The Olympics are grueling. There is the long preparation, the crushing pressure of world-class competition and the challenge of maintaining peak performance while submersed in an unfamiliar culture.
And I hear it's pretty tough for the athletes, too.
It is the sportswriters' curse that people think their work isn't work at all. Yes, Tribune reporters Michael C. Lewis and Bill Oram have been given a plum assignment for the next fortnight to cover the Olympics in London. Very few reporters ever make it to what is the world's greatest athletic stage. But the reward is 17 straight days of fighting through red tape, writing stories on buses and arguing with editors who are on a different sleep cycle. The glory, what there is of it, doesn't come until they're back home telling war stories.
Lewis is the veteran on this year's Tribune team, with London his sixth Olympics. He is our lead writer for Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer when he isn't on the Olympics beat, and he has had stints on major beats like University of Utah sports and the Utah Jazz. Logistically, he says, London isn't looking as bad as some Games.
"Fortunately, we're not covering the Vancouver Games, where we sometimes had to make an eight-hour round-trip from our hotel in a southern suburb to the slopes of Whistler north of the city," he says.
Oram is the rook. He has been with The Tribune a little more than two years but has proven himself on the prep sports and University of Utah basketball beats.
"It's tremendously helpful to be at these Games with a veteran like Mike," says Oram. "His rich knowledge and understanding of the event has helped keep my head out of the clouds and focused on individual goals: Finding stories, not worrying about what The New York Times is doing (or how they're doing it), doing good journalism here, just like we would at home."
And backing them up, of course, is the entire staff of The Tribune, no strangers to Olympics coverage. We have been sending journalists to the Olympics since the Munich Games in 1972, and we sent eight people to cover the 2000 Sydney Games, largely because it was the last Olympics before Salt Lake City's in 2002.
This time around our reporters are part of a team under The Tribune's parent group, Digital First Media, and they are joined by reporters and photographers from the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News. Our daily paper and sltrib.com will be loaded with Olympic angles.
And remember, this is a spoiler Olympics. We'll be pushing out competition results and analysis all day at sltrib.com so you can be ready to make lucrative bets with relatives who think NBC's nightly show is live.
So who are the Utahns to watch?
"I'd say that while the volleyball teams are packed with locals Logan Tom for the women, Rich Lambourne and Russell Holmes for the men, and Jake Gibb on the beach, all with strong medal prospects I'm most interested in BMX rider Arielle Martin, of Cedar Hills, who missed making it to Beijing by the smallest of margins and fought through her crushing disappointment to make it back," Lewis says.
No doubt Lewis will make a strong showing in the Games. But is this Oram kid up to it? We'll know soon enough, but here's one good early indication: He's OK with the cuisine.
"Let me tell you about Scottish food: an absolute delight," Oram says after starting his Olympic duties in Glasgow. "I have no idea whether I got a representative feast, but I intentionally ordered the most Scottish sounding thing at the pub and wound up with 'mince and tatties.' It was like a chunky beef gravy, peas and mashed potatoes. I'd have another order of it right now, if I could. Later in the night I ordered fish and chips, which was also delightful. Unlike in the States, I just got one large fried fillet of fish, which was unique compared to the three or four fish-stick serving most American joints provide."
There's a reporter who knows what it takes to come out a winner: performance-enhancing cod.
Tim Fitzpatrick is deputy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Following The Tribune team
O All the news and results from London's Games can be found at sltrib.com/olympics. You also can follow Michael C Lewis and Bill Oram on Twitter at @MCLTribune and @oramb.