Postcards From the Pool: Short Course Worlds Blog #2
By Matt Whewell//USA Swimming PR & Digital Communications Coordinator
USA Swimming’s Matt Whewell is with the U.S. Short Course World Championship Team in Istanbul, Turkey. Matt is the media liaison for the team and will be blogging about his experience throughout the duration of the competition.
The first day of competition was quite successful for us. We walked away with four total medals, three of which were wins. I was also able to make the dreams of a few media members come true. Not really, but I like to think that way after every night.
Wednesday morning began with an awesome breakfast in the hotel. Waking up for it was the only issue. I think jetlag finally caught up to me as I woke up to my alarm and really wished I could turn it off and just keep sleeping. No can do in the life of a PR-pro. Instead I catching a few more z’s, I grabbed a bite than boarded the early bus – 7:30 a.m. – for the venue since it was the first day of competition.
The bus was a typical, morning bus ride – quiet, some joking and laughing but mostly people trying to wake up.
When we got to the pool, the team and I split up. They went to the pool deck or the massage area to get ready while I went to the mixed zone to set up my shop. The mixed zone is where all the magic happens for the media. Interviews, quotes, filming, recording, press conferences are done from this location. The media here for the event is predominantly international so there are a lot of French, Italian and British members.
After mingling with some of the international folk, I decided to head up to the deck. That’s where our head of security, Larry Buendorf, guided a young, Australian lady who had been looking for me over to where I was standing. Her name was Kathleen Rayment and she’s the media liaison for Swimming Australia. If you think I’m lucky and have a cool job, Kathleen is only 21-years old, just graduating school and this is her first job. Talk about being lucky.
Spending hours in the mixed zone, we get pretty close with the other country’s liaison since we understand what each other has to deal with. This is Kathleen’s first major meet so, not to toot my own horn, but heard (hopefully) great things about me and wanted to talk before the meet began. We walked and talked about how things ‘usual’ go down in the mixed zone.
Right before the session begins, all the PR people come down and get ready for the heats. I’m normally joined by Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Japan. Australia wasn’t the only new face for the veterans but Canada had a new PR person. Nathan White is the name and he blew out his knee two days before come to Istanbul. It’s pretty funny – not in a haha way – to watch him hobble around with a straight leg as his swimmers blow right by him.
Prelims came and went in about three and a half hours. The first day of a meet is always the longest but once you get over the first one, they all seem to fly. With prelims have ended, our team is only given one copy of results to be passed around the coaches and the entire team. Being so close and having access to a surplus of results, I always snag a few extra to get on a coaches good side. It helps for when I need one of their swimmers to come back and do an interview (insert smiley face).
After getting back to the hotel and realizing the turnaround for bus that heads back to the pool was a small window, not much could be done. Answering emails, figuring out what swimmers can’t talk in the mixed zone immediately after they swim because they have a double that night (or triple if your name is Ryan Lochte) and how the press conference schedule is going to happen.
We headed back to the pool at 4:30 p.m. for the finals that started at 7 p.m. The bus was filled with those that were swimming while an hour later another bus departed the hotel with swimmers who weren’t swimmer that night but were coming to support their teammates.
I’m not going to bore you with details from the evening session. You can read the story from the night here. I will add that the last of us meaning Allison Schmitt, Anthony Ervin, Lochte, team manager Brandon (BD) Drawz, Jack Roach and myself didn’t leave the pool until about 10:30 p.m. because of warm down swims, doping control and press conferences. That’s a long day if you ask me.
I hammered out the release when I got back to the hotel, answered some emails since it was about 3 p.m. Mountain Time (5 p.m. ET) and my inbox was filling up and did some other tasks before I could call it a night. When I could, it was about 12:30 a.m. Again, the life of a PR-pro!
Thursday, December 13 started with another rough morning. It reminded me of working for a baseball team when you stay late at the stadium on a Saturday night but had to arrive early the next day for a Sunday day game. The quick turnaround is brutal but you honestly get used to it.
After grabbing a few extra start lists for our coaches and writing down what events have what swimmers, I was asked by some staff members to give them the lowdown on where they can get some coffee. One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been at USA Swimming for almost two year, coaches and staff LOVE them some coffee. Again, it’s the little things you do for them that they remember when you need a favor from them and their swimmer.
Prelims came and went. Team USA did really well advancing eight individuals and holding the fourth seed in the men’s 4x200m free relay. The only hiccup from this morning was a discrepancy on the timing monitor in the mixed zone during the women’s 50m fly. Christine Magnuson swam a 25.83, the second-fastest swim of the morning, but the timing monitor registered her at 33.1 and had her in 69th. After a few phone calls we found out it was just technical difficulties with the monitor. For complete results, OmegaTiming.com has them.
In other news from this morning was Kathleen Hersey announced to the bus on the ride over that Olympic gold medalist Brendan Hansen and his wife Martha gave birth to a baby girl. Congrats, man!
Well, we’re headed back to the hotel now and I’m going to try and squeeze in a short run with BD. Talk to you all later…