WYPR FM's interview with Sun sports writer Candy Thomson. Originally aired August 24, 2004.
Andy Bienstock, WYPR: Sun sports writer Candy Thomson is currently in Athens, covering among other things, the women's softball competition. Candy, let's talk about what seems to be the real "Dream Team" in this year?s Olympics. That's the women's softball team, which almost went unscored upon - just an astonishing team.
Candy Thomson: It really was fun to watch them. I got to watch them on their U.S. tours. They warmed up and you could tell that they were a really special group of athletes who were working together as a team. But the competition wasn't at the highest level on that U.S. tour. Then they got over here and you really got to see what they were made of. All the hard work they did through the months. They certainly didn't take things for granted. They were a great group of people to watch. They were teammates. They looked out for each other. It was a truly wonderful experience to watch them from start to finish.
WYPR: Given all the shutouts, is the pitching simply unhittable for other teams?
Candy Thomson: It's funny. In June I got to stand in against Jennie Finch when she was warming up one night. I've got to tell you, I could hear the ball. I could feel the ball go by. But I never saw the ball. I guess I'm in good company, because major league players who stood in against her couldn't hit the ball. She's just that good. And they've got four of them, and at least two of them, maybe three will be back for the 2008 [Olympic] Games in Beijing.
WYPR: Is there any talk about sports that are on the endangered list for the Olympics? Was women's softball one of them?
Candy Thomson: Yes. There were three teams the IOC looked at as possible teams to cut in order to try and downsize the Olympics. Everybody keeps saying that they're too large, they're becoming unwieldy, it's becoming too expensive. So, there were three sports. It was baseball, it was softball, and modern pentathalon. They put off any decision and they're going to do a sport by sport review over the winter months and then at a meeting next year in Singapore, the IOC membership will vote sports up or down, in or out. So they still have some time coming to them.
WYPR: There's a possibiity for a gold medal in women's soccer. This is kind of a last stand for a lot of names we've come to know over the last decade.
Candy Thomson: It is a sweet team to watch. It's kind of fun to see the three teams that people are watching are all women's teams. It's kind of a nice, symbolic look at the way women's sports have grown in the United States. The reason softball, the reason soccer, the reason basketball are advancing and starting to get fans is because there's a system and there's almost a farm team system where you learn to play in elementary school, and then high school, and then you get a college scholarship, and then you get picked for an Olympic team. And when you've got people like Mia Hamm, who have given their all to advancing women's soccer. She's the all-time leading scorer - men or women - in international play. That says a lot about what sports are like these days.
Hear conversations with Sun writers covering the Summer Olympics, Monday through Friday at 5:45 p.m. on WYPR FM, 88.1.
Excerpts from Baltimore's ESPN Radio 1300's August 24th interview with Sun photographer Karl Merton Ferron, on assignment at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Radio 1300: It must be exciting to be in Greece to shoot the Olympics. Tell us about your experience with Michael Phelps and how that went.
Karl Ferron: You talk about a whirlwind. Everybody wanted to be in on taking pictures of Michael Phelps and it was really hard to get a good comfortable position. But I just tried to stay away from the other photographers and get my own images. It was really tough because you've got to try to get a daily picture that was different than the day before. So you've got to come up with some creative ways to try to shoot the same person day in and day out.
Radio 1300: How can you get a new shot of a guy every day?
Karl Ferron: That was one thing I had to focus in on when I was flying over here. I looked at a bunch of photographs from other news organizations to see how people covered Phelps in different locations. But when it comes to Olympics coverage it's very specific. They have you in certain locations and you have to throw all that out of the window and just start from scratch and go with whatever they give you and overcome your own hurdles.
Radio 1300: During the first eight days, did you have an opportunity to shoot anything else?
Karl Ferron: No, the first several days it was all about Phelps. The very first day I had to do all logistical things - getting my credentials in order and everything. But once the swimming started, it was all swimming. And it hammered me. I was working morning and evening, all those sessions. And this is an outdoor pool, not indoor. You're talking about temperatures upwards of 100 degrees and low humidity and very little wind for the most part. After doing that for eight full days, it took its toll on me. I wound up getting pretty sick and had a pretty good case of heat exhaustion. I had to sleep for about 16 hours at one stage. But I seem to be back on track and am working on track and field. I just shot James Carter tonight. He was in a semi-final heat for the hurdles and he won his heat. He's moving forward and so am I.
And did you know we had a minor earthquake here today? I was sitting here in the Tribune offices in the main press center, and as I was working on my images, I felt the building start swaying. I was looking around and was thinking, "Nearest exit?" I was looking at some other people and they were looking a little quizzical. After several minutes we heard that there was indeed a 4.5 earthquake.
Radio 1300: Nothing like jolting you out a little bit. You talked about trying to get a different shot every day. How tough has it been to fight the other photographers to get a decent shot?
Karl Ferron: It really hasn't been much of a fight after all. I quickly learned how to go around the back way. One of the things people told us is that you have to wait until 20 minutes before the start and then you can go to your positions. Everybody is waiting and everybody wants to go in like a big old sea of photographers, and I just got tired of it after the first day. I just went around to the back of the area and went upstairs and when they started going in, I went in with them. And like I said, I like to go to a different position than what a lot of photographers shoot. I want to get an image that's different. Because you look at some images sometimes and it looks like all the photographers are pressed next to each other. What I try to do is go somewhere that's obscure yet is a good location. One of the places I like to go is right under the results board because that's where everybody looks. Take a look at Phelps after he finishes, after anybody finishes, and the first thing they do is turn toward that result board. I was looking right down his nostrils from a long distance away. I was the first photographer who started doing that, and then next thing you know, some other photographers started doing that because it ended up being a pretty decent position.
Hear conversations with Sun writers covering the Summer Olympics, Monday through Friday at 4:45 p.m. on Baltimore's ESPN Radio 1300 "Those Sports Guys".
August 24, 2004, 7:37 PM EDT