HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
OTTAWA’S OLYMPIC INSIDERS (Part 4 of 5): Kristina Groves and Jamie Sinclair represent two widely different winter sports and have contrasting status when it comes to their athletic careers.
But the two notable Ottawa sports figures will have something in common for the next two weeks and it involves the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
Groves, who won four medals in long-track speed skating for Canada in her three (2002, 2006 and 2010) Winter Olympic appearances, and Sinclair, who has had three (2018 and 2022) attempts to represent the United States in Olympic curling but couldn’t seize the prize, will serve as analysts for CBC TV and NBC TV respectively.
The Beijing Winter Games will be the third non-skating Olympics for the retired Groves, who previously worked behind the microphone for the 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.
But the Beijing Olympics, just like the Games in PyeongChang, will force Groves to alter drastically her daily schedule. Since Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Canadians living in the Eastern Time zone, she will be commenting on the various races with CBC play-by-play announcer Steve Armitage in the early morning hours, while most people are sleeping.
The continued presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly infectious Omicron variant have prevented her from travelling to Beijing. Instead, the CBC headquarters building in downtown Toronto will be her base for the full Olympics.
Depending on the long-track speed skating schedule in Beijing, Groves’ typical day will have her arrive at work at about 2 a.m., call the races from 3:30 a.m. to 5:15 a.m., return to her Airbnb to sleep, drive back to the CBC in the afternoon for production work, and head home for supper and early bedtime at 7 p.m.
After 13 races at her three Winter Olympics, which included three silver- and one bronze-medal efforts, Groves, 45, is looking forward to her third Games experience with CBC.
“They keep asking me back,” she said in an interview the night before flying to Toronto from her home in Calgary. “I try to share what I can about the sport for the people who don’t know (about long-track speed skating). I want to elevate the sport in our country. It’s an awesome sport.
“I am the ‘why’ person. I explain to the viewer what’s happening and what’s important. It’s a big commitment, but it will be a fun adventure.”
Groves misses being on site in Beijing to cover the Games. But her partner Scott Maw is the lead sport physiologist for the long-track speed skating team and she hopes to keep on top of speed skating with a few tips from him. Maw is an expert in the field of athlete monitoring, performance analysis and altitude training, and is attending his sixth Olympics.
This assignment with CBC has meant a lot of pre-Games homework for Groves to help keep the viewers well informed during the races.
“I’m trying to get caught up on all the dirt,” Groves joked about her information and data gathering to tell the best stories. “There are interesting stories for every event.
“Scott will be my eyes on the ground. I can’t go to the track. It’s harder to do from a distance.”
Groves also has been receiving some coaching on a variety of technical aspects for her TV performance and delivery to refine her role as an analyst.
Meanwhile, Sinclair, who lives in Osgoode, ON., but competes with a Minnesota-based rink, has already started her role as an NBC curling analyst and provided commentary on three mixed doubles matches on Wednesday and Thursday. After two days of rehearsals, Sinclair’s first live overnight shift lasted from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern Time.
Like Groves, Sinclair and the NBC announcing teams didn’t travel to Beijing because of health and safety concerns related to the pandemic. Instead, Sinclair is based in Stamford, Connecticut, along with two other analysts – Tyler George, a 2018 Olympic curling gold medallist for the United States, and Kevin Martin, who skipped Canada to the men’s Olympic curling gold medal in 2010 – and play-by-play announcers Jason Knapp, Jim Kozimor and Kenny Rice.
Hockey and curling will be two key sports on the NBC broadcasting agenda.
Born in Anchorage, Alaska, and turning 30 on Feb. 21, the day after the end of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Sinclair has been one of the most successful curling skips in the United States in the past five years. She guided her rinks to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 U.S. championship titles and won the American mixed doubles finals in 2018 and 2019. A two-time world championship competitor, she was named the U.S. curling female athlete of the year in 2019.
A former member of the Manotick Curling Club, Sinclair played lead on the Rachel Homan rink for two seasons (2005-07). She was part of Homan’s Ontario rink, which won the gold medal at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Sinclair graduated from Carleton University with an honours degree in International Business.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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