www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/belair/ph-ag-olympics-0131-20140201,0,4575843.story

baltimoresun.com

Harford County connections to Sochi

Ex-skating champ Meissner, CMW grad Hamilton part of TV coverage team

BY DAVID ANDERSON, daanderson@baltsun.com

6:00 AM EST, February 1, 2014

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Two people with Harford County ties will be working with NBC Sports in Sochi, Russia, to help tell the stories of the athletes and many other people involved in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Jennifer Watson Hamilton, a native of Forest Hill who lives in Atlanta, and the former world champion figure skate Kimmie Meissner, of Bel Air, will join people from around the world at the Sochi Olympics.

Meissner, who competed in the 2006 winter games in Torino, Italy, and placed sixth, will be covering this year's Olympic figure skating competition for NBC.

Meissner could not be reached for comment. She had already left for Russia, her mother Judy said Wednesday.

Hamilton was in Atlanta Wednesday, preparing to leave for Russia Saturday. The games begin Feb. 7 and continue through Feb. 23.

Hamilton is a 1988 graduate of C. Milton Wright High School and the daughter of Clifton and Vivian Watson, who live in Forest Hill.

Hamilton has been with WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, since 1999. The station is owned by the Gannett media company, which also owns USA Today.

Interviewed Thursday after spending hours covering an ice storm that paralyzed the Atlanta metropolitan area a day earlier, Hamilton said she was initially going to report on the lives of everyday Russians who live in and around Sochi, but two suicide bombings in the city of Volograd, about 300 miles from Sochi and once known as Stalingrad, about a month ago, forced Russian government officials to tighten their security measures around the games.

Hamilton said NBC officials have held numerous security briefings with their Olympics staffers, and she said she will be confined to Olympic Park — where athletes and media will be staying — and the Mountain Cluster, site of the skiing competitions.

Both sites are miles from the city of Sochi.

"Now we are not allowed to go into Sochi ever . . . they cannot guarantee our safety and if anything happened to us they can't get to us quickly," she explained.

She noted that she will be traveling with NBC's national and international correspondents, and that no one among the hundreds of correspondents has declined to travel to the games.

"I try to take comfort in the safety in numbers," she said.

Hamilton has won multiple Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards for her television work, according to a biography provided by her mother. She is married and has two children.

Hamilton anchors the breaking news desk for the station's morning news show, and specializes on long-form issues-oriented stories.

"Our station will actually take a stand on things and do advocacy journalism," she said.

Her assignment for the Olympics will be to provide features on every aspect of the winter games from Russia for the Atlanta audience, such as profiles of Georgia athletes, behind-the-scenes segments about the NBC broadcast operation and aspects of life in Olympic Park.

She will provide live updates during her news station's morning show and 11 p.m. broadcast, and taped segments to air from 5 to 8 p.m. Sochi is nine time zones ahead of the East Coast of the U.S.

Hamilton said Olympic correspondents have also been warned to refrain from making comments critical of the Russian government on social media.

She compared it to a recent interview she did with the Atlanta mayor, firing questions at him about the city's response to the ice storm.

"I won't have to be reporting anything terrorism-related from the Olympics and I know my parents hope not, too," she said.