Life in the spotlight takes some getting used to for U.S. Women’s Olympic Rower Meghan O’Leary. Before O’Leary was the subject of productions, she was the one helping to create them at ESPN.
SportsCenter chose O’Leary as a feature subject, with a piece scheduled to debut overnight on the 1 a.m. ET edition of the program. O’Leary worked in production and programming at ESPN for five years. In fact, it was during her time in Connecticut that she took up rowing while living in Hartford.
“I guess it’s pretty ironic in a way. I’m an athlete at heart and I think that’s what made me good at my job in helping shape and tell the athlete’s story,” O’Leary said. “To have such a unique opportunity to step on the other side of the camera has been a lot of fun.”
Despite her new exciting career as an Olympian – she competes in double sculls this weekend – O’Leary hasn’t forgotten her ESPN roots.
“Funny enough, I still can’t turn the ‘ESPNer’ off,” O’Leary said. “In interviews, I’ll dive right into lingo with the production crew or ask about lighting and sound. It’s been fun to combine the two worlds.”
O’Leary attributes her success at ESPN and her accomplishments as a rower to her family.
“My family has always been my biggest inspiration. I probably don’t tell them that enough.” O’Leary said. “I grew up the youngest of three and the only girl, so I have two brothers to thank for making me so competitive and instilling a fiery grit in me.”
Many people dream of working at ESPN or becoming an Olympian; few people can say they’ve had the opportunity to do both.
“My parents have been unbelievably supportive of my aspirations since I can remember,” O’Leary said. “They encouraged each of us to dream big and then work hard to achieve whatever it was we set out to do.
“It will be very special to have both of my brothers and my parents in Rio watching me compete at the Olympics,” she said.