Monday, February 17, 2014


Whether it’s the kid going door to door doing odd jobs to fund his Olympic dream, the single mom struggling to make ends meet while going for the gold, the comeback from an injury or the out of nowhere surprise contender, everyone has a story to tell. At ABC, it was your job as a researcher or producer to find that story, and to tell it in a visually compelling manner – in under three minutes.

When I was there, some skaters made it easy for you. For instance, Russia’s Elena Bereznaia was struck in the head by her partner’s blade. She required brain surgery, suffered a stroke, needed to learn to walk and talk all over again – and went on to win Olympic Gold with her next partner (whom she was also romantically involved with).

Israel’s Misha Shmerkin trained at an ice-rink so far North that he had to regularly duck rocket attacks from across the Syrian border.

France’s Surya Bonaly was born in Africa (later, that part of the story proved to be untrue, but it was fun while it lasted), adopted by a French couple and switched to skating after becoming a World Tumbling Champion.  She eventually fired her coach and began training with her mother – who’d never ice-skated.

But then, there were people like World Pair Champions Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov. At one point, the Senior Producer and I were brain-storming ideas and the best I could come up with was, “They are the most boring team to ever win a major title.”

Potentially true, but not exactly the Up Close and Personal Way.

Eventually, I pitched presenting them as a metaphor for the collapse of the Soviet Union.  They trained under one system, but just as they were set to reap the expected rewards, it collapsed, leaving them floundering without a road map – or funding.

Later, a fellow sports journalist told me our piece was the first time she ever gave a damn about Eltsova and Bushkov.

Read my entire post about how watching the Winter Olympics will make you a better writer at: