The Joys And Pains Of Covering The Olympics

My name is Tim Lewis and I love the Olympics. I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t care if it’s the summer or winter games; the Olympics grab my attention for two weeks every four years — and they refuse to let go. The competition, the athletes, the stories, the emotion — I love it all. The Olympics are what sports should really be about.

Tim Lewis KOMO In London

Me in front of an Olympic countdown clock in London

The Olympics do what most sporting events can’t — they flow out of the sports world into normal society. Take my mom for example: she won’t sit around watching Major League Baseball, but she’ll watch Olympic diving. If I say the name Albert Pujols in front of her, she thinks I’m making up some childish name; if I bring up Michael Phelps, she knows exactly who I’m talking about. The Olympics just seem to bring everyone, from all walks of life, and from every country, together like no other sporting event can.

My love for the Olympics started when I was a kid. I was absolutely addicted to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. I remember the athletes (speed skater Johann Olav Koss from Norway, figure skater Oksana Bauil from Ukraine, downhill skier Alberto Tomba from Italy, etc.) and the storylines (American speed skater Dan Jansen going for his first gold medal and, of course, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan situation). I watched countless hours of those Olympics, and was truly bummed when they came to an end. The next Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, couldn’t come soon enough.

That was then — this is now. There’s plenty of frustration covering the Olympics. I don’t say this to complain; I only say this to explain what I’m going through. NBC makes it impossible for local news stations to cover the Olympics. They pay a ton of money for the rights to the games, so I understand why they’re so protective. At the same time, NBC severely limits the Olympics’ reach. Ryan Lochte won the 400m individual medley yesterday afternoon (Pacific Time), and thanks to the internet and social media we all knew that right away. NBC didn’t show the race until their primetime coverage, meaning hours and hours and hours later. That just isn’t conducive to society today. Everything is immediate — not tape delayed.

The other thing that stinks about the Olympics is the restrictions on the highlights we can show. I have a sporstscast every night at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. I can’t show any Olympics highlights until NBC’s coverage of the games is done for the day. Their coverage ends at midnight — every single night. That means I can’t show Lochte — or anyone else for that matter — winning a gold medal until the following day. At that point, Lochte’s gold medal is really old news (and chances are he’s already won another medal in a different event by then). That means you won’t see me showing many Olympics highlights, which is unfortunate because these athletes deserve all the attention they can get.

Ariana Kukors From Auburn, Washington

Ariana Kukors (on the right in light blue) at her Olympic sendoff

Unlike professional athletes, Olympians only have a chance to shine every four years. That’s crazy when you think about it, especially when they have such a small window to qualify. Take swimmer Ariana Kukors for example: She made it to the 200m individual medley finals of the US Olympic Swim Trials back in 2008. Only the top two finishers in every swimming final advanced to the Beijing Olympics. Kukors finished third — just eight-hundredths of a second (less than the time it takes the average human to blink) behind the second place finisher. That was her tiny window, and she missed it. Kukors had to wait four long years for another chance. She made the most of her second opportunity though, qualifying for the London Olympics.

Stories like Kukors are what make the Olympics so special. We’re introduced to incredible athletes like American Lopez Lomong. A long-distance runner, Lomong was born in Sudan. At just six-years-old he was abducted by rebels during a brutal civil war in his country. After unspeakable treatment, Lomong eventually escaped from the rebels’ hands and ran for three days through the African wilderness toward safety. After making it to Kenya, Lomong lived in a refugee camp for nearly ten years, making him one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” After writing an essay in 2001 about what he would accomplish if he lived in the United States, Lomong was given a chance to come to America. He became a citizen in 2007, and he’s now competing for the US in the 5000m race in London. How can you not root for this guy?

I won’t be glued to the television over the next two weeks, but I’ll definitely be watching the Olympics. I’m sure there will be several times I’m lured into watching an event I know nothing about like canoe slalom or water polo — it happens every Olympics. I’ll enjoy every second of those obscure events, say to myself “I should watch more of this when the Olympics are over,” never watch those sports after that, get reeled right back in four years later, and then start the cycle all over again. I guess that means I’ll always love the Olympics, but I’m more than OK with that.

Are you a fan of the Olympics? What is your favorite event(s)? Who is your favorite Olympic athlete? I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can also find me on LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. In other words, you have no reason not to reach out. Let’s talk about the Olympics!

Ariana Kukors | Living Her Olympic Dream

The 2012 Olympic Games in London are right around the corner. That means thousands of athletes — most that you’ve never even heard of — will invade your television screen over the next few weeks. One of those never-before-seen athletes is Ariana Kukors. While people in the world of swimming know exactly who she is, the rest of the world is about to meet her.

Ariana Kukors

Ariana Kukors
Courtesy of RPI.edu

Ariana is one of the best swimmers on the planet – if not the best swimmer in the 200-meter individual medley (swimmers use all four strokes — butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle – in one race). Kukors currently holds the world record in the event (at 2:06.15), and she has even won seven medals in major international competition, but none of those medals have come in the Olympics. That’s because Ariana has never competed in the summer games — even though she came extremely close in the past.

Kukors made it all the way to the finals of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The top two finishers in each final make the Olympic roster. Kukors finished third, missing the Olympics by just eight hundredths of a second. Eight hundredths of a second equates to 80 milliseconds. To help you understand just how quick that is – the average time it takes for a human to blink is 400 milliseconds. Yes, that’s how close she was. Ariana says she was devastated, but she added that with every devastation comes a lesson. Kukors says the third place finish added fuel to her fire, making the London Olympics the only thing on her mind since.

That means Kukors worked her tail off over the last four years (that’s a long time to wait for another shot at glory), and just last week she once again made it to the finals of the 200 IM at the U.S. Olympic Trials. And once again, Ariana was locked in a tight race. With Caitlin Leverenz well ahead of the pack in first, it was a fight for second — and that last spot on the Olympic team. Kukors went stroke for stroke with Elizabeth Pelton, eventually touching the wall just two tenths of a second before Pelton did, earning Ariana a spot in the 2012 Summer Olympics (click here to watch the race) – and just in time.

The career of an Olympic athlete is different from any other mainstream sport. While guys like Albert Pujols, Aaron Rodgers and LeBron James play in the national spotlight every single season, Olympians only get to shine every four years. That means their window of opportunity is limited. Kukors missed the Olympics at 19, but made it when she was 23. If her hand wouldn’t have touched the wall second, Kukors wouldn’t have another chance to qualify for the summer games until she was 27. That’s not old in life standards, but it is old for swimming. Only one member of the 25 woman U.S. Olympic Swim Team is older than 27 — that’s Natalie Coughlin. The average age of a swimmer on the team is 21.6 years old. If Ariana was going to compete in the Olympics; it needed to happen now.

Ariana Kukors

Ariana Kukor’s send-off celebration

If you want to root for someone in the Olympics, make it Ariana Kukors. I met her yesterday while covering her send-off for my television station in Seattle. Kukors is humble and she has a sparkling personality — built to be in the swimming pool or in front of the camera. You won’t have to wait long to see her. Ariana is currently on her way to Tennessee, where she’ll train for a week, and then she heads to France for another week of training after that. And then, after years of training for this moment, Kukors is off to London, where she’ll represent the United States of America in the 2012 Olympic Games. Ariana swims in the 200 IM preliminaries on July 30th. The semifinals are that same day, while the final is scheduled for July 31st.

If you want to follow Ariana on her quest to Olympic gold, you can connect with her on Twitter (don’t forget the #TeamKukors hashtag) and Facebook. I’ll be keeping close tabs on Kukors as well, so be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and http://allaroundtim.com for all the latest!