Grady Sports Media students work 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Twenty-three days, 90 nations, 102 events and 15 sports made up this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the midst of the history-making moments, numerous surprises and inspiring action were two students from the Grady Sports Media certificate program, Emily Giambalvo and Cat Hendrick, experiencing the Games in a way few can relate.

After a competitive selection process, Giambalvo and Hendrick were selected by the United States Olympic Committee to report on the games for the USOC’s various information channels including its website, TeamUSA.org.

Cat Hendrick and Emily Giambalvo at the opening of the figure skating events. (Courtesy of Cat Hendrick)

“It was the best, longest, most trying and amazing experience of my life,” Hendrick, a second-year journalism major, reflected. “Every emotion you could possibly feel, it was in there. But, overall I just feel so lucky that we got to experience something that most sports reporters go their whole lives without experiencing.”

Giambalvo, a fourth-year management information systems major, agreed. “Overall, it was really awesome and it was such a cool environment to be in a worldwide setting that has a ton of chaos and a ton of exciting things with journalists from all over. I got to see and learn about a lot of new sports and cover really cool moments where history was being made.”

Over the course of three weeks, both Giambalvo and Hendrick worked under tight deadlines each producing more than 20 stories covering the different mountain and snow sports. These sports ranged from ice skating to snowboarding, hockey, speed skating, luge, bobsledding and many more. It was a chaotic and exhilarating environment where they not only worked closely with athletes but also with seasoned journalists.

“I was way more excited to meet journalists than athletes,” Giambalvo admitted.

Throughout this experience, both Giambalvo and Hendrick’s days were filled with traveling to the different sports venues, interviewing athletes and attending press conferences, working in the main press center and writing daily articles. It was not an easy task and each relied on the skills they acquired from their Grady Sports Media classes.

“Considering the fact that a year-and-a-half ago, I have never written a sports story, Grady Sports has helped me a lot,” Hendrick said. “The sports media certificate favors a trial-by-fire approach, but that has made all the difference in the world. I have Grady to thank for everything, because I was clueless a year-and-a-half ago. It wasn’t easy, but the professors care so much and have gone out of their way to help us.”

This opportunity was made possible with the support of Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports. Michaelis was the lead Olympic reporter for USA Today from 2000-2012 and her relationship with the USOC opened the door for students to attend.

 To view a complete collection of the features that Giambalvo and Hendrick wrote at the Olympic Games, please see Grady Sports Media students cover Olympic Games

While Michaelis was a valuable resource and pushed them “to find stories outside of the easy scope,” the Olympics was not without its challenges. Both Giambalvo and Hendrick battled freezing cold temperatures and the pressure to consistently crank out creative stories.

“Any journalist can feel good about writing a story in one day, but after getting into the 14th consecutive day writing a story, it was challenging,” Giambalvo said. “There is no way for [Grady Sports] to teach you every situation, but it can give you the confidence that no matter what the situation is, I can handle it.”

The most challenging part was keeping our stamina up,” Hendrick echoed. “I was nervous going into the Olympics as a first-time writer, but I just had to trust my training. Grady gave me everything that I needed to know, it was just a matter of executing at that point, but I had all the tools that I needed.”

Emily Giambalvo interviewing an Olympic athlete. (Courtesy of Emily).

By the end of the games, both Giambalvo and Hendrick walked away with countless memories, stories and experiences.

Giambalvo said she most enjoyed watching figure skating, and covering the U.S. gold medal curling game. “The curling gold medal game, was the last event I covered and the last story I wrote. The overall significance of what it meant for the sport and the athletes made it the perfect story. It was a nice way to end it.”

“You see the Olympics through a certain lens your entire life, so to actually be there behind the scenes and see all the work that goes into every single clip was really fascinating,” Hendrick concluded. “I’ve read a thousand stories in my life, but to be in the press conference and see the answers to the question I’ve asked on CNN, Fox and ESPN was really neat. This was literally the Olympics of sports journalism. I am super grateful to Professor Michaelis and the rest of the sports media certificate for working so hard to get us the opportunity of a lifetime.”