Amazing… and exhausting. Those are the two words I would use to describe my experience as the colour analyst for volleyball at the London Olympic Games.
After playing volleyball all through my Little Flower Academy days, and then competing for the University of British Columbia, I spent five years as an outside hitter for the Canadian National Women’s Volleyball team. In 2008 our team was just one win away from qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. We lost to Cuba in a heartbreaking match in the qualifier final. So as a result, Cuba booked their ticket to Beijing, while I had to sit at home and watch.
After retiring from pro volleyball, I launched a career in broadcast journalism and currently work as an associate producer for Global News. But two years ago I began lobbying for the CTV job as Olympic analyst, and this past year I found out I got the gig.
So, although my dream of playing at the Olympics didn’t happen, my dream of getting to broadcast volleyball for the games was fulfilled this summer. Well, almost…the only problem is, I wouldn’t be going to London.
What few viewers actually know is most of Olympic broadcasting is actually done from back home here in Canada, and the same goes for NBC’s coverage in the United States. We actually send a very small broadcast crew to London, to get post game interviews and host the morning and evening shows. But the only sports that were actually broadcast right from the venue this summer were swimming, diving, rowing and athletics. Every other commentator was working with me from a studio in Toronto.
So I called the games from a studio booth in front of a large monitor from here in Canada. I was paired up with Kevin Quinn from Sportsnet for my play by play partner. He was smart, funny, and knew nothing about volleyball. Quinn is actually the voice of Edmonton Oilers hockey and he called the Olympic Women’s Hockey at the 2010 Games, but volleyball was new to him. So the two of us had some very long study sessions and physical demonstrations before we ever went to air, but he was a good student and became a true volleyball lover by the time we were done.
Broadcasting live from Toronto meant for some very early mornings because of the London time difference. We started every day at 3:30 am, and I usually made it back to my hotel around 7 at night. This continued for 16 days straight... with no break. So needless to say, I felt a little delirious by the time the gold medal finals rolled around.
Beyond the sheer volume of games we pumped out (48 matches in total), there was also the challenge of name pronunciations. No official name guide was ever produced, so in my spare time I was researching tricky names online. Try sounding out “Polen Uslepehlivan” from Turkey’s national team or “Sehyrne Hennaoui” from Algeria. Not easy.
All the challenges aside, getting to combine my love of volleyball with my broadcasting profession has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And if I’m offered the job for the Rio Games in 2016, I will jump on the chance. But it may be a good thing that is four years away, because I feel like it is going to take me that long to recover from these last games.