Luke Graham: The chase
Krasnaya Polyana, Russia — There are a lot of moving parts that go into covering an Olympic Games.
It starts with what to cover and where to be. But it also involves keeping in touch with what is going on.
During the women’s super combined event on Monday, news broke that the snowboard halfpipe was in shambles.
Danny Davis called it garbage in a story to Yahoo!.
Being at the super combined, my next stop was up to the freestyle venue for snowboard training and moguls anyways.
The freestyle venue from the base goes moguls course on the right, aerials in the middle and halfpipe on the left.
There was a break in moguls between qualifying and finals.
During that time the snowboard halfpipe practice — originally scheduled for the morning — was going on.
I headed over to the snowboard area. There wasn’t a place for media. I walked all the way around the venue and two large Russians in purple (security here all wear purple so they are no longer the red army, instead taking on a much more huggable purple army persona) and they certainly wouldn’t let me in.
So back I went to the other side. At this point it was clear there wasn’t going to be a place for media with the mounting scrutiny on the halfpipe.
But standing next to me were four or five reporters from The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters.
The one guy next to me I immediately recognized as The New York Times’ John Branch. Branch is amazing.
He won the Pulitzer for feature writing this last year for his story on an avalanche in Tunnel Creek in the Cascade Mountains that. He also broke the story Monday on Missouri player Michael Sam coming out as a gay player. Sam will be entering the NFL draft this spring.
I’ve known of Branch for years as we both went to the University of Colorado. When you’re waiting there isn’t much to do but chat. I didn’t know how to approach Branch, so I just said “Uh you went to Colorado? I’m did too.”
Not the best approach, but soon we chatted for awhile.
Branch, though, couldn’t wait. Other reporters went to the spectator area behind the media press pen while Branch and I stood there.
“Don’t you hate that feeling when you know you’re in the exact wrong place,” he told me.
So I followed Branch to the spectator area. This still wasn’t good enough.
There was a fence that barricaded athletes, coaches and television off from the spectators.
Branch went along the edge to the end of the fence. The fence ran up against a wall that contained staff that ran the soundboards and graphics for the venue.
Branch pushed the fence aside, looked up at me and waved me to come along. Soon all the reporters — about six of us — were in. I just followed Branch around, eventually tailing off when the crowd chased Shaun White and I went to talk to Taylor Gold.
It may not sound like much, but seeing Branch work — on a day when he broke the biggest story in sports — was a treat.
Having him wave me to come along for the ride was just icing on the cake.
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