Team USA or team UCONN?

LONDON – Six members of the USA Women’s basketball teamand the team’s coach all have a connection to the University of Connecticut, and this team bonding is a key factor in a team’s success, they said.

Team takes a break in practice to listen to Coach Auriemma’s strategy. (Photo by Colin Brown)

Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Diana Taurasi all won a national championship together in 2002 with the Huskies and Maya Moore and Tina Charles added rings of their own in 2009 and 2010.  These three championships are all a part of head coach Geno Auriemma’s seven total national titles.

“I think it helps that six of us went to UCONN and we’re familiar and comfortable,” Bird said.

Running a lot of the same sets that they did at school helps the women learn the playbook.

“UCONN kind of has its own philosophy about a lot of plays and a lot of things are similar from when I was in school.  You don’t really remember the plays so much but you remember the concepts,” said Asjha Jones, one of Bird’s teammates.

Bird says that the women who played at UCONN have a close bond.

“Anybody will tell you, some of the friendships you form and the people you meet and the bonds you make in college kind of last a lifetime and for me,” she said. “I’ve played with three of the other women on this team and it’s definitely there.”

When the former Huskies are happy to play with one another once again, the team as a whole has a tight bond.

“It’s like old times reminiscing, but we’re also really close to the other players too,” said Jones.


Scripps students tour Team USA house

LONDON – When you’re an Olympic athlete engaging in the biggest moment of your career that you’ve been working towards your entire life, where do you go to let loose?  For some American athletes, it is the Team USA house.  Thanks to fellow Bobcat, Christa Mann, who is the Communications Coordinator for the United States Olympic Committee, the Scripps London team got the chance to tour the house and see where some of the athletes and their families hangout.

Sheryle Miller, Coordinator of Meeting and Event Services at the house, said that it took seven days to transform the Royal College of Art into the Team USA house.  The retreat spot is private and available only for Olympians both past and present (because once an Olympian, always an Olympian), families of the athletes and sponsors and partners of the team.

At the Team USA house, all of these approved people are able to relax, grab a bite to eat and watch some of the Olympic action.  Athletes and their company are provided the same catering service that the royal family uses as well as an outdoor Budweiser Deck equipped with comfortable couches and two weatherproof televisions.  Any guest is also able to check out a laptop to surf the web or a bicycle to enjoy a stroll through one of London’s royal parks.  Team USA house serves as the ideal chill spot for an Olympian trying to relieve some stress.

What better way is there to relax then to go shopping?  In the house is the two-story, official Team USA shop.  This is the only venue in the United Kingdom where the official team gear is sold.  Customers have their choice ranging from $28 Team USA t-shirts to $250 Ralph-Lauren polos to the $450 jackets that the athletes wear during competition. The shop is open to everyone with access to the rest of the house as well as all United States citizens.  How much money do the athletes spend in the shop for team gear?

“The athletes get one of everything in the store,” said Peter Zeytoonjian, Managing Director of Consumer Products and Licensing.

Americans swim for a different red, white and blue

LONDON – As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Everyone knows who Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are, but there are many more American swimmers that most Olympic viewers never hear about.  These are citizens, born and raised in the United States, but swimming for another country.

Margaux Farrell poses for a picture in front of the Olympic rings. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

Margaux Farrell, a member of the French Women’s 4x200m relay team, is a unique story.  Farrell graduated from Indiana University this past spring where she won three Big Ten swimming titles.  Her mother, Slyvie Farrell, is a former swimmer for the French national team that missed qualifying for the Olympics by one one-hundredth of a second.  In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Farrell swam a leg in the semifinal race for the 4x200m women’s relay, in which later that night her team won the bronze medal.  From living in the Olympic Village to swimming in the pool, Farrell talked about her Olympic experience and her bond with her mother.

Colin Brown: What is it like to be an American student swimming for an international team?

Margaux Farrell: It’s fine. A lot of swimmers go to school in thE US, so there are many foreigners that I recognize from NCAA meets. I’m fluent in French though and have spent a lot of time in France so I feel just as much French as I do American.


CB: Do you live with the French team in the village?

MF: Yes


CB: Are you friends with some of the American athletes? If so, do you hangout with them at the games or mainly your French teammates?

MF: Yes I am, but I stayed mainly with the French.


CB: What have you learned from your mom about swimming on a national level?

MF: I’ve learned to cherish the experience more than anything because in the end that is what you’ll remember most.


CB: How close are you and your mom when it comes to swimming?

MF: My mom and I are close when it comes to everything.  She’s really my best friend.  People always say that we are the same!


CB: What kind of advice or tips does she give you before swimming?

MF: She tells me to relax and that I’m going to be fine and that no matter what she loves me.


CB: I saw that you swam the semifinals for the 4×200 and in the finals the team got bronze, so as a leg of the qualifying team, do you receive a medal?

Farrell’s bronze medal that she won as a member of the 4x200m relay team. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

MF: Yes I did.


CB: I was told that you were initially in the Olympics as an alternate, is that accurate?

MF: No, it’s called that I guess but most major teams bring 6 people so they can put up the most rested relay each time. I was always going to swim though.


CB: Describe the feeling you had when you were told that you were going to be competing for the team. What kind of emotions were you experiencing?

MF: I was excited, but it didn’t fully hit me until I left IU and went to Europe because I had so much other stuff going on like school and graduating so I didn’t focus on my qualification at first.


CB: When you walked in to the natatorium for the 4x200m race, what emotions were you feeling then?

MF: I honestly don’t remember much.  I know I was nervous in the days leading up but calm on the day of.  I tried to just look at the pool and not up at the stands, it was just another 200 like I had done before and that is what I had to keep telling myself.


Farrell takes a picture with her French teammates. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

CB: Describe any added pressure that you felt that you hadn’t experienced in past races at any point in your life.

MF: Well this was swimming for my country on the biggest stage of athletics so I obviously had to do well but the people I trained with and swam with were supportive and encouraging so I felt ready to do my job for the team.


CB: Competing for your school is a big deal, but what is it like to compete for an entire country?

MF: It’s a lot of pressure.  I had a lot of people counting on me and I had a lot at stake so I needed to be focused and determined but it ended up working out just fine.  I imagined that moment for years and trained hard for that so I had confidence in what I was going to do and when I dove into the pool I just had to have faith in my training and my abilities to not have any regrets and just go for it!


Nicholas Schwab, an upcoming senior at Indiana University, represented the Dominican Republic as the team’s only male swimmer.  Schwab swam in the 200m Freestyle where he won his heat with a time of 1:53.41 and qualified 36th overall in the event.  He talked about what an amazing experience he had swimming for the Dominican Republic.


Colin Brown: What’s it like being an American student swimming for another country?

Nicholas Schwab: It’s a wonderful experience.  I get the best of both worlds.  I am proud to be American, and I am proud to be Dominican.


Olympic swimmers practice before their races. (Photo provided by Nicholas Schwab)

CB: How did you end up swimming for the Dominican Republic?

NS: Last summer I applied for dual citizenship through my mother.  We went to the Dominican Republic and I swam in their national competition.  It was great!  I decided that I wanted to gain international experience so the best chance for that at this point was to swim for the Dominican Republic.


CB: What were the qualifications like?

NS: I was entered into the games through the universality rules, meaning one guy and one girl given the times are fast enough can be approved to go without FINA A or B cuts.  Being the fastest Dominican, and with a 1:53.8 in the 200 free I was able to qualify for the games.


CB: What is it like living in the Olympic Village with all of the other athletes?

NS: Really cool.  I’m surrounded by amazing people.  I’ve been meeting huge athletes—even WR holders.  It’s a great experience, really helping me to grow as an athlete.


CB: Do you live with the DR athletes or fellow American athletes?

NS: I live with some of the Dominican coaches and medical staff.


CB: Do you hangout with a lot of the Americans in the village?

NS: Not really.  I have some friends from Suriname, actually; it’s been great to spend time with them.


Nicholas Schwab poses for a picture with his fellow Dominican Republic swimmer, Dorian McMenemy. (Photos provided by Nicholas Schwab)

CB: What is it like to be the only male swimmer for DR?

NS: It’s a pretty special feeling.  I am a unique person, it just adds to my personality.  It encourages me to represent the country as best I can.  Not only am I representing the DR in the games, but I am also representing the entire sport back at home in the DR for all of the athletes there!


CB: What about the female swimmer, Dorian, who is also from the US? Are you both close? Do you have a special bond being the only swimmers?

NS: Dorian is a great girl; she is very, very talented in swimming and will continue to grow in the sport with the years to come.  I look forward to seeing her success.  We are friends but we live in different states so we don’t see each other very often.  She has a great family and we all get along very well!


CB: How does swimming at Indiana help you with the pressures of International swimming?

NS: In all honesty, it seems to be the other way around.  The international experience and swimming in the Olympics has really helped my college career out.  This exposure to such high levels of competition has helped me put things into perspective, and really have fueled my motivation for college swimming, especially going forward.

The Olympics are more than the games

When I tell people that I went to the Olympics, they instantly get supremely excited and start some version of 20 questions.  How was it?  What was it like?  Were you at opening/closing ceremonies?  My answers are usually generic to a tune of something like this: “It was really cool. I had so much fun.  It was a once in a lifetime experience.”  But the one answer that I give that throws some people off is to the question, “what was your favorite part?”

Teams from Germany and Brazil prepare to face-off in the Round of 16. (Photo by Colin Brown)

The majority of people would think that my favorite part would have something to do with the Olympics.  Possibly watching the United States women’s soccer team at Old Trafford, attending beach volleyball matches or getting the chance to interview both the men’s and women’s USA basketball teams.  Nope.  Not my favorite part.  Don’t get me wrong, those experiences were unbelievable, but they weren’t NO. 1 on my list.

My favorite thing about my trip to London was meeting new friends from a wide variety of countries.  If you know me personally, you know that I am an incredibly sociable and outgoing guy. With that said, it was easy for me to talk to random people that I found myself surrounded with.

Italians, Irish, Greeks, Aussies, Germans, Brazilians and of course, Brits — I met a wide variety of people in London. Learning about our differences in cultures and how to say small phrases in my new friend’s native language are memories that I will never forget.

My Italian friend taught me that “fettuccine alfredo” does not exist in Italy; rather it is called something completely different.  My German friends answered my question that had long been on my mind: do Germans pronounce the social media site, tVeeter?  (They pronounced it tweeter, and had no idea what I was talking about when I said that they pronounce their W’s as V’s, such as bratVurst.)  My English friends taught me about “slimin’ a bird,” which you’ll have to go to England and figure out the meaning for yourself.

One of my favorite experiences (even though it lasted under a minute) was speaking French to the woman standing behind me in line at a haunted house that we went to. I jokingly asked her if she was scared, but she didn’t understand me. I asked her if she spoke English, and she muttered that she did not know what I was saying. I had heard her daughter speaking a few minutes prior and recognized the language since I have taken French classes throughout high school and a bit at university (that’s what the Brits call college!)  In French, I asked the woman again if she was scared and proceeded on with the conversation for about a minute or so.  I have always wanted to speak French with a native of the land, so for me that was an awesome experience.

I could go on for days about all of the international cultural details that I learned while in London, but that’s for another day.  In short, the Olympics were awesome, but it is the people that you meet that make the experience exceptional.

They’re just like you and me

Kevin Durant. 2012 Olympic games: 156 points scored.  19.5ppg.  My new buddy.

You read that right; the Durantula is one of my “boyz”.  So is Deron Williams. OK, maybe not entirely, but I did get to hangout with them along with the rest of the USA men’s basketball team when I was in London. On my birthday, Aug. 11, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend the men’s basketball practice and interview the players of my choice. I can’t really think of much better of a birthday present than that (sorry, Mom).

After checking in at the front desk of the University of East London, Scott Hutchinson, Jenna Stenger, Jake Corrigan and myself waited with a few members of the Associated Press for our escort to take us to the practice facility.  As our escort arrived to walk us across campus, she brought along Bill Plaschke, a well-known sports journalist. Instantly I knew that I was just a little lion cub entering into a jungle of big cats.

Anthony Davis works on his jump shot during practice. (Photo by Colin Brown)

We arrived at the practice center and sat outside the gymnasium in a lobby, sipping on complimentary OJ and watching some Olympic action on the flat screen mounted on the wall.  Looking around the room, some cuties from the Arizona State journalism program caught my eye.  But they’re not who had my attention.  Also waiting to speak with the ball players were David Aldridge and Gene Smith, two NBA personalities.

“Wow,” I thought to myself.  “I have the same amount of access as these top dogs right now, and I’m just a student journalist.”

The time finally arrived that the media could enter the gym. Granted it was 2:45 p.m., and we were supposed to go inside at 1:30 p.m., but I guess when you beat a team by 83 points you can pretty much do as you please.

(Side note: A lot of NBA action had gone down in the previous day and that was a blessing in disguise. Dwight Howard had been traded to the Lakers, so everyone and their brother wanted to interview Kobe. This gave us a lot of access to the other players.)

When you walk in the gym it is a surreal feeling. I’m not one to get star struck or anything of that nature, but when you realize that the best players in the world that you watch every night on Sportscenter are waiting for you to interview them, you get lost in a daze of sorts.  Anthony Davis was shooting three-pointers from the corner. LeBron James was stretching out.  Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were sitting in a row kickin’ back on their folding chairs.

Scripps London’s Jenna Stenger asks Brooklyn’s Deron Williams a few questions. (Photo by Colin Brown)

Once you get over the overwhelming feeling of who you’re in the gym with, it was easy to see that they are just regular guys.  I spent the majority of my time talking to Deron Williams because for some odd reason that I can’t figure out, none of the other members of the media were interviewing him. Deron Williams! Easily a top-five, if not top-three point guard in the league! He noticed our Ohio University polos and told us that he is from Parkersburg, which is an hour away from Athens across the Ohio River.  At the end of the day we had talked to Deron maybe four or five times. Like I said, he was wide open to talk. And by the fourth time he started heckling us about coming back to him, but it was all in good fun.

(Check out this video of Scott Hutchinson and I asking Deron to spell Krzyzewski! Brooklyn’s Deron Williams Attempts to Spell “Krzyzewski”)

As members of the media, including us, were surrounding Carmelo, Scott and I noticed that Kevin Durant was sitting alone twiddling his thumbs.  The scoring leader of the NBA without a single member of the media to talk to — again, I was shocked!  We decided that Kevin was the perfect person to ask our question. So Scott proceeded to something along the lines of: “Hi Kevin. When I’m shooting hoops in my driveway, I like to consider myself an elite player, so after shooting a jump shot I yell Kobe, or LeBron or Durant.  Whose name do you yell?”  Kevin leaned forward, cracking a smile and a laugh, and told us that he doesn’t do that anymore, but as a kid he would say, “Jordan!”  We told him that that is a pretty good name to pick.

Between asking players whose name they yell, or how to spell head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last name, my time at the men’s basketball practice was truly unforgettable.  Sure, I didn’t get to ask LeBron if he wants to come over and shoot hoops next time he’s in Cleveland, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass him in a game of H-O-R-S-E anyway.

Thanks for the memories

As I sit here in my flat at the University of Surrey, I’m struggling to wrap my head around the fact that today is really August 13.

For the past several months all I could think about was London: what I was going to pack, where I wanted to visit, and what types of stories I was hoping to pursue. Now, though, it’s over and in just two hours I’ll be turning in my key, hopping on a plane and flying out of the UK for what could very well be the last time.

Scott Hutchinson and Chris Longo take in track and field action at the Olympic Stadium.

Fortunately, I’ll have some incredible memories to take back with me.

We had our ups and downs out here in London, sure, but it’s the ups that I’m always going to remember:

Interviewing NBA superstars. “USA” chants at Olympic Stadium. Wetherspoon’s. Turning 15 strangers into 15 friends.

I could sit here all day and list the issues we encountered, the plans that could have run smoother and the mistakes we made along the way, but when I’m 90 years old reflecting on this trip, those things won’t even cross my mind.

Instead, I’ll be thinking about Trafalgar Square at the opening ceremonies, the late night train rides back to Guildford, and the awesome people I was lucky enough to enjoy this amazing experience with.

Thanks for the memories, everyone.

Sending love from London one final time, Cheers

It’s hard for me to begin this post. There’s a lot I want to say that I know words won’t do justice. I’ll give it a try.

We’re done, goodbye, peace out or as the Brits would say, Cheers. It’s been absolutely unreal. I have really appreciated the hospitality from everyone here. They have been nothing but kind, approachable, and genuine, well, some of them anyway. There’s always that choice few that hate “you Americans” and can’t wait until you get out of their precious city. However, London really is precious, it has so much to offer to so many different cultures and backgrounds. I could most certinaly see myself here someday. Maybe. I hate that there are no free refills, and I’ve probably heard “mind the gap” enough to last a lifetime.

Scripps London group touring around the UK during the first week.

Our men’s and women’s basketball teams were tremendous these past weeks, both winning gold. Also, Coleman Scott, the wrestler I interviewed and did a story on, won bronze. I am so happy for our athletes, and I am so blessed I got to meet so many of them. It is something some journalists work their entire careers toward.I got to meet with THE Debbie Antonelli this week! Before USA played Australia on Thursday we met outside of North Greenwich Arena, and speaking with her was one of the highlights of my trip. She has worked very hard to be where she is today. She does it all, and with three boys! You go girl! It encouraged me to be my absolute best and as a women, never take no for an answer. I would love to have her job, so would many. Check out what we talked about and the story I did on her on our site.

(L to R): Kerry Crump, myself, Jenna Stenger, Katie Grady, Megan Hickcock

We even got to tour the USA House on Friday morning! It was very cool to be able to see where all the athletes chill. It was so beautiful inside. They have a free yogurt bar, waterproof televisions on Budweiser-themed decks, and unlimited Olympic apparel! An OU graduate student even gave us our tour.

Honestly, I can’t even believe I was here for all of this. It was like a dream. This trip really made me realize the struggles of a journalist. It also made me realize if I didn’t have those struggles, it wouldn’t make the job worth it.

USA Olympic Team

This is for me, this is what I want to spend my entire life doing. Whether I make one million dollars a year or can barely make an honest living, it doesn’t matter to me. The things that matter to me most are more than just money, more than just material things. Family is everything, people are everything, happiness that you can maintain is everything. Everyone is so blinded by so many flashy and extravagant things, they can’t see that anymore. I use to always wish I would win the lottery, or something. I pray to God that I never do (and I won’t because I don’t play and because I’m not lucky).

All of the USA athletes that have medalled

I just want to work hard, make enough, surround myself with great people, and possibly help someone or change their life with my work. That’s what I think a journalist does — they help people. I know it doesn’t always directly seem that way, but they do, they impact people’s lives. They can tell a story someone is too afraid to tell or can’t by themselves. They help get information to people that really need it.We’re more than just press, we’re story tellers. We are here to be strong for others that are weak. As I journalist, I promise to always do that and to be someone that someone else can count on for consistency and realness. I will always wake up and try to be the best person I can be. I know i’m not perfect nor will I ever be, but I promised myself to always make a conscious effort. London has really reiterated these feelings for me. After traveling to a different country it really made me appreciate the way I was raised and the outstanding family that I have. They are the reason I try to be the best I can possibly be, as a daughter, a student, and as a friend to others.

Last time the Olympics were in London

My family are the best people I know (I said best, not most normal or sane). In all seriousness though, they are great. They are the kind of people that would welcome you into their homes and make you feel special. They are the kind of people who would give you the last piece of pizza or the last dollar out of their wallet. They are the reason why I am who I am today and for that, I am forever grateful. I’m on the journey to chase my dreams because of them. My pap has always said, “hold on tight to your dreams,” and I promised him I always will. I even got my wallet stolen yesterday (don’t want to talk about it). Who wired me the money? My wonderful mim and pap. They are indescribable.

Just weeks ago this was me at opening ceremonies. Now it’s closing ceremonies and the Olympics are over. The love and passion that came out of people these past weeks has been amazing to see. The Games are more than just sports — they are a way people from different cultures come together.

Me at Opening Ceremonies

It’s beautiful to see, to say I was apart of it is something I will forever cherish.Thank you Ohio University and the E.W Scripps School of Journalism for making this possible and for making this girl’s dreams come true. Also, thanks to my family for paying for it … $$$

I hope those that have followed my blog have enjoyed reading it, somewhat. I appreciate all the support and kind words most have given me.I’m headed to the airport tomorrow morning, let’s all cross our fingers that I don’t miss my flight, again.

With all my love from London,

xoxo Mel


Going for gold

Part of the Scripps London team explored the Main Press Centre on Saturday, where they attended press conferences with the USA BMX team as well as Olympic gold medalists Jamie Gray, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.

The London Lowdown Podcast: Episode 2


Crowds enter Old Trafford stadium to see North Korea take on the United States.
Photo by Holly Moody

The London Lowdown Podcast: Episode 2

Scott Hutchinson and Tim Dix are back for a second installment of The London Lowdown podcast. This episode features updates from Scripps students Megan Hickok and Christopher Longo, who discuss their experiences covering an array of Olympic events over the past week.

Metro News journalist to Scripps London: I owe everything to Scripps

LONDON – Ohio University 2007 graduate, Cassandra Garrison, told Scripps students Friday that she will forever be grateful for her Scripps education.

“I owe everything to Scripps,” she said.

She told student how she got her current job, how she’s covering the Olympics alone and without full media credentials, and how to get the most out of their trip in London.

After four years broadcasting at a television station in Erie, Penn. Garrison chased her dreams to New York City where she began as an online journalist for Metro News.

At Metro, she convinced her boss to let her come to London and cover the 2012 Olympics. While in London she had breakfast with Michelle Obama, toured the USA house and interviewed high-profile athletes such as Tyson Gay.

“Don’t underestimate the power of a bobcat,” she said.

Photo slideshow by Kerry Crump: