown up a Falcons fan (boo fanhood, what’s a fan? Not I.) But even so, this time around I was particularly nervous. I mean, it’s Michael Phelps. In my honest opinion, he is one of–if not the–greatest athletes of our generation. Well, ever really. And to have the opportunity to see him swim competitively in person, after he originally retired no less, was an experience in and of itself.

After he beat out Ryan Lochte in the 100-meter butterfly in Athens yesterday, he talked to the media for about 15 minutes and was one of the more personable and humorous athletes I’ve had the opportunity to talk to, even briefly (one question but hey, he gave a great response). And with that, I want to recount some of the other great experiences I’ve had over the last few weeks at the AJC to make up for my absence from the blog until today.

1. Breaking the story that Tray Matthews’ dismissal from UGA was credited to a classroom disruption during Maymester, among other things. And on my third day on the job. That was a blast and a half.

2. Meeting and interviewing Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon winner and the first American to win the race since the early 80s. He also won it after the horrendous Boston bombings the year prior, which was an inspiring moment for that city and the country as a whole.

3. Watching talented women like Maya Moore and Candace Parker do what they do best. Man, can those ladies ball out. I had a chance to interview Moore as well, and she really is someone young women should look up to.

4. Getting the last interview with linebacker Akeem Dent before his trade to Houston. Everyone had a feeling he was on his way out of Atlanta, and when I pulled him aside one day at minicamp, he had no idea he’d be traded hours later. It made the quotes I had all the more interesting, specifically because he talked about the stiff competition within his position group.

And now some of the more ridiculous experience I’ve had that constantly remind me of how fun this job truly is.

1. Nearly getting trucked by Atlanta Falcon Jonathan Massaquoi during minicamp and getting the whole thing on video.

2. Trying to come up with 10 ideas of what Tray Matthews could turn his Georgia ‘G’ tattoo into and somehow succeeding. The letter ‘G’ is awful and now I hate it. Have you ever realized it kind of looks like a pizza pie missing a slice? I almost lost my mind that day, but it ended up being the fourth most-read story on the site that weekend.

3. Interviewing a sassy nine-year-old runner the day before the Peachtree Road Race. We need to interview more children. Their soundbites are so pure it kills me.

4. Writing at 30+ inch story about birds. Yes, birds. Bald eagles to be exact, and I loved every minute of it.

And coming up…Falcons training camp while “Hard Knocks” films. I’m expecting that to be an interesting experience as well. Lists aside, I’ve learned so much that I feel as if I could take on the world. Obviously that’s a bit of a hyperbole, but the lessons I’ve come across in the last month and a half are seriously invaluable.

I wrote a running gamer for print, an updated one for digital and another story after the WNBA All-Stars were announced all in one night. Talk about the ultimate test of time management. And as I’m sure professor Michaelis can attest to this, that has always been one of my greater challenges as a reporter. But oh, the thrill of deadline. But a plug for you professor Michaelis–I literally could not have done it without your class. I barely did it at all. It’s tough stuff, a deadline gamer. But as my wonderful editor says, the only way to learn how to write on deadline is to just do it. And so I did, and thankfully he was proud of what I had accomplished.

And with that, I will now fall off the face of the earth for another six weeks. I’m kidding of course. I’ll come back to update as soon as I can. Can I shamelessly self-promote? To read my work, go to tanyasic.wordpress.com. I try and update it as often as possible with each story I write at the AJC, and it also has some of my work from The Red & Black as well. Thanks for reading, friends. It’s been quite the ride, and frankly I don’t want it to ever end.

USA Gymnastics: prep for the big event

So much has happened since my last post, but I’ll try to keep this on point. It’s been one busy week. For a while now we’ve been preparing for the USA Gymnastics Championships that are going on all next week in Louisville. It’s basically the national championships for trampoline and tumbling, rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics on the elite level and four junior Olympic levels, which is the step below elite.

I’ve been running around like a cat that just had a particularly large dose of catnip. Everyone in the office has been going nonstop trying to get everything squared away so we’re prepared. But before I get into all of that I’ll explain a little big about the different disciplines. What you see on TV and love to watch during the Olympics is artistic gymnastics. Trampoline and tumbling has three and a half disciplines basically. There’s individual trampolinesynchronized trampolinepower tumbling and double-mini. This is not your ordinary backyard trampoline. Rhythmic gymnastics is all about flexibility, dance, balances and dynamic movements. With rhythmic there’s individual and group routines. Its events for this quad are rope, hoop, ribbon and clubs. Then there’s acrobatic gymnastics. It’s similar to the stunt work done in cheerleading or the balancing acts you see in Cirque du Soleil shows. In acro there’s mixed pairswomen’s pairsmen’s pairswomen’s group and men’s group. While watching acro worlds live today, I was already envisioning pictures I could take next week.

Back to what I’ve been doing to help prepare. I honestly worked on a little bit of everything to get ready for the championships. A lot of the things I did were to make life easier next week — my kind of work. I wrote a field of competitors release for the championships (there are more than 1,600 competitors!), which took about three days to get completely finalized and ready to send out to the media. I reformatted a spreadsheet for ease when it Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 8.00.06 PMcomes to posting results and wrote a media opportunities release for the local media to let them know what each session contained and when it was and writing media advisories for the media day and kick-off celebration. I got to use my fancy Excel formula, which was exciting. Call me a nerd. Go on. The formula turns all that jumble in the picture into something like this when you plug it in: Elizabeth Grimsley, Decatur, Ga., and Caitlyn Stroh of Thomasville, Ga. both of University of Georgia.

I also worked on a lot of releases not having anything to do with the following week’s championships. Eddie Penev was awarded the USOC June Athlete of the Month, which I filled out the application for. Kerri Strug had her second child. The field of competitors was released for next week’s men’s national qualifier. The USOC announced the official delegation for the Youth Olympic Games, which includes four gymnasts. I also proofed releases coming in from France where Scott is covering the 2014 World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships.

I sat in on a call with a local Louisville newspaper editor as he and Leslie discussed feature story ideas and media day for next week. I also had what felt like 50 meetings, which I don’t actually mind all that much. I was even so busy Thursday, I almost forgot to eat. I definitely know what Nick means when he says sometimes being hungry is just so inconvenient.

Although this week was non-stop work, it should make next week a lot easier and a pretty fun event. I even get to take some pictures of the gymnastics going on when I’m not doing anything else, so be warned you’re about to have a lot of images coming your way in the next post. I also made sure to plant the seed that if there was a feature story idea a reporter didn’t want to write about, I would be MORE than happy to write it up for the website. I’m hoping next week I’ll not only get to take some pictures of stunning gymnastics but write about those stunning gymnasts as well. Besides that, I’ll be coordinating media at the convention center during the day and helping Leslie with that task at the Yum! Center at night. I might also get to finally meet some of the trampolinists (trampoliners?) in real life that I interviewed for stories over the phone a while back when I was writing for Inside Gymnastics during the Olympics.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.30 PMThat’s it for now. Next week is going to be crazy, but I’m sure with it will come some great stuff to write about and even greater pictures to help tell the story. I’m just hoping I survive Louisville! Until then, go on over to my personal blog and read about all of this plus a 20,000 member Jehovah’s Witness convention, descriptions of clouds and flying at night, my Indypendence Day and much more.

Flying solo with MLB.com

So the day finally came when I was given free reign over the Indians beat, and it was quite the experience.

Coming off a 10-day road trip, the regular Cleveland beat writer was given a much-needed two days off, leaving me to handle Tribe coverage for the first half of a four-game set with the Angels. As luck would have it, those turned out to be two of the busiest news days we’d had all summer. I wrote A LOT.

On Day 1, before I’d even left for the ball park, I wrote a 1,200 word overview of the top prospects in the organization’s pipeline that had been budgeted for the following day. (To be fair, I had about a week to write it, but I waited. What can I say, I’m used to a deadline.)

After that, there was a flurry of news. The team made a roster move, the great Tony Gwynn passed away — my editors wanted reactions from around the league on that — and I found out Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving had been scheduled to throw out the first pitch. He even showed up for a little photo op in the clubhouse.

Kyrie doesn’t look too bad in a Tribe jersey.

From here, normally all you have left is a running gamer and write-through. However, I wound up filing a handful of short news posts while also trying to, you know, watch the game.

1 – The AL All-Star ballot update came out. Michael Brantley was still on the leaderboard, so that warranted a small story.

2 – Brantley got pulled in the fifth inning with a “mild concussion” — if any concussion can truly be considered mild. Short update filed.

3 – Asdrubal Cabrera had a home run confirmed by replay review. We’re expected to write something brief about any review or challenge that happens during the game, so that was another story.

4 – On top of all of this, the team put out a press release stating that it had signed one of its top draft picks. So that was obviously deserving of a write-up.

By the time I had started my running gamer, it was the fifth or sixth inning. It definitely wasn’t my best, though luckily I was able to make up for it in the write-through. I got to write about the Indians winning the game on the all-too-rare seven-out save — from a long relief man, no less.

On to Day 2, when (surprise!) the team officially announced it had signed four more of its top draft picks, including the first-rounder. Surprise No. 2 came when I learned that all four were in Cleveland and would be available for an impromptu press conference.

CLEpresser

The guy in the center: Justus Sheffield (Gary’s nephew), an 18-year-old pitcher from Tennessee who got $1.6 million for signing.

So in addition to the regular notebook, I wound up writing a pair of feature-y stories on the draft picks. I had actually broken the story that the third-round pick (a high-schooler) was planning to sign with the team about two weeks earlier, so it felt pretty satisfying to see him in Cleveland with a finalized contract.

Once again, I didn’t get everything filed until the game had started, because there was a lot to write about each. My multi-tasking abilities have gotten top-notch this summer.

That might have been the most I’ve ever written in a two-day span, but it was still an incredibly rewarding experience to have. I feel like it’s pretty rare for an “intern” to be given that type of freedom on the job, and it’s reassuring to know you can handle a heavy workload by yourself.

I’ll be on my own again — for three days this time — starting Friday. Yes, I’m working the 4th of July. The price we pay.

USA Gymnastics: Week Three(ish)

Nothing like a little tornado to thrust some excitement into the workplace. I’d say that was the highlight of the week (well, besides setting a World Record and all). It’s not like our lives were in danger or anything. Just a little tornado strolling through Plainfield, Ind., no biggie. I’d say some of the women in the office thought differently though (mainly those who live around that area — understandable), but I digress. Let’s move on to actual internship activities because that’s why you’re really reading this, right?

Last week was the start of week three at the internship. Although things weren’t as busy as they could have been, the week seemed to fly by. Monday was Olympic Day, so the office was all about the World Record being attempted in Pittsburgh (spoiler alert: A new record was set!). Once we got the news about 735 participants having successfully cartwheeled at the same time (with no collisions or injuries), I filled in the blanks on the release and up it went on the website. I also took the initiative to create a Storify for the event. Although there weren’t that many people tweeting from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the tweets that did exist were quality ones. With that and my sleuthing skills on Twitter, I was able to find a good number of tweets and pictures from Pittsburgh to use in the curation. I think the final product turned out pretty well, and I hope USA Gym readers liked their first taste at a Storify. I also collected clips from all the places that published stories or videos on the World Record event in Pittsburgh. AP writer Will Graves, who got separate, individual time with Gabby, had a nice story about her comeback. The World Record was seen internationally and was even on the Today Show. I’d say that’s successful promotion.

The press release trend continued with releases on some trampoline national team members traveling to Switzerland to compete (and how they did as well as some juniors that did well), Bill Cosby holding a benefit concert for the Temple men’s gymnastics program and a recap on the Gymnastics for All Nationals that were held in Orlando two weekends ago.

After the excitement from Olympic Day, I got to do something even more interesting — listen to a webinar on Google Grants and take notes to later share with the marketing department about the program. I kid with my sarcasm, though. It was actually pretty interesting, and some of the things you can do with the program are pretty cool.

10516734_10152583906641934_4832670033515713191_nThat’s pretty much all the work stuff I did last week besides the usual scanning of pictures and “get it done before you leave in August” tasks. I’ll be in Louisville for the USA Gymnastics Championships for seven days helping with the event in about two weeks. I also get to go home TOMORROW for the Fourth of July. It’s only been four-ish weeks, but it’s felt much longer. It’ll also be the first time I ride on a plane by myself, so that’s fun.

As always, check out my personal blog that includes all this stuff plus pictures from my trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. Stay tuned.