Farewell, Rio

Farewell, Rio

I want to begin my final post on #Rio2016 by sharing some of my thoughts I posted on Twitter and Facebook from the airport on departure day:

“My time is up. After a month and four days on the ground in Rio de Janeiro, I’m set to part ways with a city that has solidified its legacy in Olympic history.

Having the chance to team up with a group of NBC runners from the States, London, Australia and Rio is something I’ll forever cherish.

With endless amounts of doubt, backlash, and pad press surrounding this city and its people, Rio delivered and allowed for one of the most memorable Olympics yet.

I owe a huge thank you to NBC’s medical team and my aunt Karen Trosset for the care I received as I recovered from an unknown virus just two weeks ago.

Lastly, thank you to my network of friends, family and fans of the ‘Pinnacle of Sport’ for following along and supporting me during an experience I have felt so privileged and humbled to be a part of.”

I really am thankful to have met and worked closely with such a unique and versatile group of talented individuals. Here’s a cool shot of our wrap party on the beach:

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I had the chance to attend Rio’s Closing Ceremony inside the world famous Maracanã stadium. Just 24 hours prior to the Ceremony, Brazil beat Germany to win the country’s first gold medal in men’s soccer. The host country certainly went out with a bang.

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A cool moment as Rio passed the ‘torch’ to Tokyo – the sight of the 2020 Olympic Games:

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There truly isn’t a ‘bad’ seat in the place. Here’s a shot of the NBC section:

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On my last full day in Rio, I decided to venture off and try a hike I’d been itching to do. Pedra davea stands 2,769 feet tall, making it one of the highest mountains in the world that ends directly in the ocean. It took me over three hours to reach the top. The rain the night before created serious challenges during some stretches of the hike. Here’s the view that awaited me:

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One of the best parts about traveling on your own is who you meet along the way, who you wouldn’t otherwise if you were in a group. Bryce (left) and Steven (right) just so happened to be hiking on their own as well. We took photos for each other at the top overlooking the entire city and teamed up on the way down the mountain. Bryce is a 26-year-old from California and Steven is 22 and from Colombia. Here’s your trio:

 

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Steven and I hit it off right away as I was able to speak in Spanish with him. I’d imagine it put him at ease, since he’s living with a host family during his time in Brazil and only speaking in English. I have a great amount of respect for him. That’s no easy task. Here we are. One of my favorite photos from the climb:

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There’s something to be said about the relationships you form with those you work under high-pressure, intense situations with. Our Runner and transport team was made up of people from Rio, the States, Australia and London. We spent long days in close proximity of each other. As you’d imagine, everything wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. However, at the end of our mission it was all smiles, and some tears. This was a special group who liked to have fun and get down to business when necessary. Here’s a look at our final dinner together:

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The Olympics may have came and went but I’m pumped to be able to share all the stories from the last month with my family and friends. To those who followed along during my journey, I thank you! Hopefully there are more to come down the road. All the best…

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Wrapping up in Rio

Wrapping up in Rio

Well, I blinked. Today we finished our final show here on Copacabana Beach. The TODAY Show is officially headed back to New York after a three-week stint in Rio.

It was a thrilling, eventful and downright exciting week to be around our set. I hope I do it justice with the following photos and stories from my week.

Zac Efron set the tone by showing up to Rio and playing along with the idea to surprise USA gymnast Simone Biles and the rest of the ‘Final Five’ inside the International Broadcast Centre’s NBC studio. And surprised were they ever. The segment took the social media world by storm and it was really just a big hit that reached a wide audience.

Here’s a shot I snapped of Zac watching the surprise segment for the first time from our set:

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Speaking of surprises, take a look at what one of my fellow NBC runners came across on Brazilian internet later that day. Let’s just say I was assigned to assisting Zac’s security detail and, well, the Brazilian paparazzi found me. You can’t make this stuff up. Proof:

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We were lucky enough to be catered by the famous chain restaurant Fogo de Chão during many of the shows. The restaurant currently operates 29 locations in the United States and nine here in Brazil.

Here’s a shot of Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Billy Bush doing a little taste testing:

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On Wedneday of this week, our first team member flew back home. Jenna Bush Hager. I was assigned to accompanying one of our Brazilian drivers to make sure Jenna boarded her flight smoothly and she did just that. Jenna and I enjoyed great conversation during rush hour on our way to the airport. And here’s confirmation that she made it:

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Thursday was a crazy day on set. We had over 30 athletes on as guests and here’s a shot of two of them: USA Volleyball’s Kerri Walsh Jennings (left) and April Ross (right) fresh off their victory over Brazil earning them a bronze medal.

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I’d be lying if I said the ‘Final Five’ didn’t steal the show on Thursday. Americans came out in droves and filled the area surrounding our set with a buzz and excitement. It truly created a special atmosphere that drew attention all throughout our time here on Copacabana Beach.

Here’s a shot of Hoda Kotb chatting with the five young women who will go down in the history books because of Rio 2016:

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Aly Raisman, who arguably has been overshadowed by her fellow teammate Simone Biles, quietly had an extremely successful Olympics and is ‘already back in the gym’, according to one of her recent tweets. To think she’s considered to be a 22-year-old veteran on her team is mind boggling. What a special talent.

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These two ladies below are probably my favorite athletes I’ve met during my time in Rio. Kristi Castlin and Brianna Rollins are so full of life and down to earth as high-profile athletes. They helped the United States sweep the Women’s 100m hurdles.

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After the slew of athletes cleared the compound, Production Manager Grace Yavana was nice enough to set up an opportunity for me to practice some on-camera reps for my broadcast demo reel. This required those in New York to set aside some of their time to control the TelePrompTer while I was on. I’m so appreciative that I was able to practice on such a big stage and had the opportunity to learn and observe someone like Matt Lauer throughout the last few weeks. He makes his day-to-day seem effortless and I look forward to hopefully staying in touch with him down the road.

Here’s a few shots from my day:

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The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) is located roughly an hour away from our set on Copacabana. It’s where many of the primetime shows air and athletes go for interviews. Whenever I have the chance to head up there, I take it. There’s a ton of activity and a slew of media and on air talent from all over the world.

Check out the studio I stood off to the side in during Dan Patrick’s interview with April Ross:

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This morning, Bob Costas joined the TODAY Show to discuss the last few days of events and the ever-controversial Ryan Lochte sagua.

Frankly, this story is somewhat pathetic and has totally blown up in Lochte’s face. For him to release the statement he did on Twitter Thursday morning, which came off as careless in my mind, I don’t see any reason why the country of Brazil and city of Rio de Janeiro should forgive him. To me, he’s still caught in a lie and his OWN teammates just left Rio last night after facing the consequences. He should be alongside them. If I’m an American athlete competing in this city, I’m embarrassed. As an American citizen, I’m embarrassed. A 32-year-old grown man has not owned up to his actions. And his name and reputation will suffer because of it. I think there’s still more to this story left to unfold. Obviously everyone makes mistakes, especially when alcohol is involved, but when Lochte had the chance to own his actions and issue an apology yesterday, he blew it.

“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country,” Lochte wrote. Are you kidding me? Terrible word selection. His statement on Twitter does nothing for me and it looks like the better half of Brazil and many Americans back home feel the same.

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My Rio 2016 journey is down to five days. It’s difficult to put into words right now how thrilling of an experience this has been for me. Just yesterday my former employer 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio in Albany, New York had me call the show to talk Rio. I was honored to have been asked. I’ve been waiting for this moment.

I’ve taken great pride in sharing my experience with friends, family and lovers of sport through my various social media accounts during my time here. It’s exhilarating knowing that I have a following who seem to enjoy my updates and stories.

I leave you with a few more shots from this week:

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Midway Through Rio 2016

Midway Through Rio 2016

I’m back! My apologies for a brief hiatus as I’ve been under the weather with a serious virus throughout the last week.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to be bed ridden for the first official week of the TODAY Show live from Copacabana. I went stir crazy and felt like I was missing out on an event I’ve been highly anticipating for months.

A full recovery wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous care I received from NBC’s medical team, but especially my aunt Karen Trosset, who graciously insisted that I move in with her.

Officially, I was out of the office for a total of seven days while on a strong antibiotic that flushed out my system. It took a lot of patience, positive thinking and mental toughness to push through whatever was limiting my body.

Anyways, check out a few snapshots of Ipanema, which is a neighbor beach to Copacabana:

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This past Saturday, I had some down time to check out one of Rio’s most iconic sights: Sugarloaf Mountain (PÃO DE AÇÚCAR). By way of cable car, we slowly climbed to the top and overlooked a breathtaking city we’ve been lucky enough to reside in the last three weeks.

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You can’t quite make it out in the picture above, but Christ the Redeemer was peeping through the clouds. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World!

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Today began our final week of shows in Copacabana. With the majority of swimming events and golf tournament already being decided, over 35 athletes were invited as guests on the TODAY Show. Needless to say, it was a packed house.

The most decorated Olympian of all-time graced fans, athletes and Brazilian locals with his presence. Michael Phelps arrived to the set with his pride and joy Boomer and wife Nicole. A side note: Michael’s son Boomer literally has his own Instagram. 483,000 followers and counting.

My interesting take: I noticed even the other medal winners who were on as guests treated Michael as a star. It speaks to just how much of an impact his success has had on different generations.

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Americans and other fans of the TODAY Show came out in droves this morning, easily filling up the crowd section of our beach set. It was great to feel the buzz and excitement for the success the United States of America has enjoyed thus far in Rio.

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Check out these awesome fans who brought a whole lot of energy and positive vibes to this morning’s show:

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A quick story for you! To my readers from Loyola, I apologize. You already know this one.

Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native, trained at Loyola University Maryland’s Fitness & Aquatic Center for years before his recent move to Arizona. This was and is a big deal for us in Charm City. Many feel attached to Michael and with all of his success and some minor ups and downs, the love and pride has only seemed to grow larger in Baltimore. But who am I kidding? It’s not just Baltimore. I’d argue that the better half of the entire DMV feels a sense of attachment to Michael.

For a man who has a ton going on in his world right now, I appreciate him taking the time to pose for this:

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As far as I’m concerned, Michael has to be in the conversation as one of the greatest Olympians to ever live. I wish him nothing but the best in his post-swimming adventures.

I’m nine days away from departure. Time is ticking more than ever. And as always, thanks for the read! Hope to fit in one or two more posts prior to leaving.

No Longer a Waiting Game

No Longer a Waiting Game

Bom Dia (good morning) from Rio! With the Opening Ceremonies officially in the past, the highly anticipated Olympic Games are here, and this city is prideful and ready to rock.

My Today Show team and I have spent the better half of the last week providing support and assistance to the set design crew, running guests of the show back and forth from their Athletes Village and recruiting fans to come in and hangout in the background of our morning shot on live American television. You’d be surprised at how many Brazilians we were able to reel in, despite the language barrier.

Our call time has been 4:30 a.m. since the show kicked off in Copacabana, so I haven’t been able to get a morning workout in, but here’s a view from last week’s run on Leme Beach:

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Olympic basketball will take place in Carioca Arena 1, which I had the chance to scope out last week. Powerlifting and wrestling will also take place here throughout the Games. Check it out:

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Below are several photos of the Beach Volleyball Arena on Av. Atlantica in Copacabana. Many critics believed the venue wouldn’t be ready for the start of the Games, but over the last 72 hours there have been major strides taken to finish it off. And here’s proof:

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Last weekend, my assignment was to hike the Pedra do Telégrafo in Barra de Guaratiba and write up a summary in hopes of receiving approval for a shoot that would feature this beautiful, challenging climb that overlooks parts of Rio. Take a look at some of the views that made up the over four-hour round trip hike:

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When I’m not recruiting Brazilians or fans of the Today Show to come on during the morning, I act as a student in a pretty unique classroom. Studying Matt Lauer and his on-air presence is a privilege and something I’ve tried to make time for each morning. Here’s a shot of my view during Matt’s interview with Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes:

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There haven’t been many guests prior to the start of the Games, but one of my favorite professionals stopped by to weigh in on the Olympics. From 1991 to 2016, Mike Tirico served as a sportscaster at ESPN and was a familiar face on Monday Night Football from 2006 to 2015. He took the time to chat with me before going on air and it was five very meaningful minutes to me. Mike is without a doubt one of the most generous individuals I’ve met in this business and he really isn’t that different off air. I took a lot away from our conversation.

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Monday, August 8 will be the first morning the Today Show is fully staffed with all anchors on the ground here in Rio. From my perspective, I expect things to ramp up significantly as our guest list will begin to soar as each day goes by.

The Games have officially begun!

 

 

 

Lead-up to the Games: Rio 2016

Lead-up to the Games: Rio 2016

Day nine here from Rio and the countdown to the Olympic Games is down to six days. I’ve seen and experienced a lot since my arrival and I can’t tell you how much of a rush it is to be here for such a monumental event.

It hit me the other day that this summer’s Olympics is the first to take place in the continent of South America. That’s a special thing and it’s been great to see the shear pride many of my fellow NBC runners from Brazil have for their country and this moment.

Our runner team has spent the better half of the last week prepping for the arrival of on-air talent and the kick-off of the TODAY Show in Rio de Janeiro on Leme Beach.

However, we did have the chance to explore the city on a July 24th day off. At the top of everyone’s list was to check off an adventure to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado).

The 710-meter climb presented us with a significant challenge in the steep-graded rainforest. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky which we were thrilled about as it’s winter and weather tends to be inconsistent.

Here’s a look at the halfway point alongside fellow runners Michael, Sophie and Alex:

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What follows the halfway point is the stretch that many view as the most difficult part of the hike. An area so steep that it requires climbers to cling onto chains in order to propel themselves to the top.

After nearly two hours, our eyes were introduced to these views:

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Our Brazilian runners encouraged us to hike as early as possible to avoid the crowds, but it didn’t matter. A beautiful day brought tourists and locals out in droves.

The selfie felt right in the moment:

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On July 27th, I was lucky enough to celebrate a birthday in Rio. My coworkers were nice enough to help me ring in 22 years with delicious Brazilian cake.

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Another component of our pre-show work has been touring and studying up on many of the various Olympic venues so that we have a sense of familiarity when transporting athletes to and from the TODAY Show set on Leme Beach.

On July 29th, I scouted out Rio Centro which is home to weightlifting, table tennis, badminton and boxing. Here’s a look at North Korea during a table tennis practice session:

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Below is the Athletes Village. This complex features a unique community with high-rise buildings housing thousands of athletes from 207 different representing countries.

Many countries have decided to brand their specific buildings with banner flags creating powerful images from afar.

The complex features a McDonalds, Post Office, Official Olympic Megastore, among other convenient services.

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Our final stop took us to the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, which should be one of the most attended venues during the Games. Located in the Rio Olympic Park, Aquatics is nearby the Olympic Tennis Centre and Rio Olympic Arena.

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With just under a week until the Big Show, the city of Rio de Janeiro is buzzing. There’s been a glaring increase in security in the streets and especially surrounding all metro stops. I’ve yet to feel unsafe and haven’t had any issues with mosquitos, to the surprise of many.

Thanks for following along…stay tuned!

 

The Pinnacle of Sport: Rio 2016

The Pinnacle of Sport: Rio 2016

Day one is officially in the books here in Rio de Janeiro. My overnight flight (7/20/16) out of JFK landed me in Brazil early Thursday morning groggy-eyed for sure, but rushing with adrenaline and excitement.

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The range of emotions I came to cherish during my time abroad in Europe last fall came flushing back as I stepped foot outside the airport onto the fourth different continent of my lifetime. Right off the bat, Brazilian culture reminded me of Spain’s and I felt at home. But much of my first day introduced me to the type of aspects which set Brazil apart from other countries I’ve visited.

Brazil’s official language is Portuguese. Unfortunately, it’s not Spanish! However, I did have some success in finding natives who knew enough Spanish to hold a conversation. There’s nothing I dislike more than not being able to interact with an individual strictly due to the language barrier. I hope to improve my Portuguese throughout my stay.

The first meaningful conversation I had in Rio was in the airport. American Airlines had relocated my seat several times and apparently it drew some attention. 23-year-old Charlie Gibson, a Manchester native, couldn’t help but notice the trouble I had with my flight (I later found out he, too, had his own issues as his seat wouldn’t recline the whole night). We exited the plane together and passed through customs, chatted about sports and realized we have one major theme in common: we’re both working for major networks at the 2016 Olympics. Charlie’s volunteering at CNN, while I’m working as a runner for NBC’s Today Show. Charlie and I may be with rival networks, but I’m psyched to have a new friend in a foreign place who’s up for exploring the city.

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Not long after retrieving my suitcase, I met up with my fellow Today Show runners flying and traveling from different parts of Brazil, London, Texas and Virginia. It didn’t take long for us to bond as a group. For the next month we’ll be working diligently together in close quarters on the Copacabana Beach. I’m looking forward to developing lifelong friendships with this talented and diverse group of people.

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Another key takeaway from my first day in Rio de Janeiro is that it’s winter here! I was stunned seeing many natives bundled up in the 60 degree rainy weather as I comfortably walked the street in khakis and a polo. Looking ahead at the forecast, next week could hit 80 degrees so it’s definitely an unpredictable time of the year to be visiting.

Our final stretch of the day was dedicated to familiarizing ourselves with the Today Show set-up area. Each runner is given an international phone for business purposes only. This way we can easily get in contact with each other through text or  phone call during our work days. Many of the athletic complexes are far away from each other so it’s going to take organization and a focus to ensure our days run smoothly.

As far as my daily tasks go, I’ll be asked to run cables behind the scenes, escort athletes to and from our interview set for their interview, assist in special story shoots and I would assume work on any kinds of set up and break down. I’m available and willing to do anything and everything.

Tomorrow (Friday, 7/22) marks my first official day on the job as a Today Show runner. I don’t have a great idea as to what this next month will bring, but I couldn’t be more excited to get things started here in Brazil.

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