Front Row to History

The Bradley Olympics students. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

By Matt Hawkins
March 13, 2018

In an instant Olympic classic, U.S. women’s hockey goalie Maddie Rooney brushed away Canada’s last hopes for a gold medal in PyeongChang. American fans in the arena burst into cheers as the team captured its first gold medal rivalry win since 1998.

A team of Bradley students took in the shootout thriller as a bonus perk of their experience as staff for NBC Sports’ Olympics production team. Sitting in the PyeongChang arena, John Collin ’20, a sports communication and professional sales major from Gurnee, Ill., thought of broadcast booth where John Walton, A.J. Mleczko and Leila Rahimi called the event. A hopeful future hockey broadcaster, Collin worked with NBC’s hockey crews and on-air talent through the competition.

“That’s the kind of game you want to announce,” Collin said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime game to witness. I’m grateful I was able to be at the Olympics, much less to see a game as special as that.”

Rooney’s stop also jolted the early morning hours in NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Conn. — 14 time zones away from the live action. Another group of student staff paused from their duties to catch the moment on NBC’s cable and digital streaming services. Thanks to transmission delays across platforms, the news and cheers took a few minutes to reach all the building’s corners.

“We heard cheers even though we hadn’t seen what happened yet,” said public relations major Sarah Brashear ‘18, of Bennington, Neb. “It was cool because we experienced it together even though we were doing different things. Everyone was watching and talking about it even though we needed to focus on our other responsibilities.”

Collins and Brashear were among 12 Bradley students chosen to assist NBC’s production, with five on site in PyeongChang and seven stateside. The experience introduced students to large-scale productions. They monitored digital feeds, dropped advertisements into events, marked highlights and tended production crews’ needs at venues. In addition to job duties, students shadowed NBC staff in their areas of interest.

Students in PyeongChang took time to explore South Korean culture. The Bradley team made friends with interns from South Korea who helped the Americans navigate the country. Students toured Seoul, visited the demilitarized zone about 40 miles north of the Olympics site and tried local cuisine.

“I was nervous to travel by myself to another country, but people were so welcoming,” said sports communication major Jaclyn Clark ‘18, of Milwaukee. “I loved experiencing the culture and building friendships. I can’t wait to travel more and broaden my horizons. I’d go back in a second.”

In addition to cultural ties, Bradley’s team returned to Peoria with professional connections willing to help them launch their careers.

“Even if I don’t get a job at NBC, I know people in the right places and have new friends,” said sports communication major Andrew Vest ’18, of Pevely, Mo. “I met great people in Stamford. Maybe I’ll work with them somewhere in the future.”

Previously, six Bradley students worked with NBC for the Rio Summer Games in 2016, 18 interned with NBC at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, while 10 earned internships with the network for the 2012 Summer Games in London.

The program is open to all schools and students across the nation. However, Bradley remains a top choice for selection; only two other schools, Ithaca and Syracuse, have had more students participate than Bradley.