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|| News Item: Posted 2010-03-16

'Many friends and colleagues warned me of the logistical nightmare that awaited me.'
Robert Hanashiro asked photographers to recount their experiences working solo at the Vancouver Winter Games.

By Kevin Sullivan, The Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / The Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / The Orange County Register

The Ducks' Corey Perry, rear, can only watch as a helmetless Ryan Kesler, is mobbed by teammates after scoring an empty net goal to seal the U.S.'s 5-3 victory over Team Canada.
(Editor's note: USA TODAY staff photographer Robert Hanashiro recently returned home from shooting the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. They were his 12th for the Nation's Newspaper. He has never worked as a "Lone Gunman" at the Olympics - but secretly wishes he had. At least once. He decided to ask some of his friends what it was like last month in Vancouver.)

Wow. What an experience. A little over a month ago, I was an Olympic Virgin.

The Vancouver Olympics was my first. A columnist, reporter and myself were charged with covering the entire 2010 Winter Games from Opening to Closing Ceremonies -with as much of a local angle as possible.

I've covered big events before. Two-month long Stanley Cup runs, the NBA Playoffs and Finals - but certainly those all paled in comparison to the overwhelming, monumental task that is the Olympics. All long hauls for sure, though the intensity, duration and sheer magnitude of trying to be "everywhere and everything at once" can't be matched. Add to that the extreme logistical issues that seem to be the trademark of all Olympic Games and you have a very overwhelming experience.

Many friends and colleagues warned me of the logistical nightmare that awaited me. As with most things, the reality far outweighed the warnings. Long bus rides, random security checks, shooting positions, daily planning, locker keys in three different venues, waiting for buses, editing and filing, deadlines, features, Facebook-ing (for work), more buses, trying to find a meal that wasn't McDonalds in the press center - pretty much all of these every day.

About a month before I was supposed to leave I found out I was sharing a hotel room with the reporter Scott Reid. Regardless of him being a veteran of many Olympics, I was not overly excited. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. Debriefing with him every night gave me a chance to talk about the days' events with a valued resource and to plan a bit for the next day or two. Big events? Medal possibilities? Local angles? It would have been much harder to navigate if we hadn't been on our laptops in the same small room virtually every night before bed at 2 or 3 AM.

Once events started happening and I slowly became familiar with the lay of the land, most of my apprehension disappeared and I could focus on the task at hand. Trying to make amazing photos each day. I was pretty much on my own to pick and choose what I was going to do that day. Compare that to other photographers who were in constant contact with sports editors and photo editors deciding the days' coverage.

Most days, with the help of friends, I chose correctly. Other days I didn't or our "local angle" was more important than the news of the day. Once near the end, with 50 photos to edit and caption and a copy block due for my last photo notebook, I decided I wouldn't be able to shoot the bobsled competition (a 6 hour-plus round trip to Whistler, not including shooting time) AND the silver medal hockey game with two "local" Anaheim Ducks players. Turned out that the U.S. won the gold in bobsled (wires led the paper) and I probably could have made it up to the mountain and back before the end of the game for celebration and medal photos - all I probably needed. Ah, the benefits of hindsight!

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / The Orange County Register

Photo by Kevin Sullivan / The Orange County Register

Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski skate past two falling South Korean skaters en route to placing second and third in the Men's 1500m short track speed skating event at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
All in all, I was very proud of what I was able to accomplish. Lots of local coverage, several feature slide shows, nine significant medal events, three photo pages, countless fan photos (a recent big deal at my paper) and one, unique story all my own. With a little planning (and help from the Ducks' staff) I was able to spend a lot of in-between moments with the family of Canadian hockey captain and Anaheim Duck Scott Niedermayer. His wife Lisa is one of the nicest people in the world. Special thanks to her, Scott and their entire family. The access was unbelievable and the photos were some of the most rewarding from the Games (if only because no one else had them!).

Lots of appreciation goes out to the ever-friendly Smiley Pool, the awesomely sane and humorous Nhat Meyer, the (I wish I was more like) Sol Neelman, the motivational John Leyba, the supportive Rob Gauthier, and many others for all of their advice, help and general counseling. Thanks also to the USOC's Bill Hancock, USA Hockey's Gerry Helper, and all the Olympic smurfs/volunteers especially the staff at Canada Hockey Place - Richard Tam and Steve Dykes in particular. The editors and staff at the Register - cheers, I know it's not a one-man job.

Love and appreciation to my partner Sara, sister Christy, and sister-in-law Anne for handling the home-front duties, I couldn't have even begun the journey without all of your help.

(Kevin Sullivan is a proud graduate of Jim McNay's photojournalism program at San Jose State University. He is currently a staff photographer with the Orange County Register.)

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