ESPN.com senior writer Wayne Drehs is one of about a dozen ESPN.com staffers in Sochi, Russia, covering the Winter Olympics, which begin today. Comprehensive pre-Olympics coverage kicked off with two noteworthy long reads: Brett Forrest’s ESPN The Magazine feature on Russian president Vladimir Putin and Drehs’ ESPN.com profile of five-time Olympic medalist skier Bode Miller.
Front Row caught up with Drehs, who shared his experiences profiling Miller as well as his thoughts about covering the Olympics:
What about Miller’s story intrigued you?
Before I met Bode for the first time, I had been warned by others who had covered him in the past that he was moody, petulant and often difficult to deal with. And the man I met was somebody completely different. Not only was he friendly and disarming, but he was insightful and introspective. I found it enlightening that here was this elite athlete who actually had some substance to him. When I asked Bode about his reputation, he told me most writers had never taken the time to understand who he was and what made him tick. So I challenged him to give me the access to let me try and do that as he prepared for his final Olympic run. And he agreed.
Why do you think fans should root for him?
Here is a guy who tells it like it is. As sports fans, we often say we want our athletes to be more real. Less publicists, less media strategizing and more authenticity. Bode is someone who has done that his whole career. You ask him a question, he tells you exactly what he’s thinking. It may not be the most socially appropriate thing, but at least it’s real. I respect that.
How do you work together with other ESPN colleagues to cover an event like this across platforms?
I think the main thing is to put together a group without ego. Sure, everyone has events they’d like to do or particular stories they’d like to chase, but to make an operation like this work, it’s absolutely imperative that you work as a team. The result is not only a better product at the end, but also a harmonious working environment. Three-plus weeks on the road is never easy. The Olympics are often early mornings and late nights with little rest in between. In Sochi, there are many logistical challenges with security, infrastructure, etc. Inevitably, everyone has that day when they melt. When that happens, you need your teammates to give you that little nudge you need to reach the finish line.
As far as working cross-platform goes, I think the same principles apply. Success is based entirely on the individuals in the group coming together to do what’s best for our overall company content plan, not just one division over another. TV and Digital Media worked together seamlessly in London two years ago and with much of the same crew on hand here in Sochi, there’s no reason to think this time will be any different.
Editor’s note: Follow the Games on the ESPN.com Olympics index page.