They may not be competing in any sports, but a team of Illinois State University alumni will play key roles in Sochi when the Winter Olympic Games begin Thursday.
The Redbirds are all School of Communication graduates, and their Olympic experiences vary. This is the ninth Games for Craig Bohnert, M.S. ’83, but the first for Tommy Schield ’09. And while Bohnert and Schield write stories and breaking news bulletins about the Games, fellow alum Ben Lynn ’13 will operate a robotic TV camera that runs for 3,000 feet along a freestyle skiing and snowboarding slope.
Here’s a closer look at the paths each of these three alumni took to Sochi. Do you know of other Illinois State alums who are in Sochi for the Olympics? Contact STATEside and share the story!
Breaking News Bureau manager, U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC)
From his desk in the main press center, Bohnert bombards media outlets and delegation leaders with emailed breaking bulletins about results and other Olympic news—sometimes two dozen a day.
But as he enters his ninth Olympics Games (and sixth as Breaking News Bureau manager), Bohnert said it’s the bulletin he sent in 2008 that’s most memorable—when American swimmer Michael Phelps won his record-setting eighth gold medal in Beijing.
“I remember the electricity in the room, the energy that we had, how excited everybody was over that swim,” Bohnert said. “It’s one of those unifying moments in sports that just doesn’t go away.”
Bohnert worked his first Olympics as a volunteer in 1984 in Los Angeles. Throughout a long career in sports, he’s worked for the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team, USA Gymnastics, and National Soccer Coaches Association of America. But every two years since Athens in 2004, Bohnert has led the Breaking News Bureau, which he created. (He and his wife, Beverly, run a bed and breakfast in Missouri.)
This year, however, Bohnert’s wife is coming to Sochi too, so he’s hoping to see some more of the events in person.
“With a career in sports, going to events just to watch is sometimes anti-climactic,” he said. “I’m used to being actively engaged behind the scenes. Just sitting there as a spectator, it makes me antsy.”
Lynn has worked cameras at some of America’s biggest sporting events in his 13-year career in network television, including the Super Bowl, Indy 500, and Final Four hoops, to name a few.
And while this is Lynn’s first Winter Olympics, he’s definitely ready.
Lynn will be stationed near the finish line at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, operating a camera for the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) that will catch every athlete competing in the freestyle slope skiing and snowboarding events. It’s yet another gig Lynn has earned because of his expertise in remote-operated cameras, which he steers with a joystick controller, similar to a video game console.
“I know extreme sports and how to shoot them,” he said.
Lynn came to Illinois State late in his career, looking to fulfill a lifelong goal of earning his bachelor’s degree. Though he already had vast professional experience, he wanted to add to his skill set and was drawn to Illinois State because of its mass media/television program and TV-10 production coordinator Bob Carroll. (The former Marine has since helped some of his former ISU classmates make connections in the TV industry.)
He graduated last year (with a minor in Asian studies) and says his degree has already helped him do his job better, especially a small groups communication class he took.
“It’s very applicable to my job,” he said. “It’s changed my approach to how I work with my co-workers.”
You can follow Lynn on Twitter for updates from Sochi.
Team USA Daily staff
Schield got his start in sports working with the Redbird men’s golf team. Now he’s covering Olympians.
Schield, a public relations grad who did a yearlong internship with the Athletics department, fell in love with sports at Illinois State as the men’s golf media contact. The 2009 alum will be on a staff of six in Sochi that produces Team USA Daily, the USOC’s recap of the day’s events.
That means he’s been doing lots of studying on TeamUSA.org to get familiar with all the athletes.
“One day I could be in the mountains doing a feature on the men’s halfpipe final, and the next I could be in the media center doing short recaps of multiple events,” he told STATEside.
Schield started as a USOC intern in 2012, which landed him a job with USA Swimming, where he does PR for its SwimToday campaign and promotes community appearances by its athletes. USA Swimming’s headquarters is in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. That’s how he got the Sochi gig.
As he finished packing for his trip, Schield told STATEside that he hopes to have time to see some men’s and women’s ice hockey and women’s ski jumping at his first Olympic games.
“It will be just a quick flight from Colorado Springs to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Moscow, and Moscow to Sochi,” Schield joked.
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.