Golden Opportunities

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While most people anticipated watching the excitement of this year's Olympics from their living room couches, there are a few students and alumni who had the opportunity to take a step much closer to the games.

From current students who traveled to London with their families as spectators, to an alumna who swims and trains in the same pool as the most-decorated Olympian of all time, DePauw has had a variety of unique connections to the 2012 London Olympics. 

During her four years at DePauw, Kelly (Neizer) Coyle '08 was a four-year varsity letter swimmer and won the women's Little 5 race her senior year. Despite her collegiate achievements, it is her current work that many may envy, especially fans of the Olympics. While she did not visit London for the summer games, Coyle currently swims and trains at the same pool as the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time: Michael Phelps. 

Phelps, the now-retired Olympic swimmer, grew up in a neighborhood just outside of Baltimore and returns there to train. Coyle saw Phelps for the first time when she moved to Baltimore four years ago. Since then, Coyle not only trains in the same pool at Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center as him, but she also coaches at a swim club in the area that Phelps frequently visits.

"We haven't had any long conversations, but I've met him several times," Coyle said.

Coyle's position provides her with the unique chance to witness the preparation behind the performances that the rest of the world sees. As a result, her Olympic-viewing experience has changed. 

"It just makes them a lot more exciting since you get to see how hard they work and then watch it pay off," she said.

For Jonathan Batuello '10, the London games required a different type of preparation. Batuello, a current graduate student at Ball State University, was approached by a professor last summer about serving as a graduate assistant on a 40-student trip to the Olympics. He officially found out in the fall that he would serve as the copy editor for "BSU at the Games" at the London Olympics. 

In addition to his graduate assistant position for the Ball State trip, Batuello wrote five to eight stories everyday. He had an exclusive blog with the USA Today College section, and his writing appeared in the Huffington Post among a variety of other news publications.

Batuello said one of his most memorable moments was when he interviewed U.S. runner, Aries Merritt, who was favored to win in his upcoming 110-meter hurdle race: "And then I actually watched him win gold."

As far as how this experience has changed his perspective on the Olympics, Batuello said, "it's just crazy how literally everyone feels connected... In the U.S., everyone watches on TV and mostly just roots for the U.S. There, you have more of a world pride."

Senior Carter McKay also had the opportunity to help with media coverage for the Olympic games. During her Media Fellows internship at the TODAY Show last fall, she heard that the show was planning on hiring some interns to come back for the Olympics. She then spoke with people at the show about their past experiences at the Olympics.

"I decided it was something that I definitely wanted to pursue and try to be a part of," McKay said in an e-mail.

McKay had a phone interview with the show in January and was offered a paid position as a runner. While her job entailed a variety of tasks, which mostly included assisting the production assistants.

"I would print the scripts, organize them, and then run them down to talent and distribute them in the control room," she said.

Even though she was often too busy working to actually watch the competitions, she did get the opportunity to see U.S. swimmer Dana Volmer break the world record and win the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly.

"That was pretty cool because I got to watch (TODAY Show co-anchor) Savannah Guthrie interview her right after," McKay said. "Any American that medaled in an event came onto our show, so I saw 60+ medal winners." 

Reflecting on her overall experience, McKay said, "I still love the Olympics, but I definitely didn't get to just sit back and enjoy them. I now realize how much work and money goes into hosting the games."

While McKay had several months to prepare for her Olympic adventure, sophomore Lauren Arnold found out that she was going to London the day before her flight was scheduled to leave.

"It was a huge surprise," she said. "My dad is a pilot and asked if we wanted to fill some available seats on his flight to London the next day, so we jumped at the opportunity."

While she felt that the spontaneity brought an added level of excitement to the trip, once she and her family arrived at the front gates of the games, they quickly learned that the number of tickets allotted for U.S. fans had sold out months ago. 

Despite her family's lack of tickets, Arnold said, "simply having the opportunity to be so close to such a positive worldwide event was incredible." 

The Arnolds ended up attending a cycling race, where they joined crowds of people lining the streets, which Arnold likened to DePauw's own Little 5 bike race. Her family, after watching online for available tickets, finally found seats for the preliminary women's basketball game between the U.S. and Turkey.

"If I had to pick a specific favorite moment, it would be at the basketball game when I could pick the U.S. fans out of the crowd," she said.

She saw a group of men dressed in American flag body suits chanting 'U.S.A!' and said she enjoyed seeing the "little bits of patriotism."

Every four years, athletes and spectators around the world unite to watch and celebrate the uniquely magical experience that is the Olympics. While the majority of individuals follow the excitement on television or in the newspaper, these DePauw students and alumni have had their own individual, special connections to this year's Olympic games.