By Michael Molinaro, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Public AffairsMay 21, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 21, 2012) -- Two Soldiers from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit got a glimpse into their future as they participated in the United States Olympic Committee's Media Summit May 13-15 in Dallas.
More than 200 members of the media from around the world descended on the Lone Star state to interview, photograph, film and get-to-know Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond and approximately 115 other Olympic and Paralympic athletes as anticipation for this summer's London Games is reaching a fever pitch as they draw closer.
"This was a great experience," said Richmond. "I knew from watching my teammates in previous Olympics that there are other things that come along with making the U.S. team besides being able to compete, like ticket requests, fan mail, and of course a lot of media attention. So being here really has given me a small look at what's to come and has better prepared me for it."
The majority of the athletes were asked the same question over and over again as media developed stories and background that will be used before, during and after the games. NBC took over an entire floor for its production team in Dallas, incorporating green screens similar those used on movie sets for special effects while simultaneous press conferences and roundtable sessions were being held within the confines of the hotel.
"Everyone was very positive and I could sense the excitement everywhere as the games get closer," said Olson, the first active-duty Soldier to be nominated to the Paralympic Games. "I also learned that everything is on-the-record. One reporter put away his notepad and recorder and we still talked briefly and everything we discussed ended up in a story. The story was very positive. I am not complaining, but it was a valuable learning experience for sure. Plus anytime I get a chance to tell my Army story and help inspire other veterans wounded in combat, it's a good thing."
Their Army story is what separated Richmond and Olson from the others when it came to questioning from reporters. Besides the normal questions about how it feels to fulfill a lifelong dream or wear the red, white and blue against the rest of the world, the Soldiers were a sought-after interview because of their unique way of getting on the team.
"Few things touch the soul of any reporter more than a story of triumph, and sports is no exception," said Dejan Kovacevic, a veteran newspaper reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered multiple Olympic Games. "When you attach achievements such as those of Sergeant Olson, it takes it to a new level. There are many great stories at any Olympics. Some overcome poverty, politics and other hardships. But I'd rank Sergeant Olson's with the best of them."
World Class Athlete Program Soldiers Spc. Dennis Bowsher, Spc. Justin Lester and Sgt. Spenser Mango also took part in the summit. More Soldiers from the USAMU are hoping to join Richmond and Olson in London with Olympic Trials in Shotgun and Smallbore being held in the next two weeks. With the games set to begin in only two months, the reality of being an Olympian is starting to set in for these Soldiers.
"It did kind of start to hit me this week," Richmond said. "As soon as I got there I received a bunch of U.S. Olympic team clothing, all kinds of people wanted to talk to me, I met First Lady Michelle Obama and stood on stage with her, so yeah, I guess you could say I am starting to realize that it is not a dream; I am indeed going to compete in the Olympics. But I know with my training and my fellow Soldiers next to me I can't get caught up in the excitement. I am going over with a very specific mission of bringing back a gold medal to my family, my unit and my country."