Rio 2016

The Los Angeles Times misses wrestler's prayer refrain: 'Christ is in me, I am enough'

The Los Angeles Times misses wrestler's prayer refrain: 'Christ is in me, I am enough'

Does anyone have time for yet another Rio 2016 religion-news post?

One of the responses that your GetReligionistas hear when we criticize the faith-shaped holes in mainstream news coverage goes something like this: You guys just aren't realistic. In today's age of short, quickie digital journalism -- with journalists dashing off three or four stories and 10 tweets a day -- reporters just don't have the time and space to add secondary, deep-background details about religion and stuff.

Or words to that effect. Trust me, we understand the pressures, in an age when the advertising crisis in mass media has left fewer reporters in mainstream newsrooms, while the World Wide Web demands more and more 24/7 content. We know that reality issue is there.

The veteran scribes here at GetReligion -- with nearly 200 years worth of experience in religion news, when you add us all up -- can see the challenges. Trust me, we know that people on beats that bump into religious content, from arts to politics, from sports to business, don't have the time to write religion feature stories.

But they do have time to listen to what people say and then include a few details and quotes about faith, when it is clear that these details are at the heart of a person's life and work.

Take team USA wrestler Helen Maroulis, whose win over three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan was -- in one NBC soundbite -- something like an unknown sprinter beating Usain Bolt (that Catholic mega-star from Jamaica) in the 100 meters.

Now, it helps to know that Maroulis has been training for several years in Southern California. Thus, you would expect The Los Angeles Times to be anxious to tune her in and capture the essence of this huge Olympics upset. So here is some key material at the top of a feature about the gold-metal winner:

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Haunted house Olympics: How many of the faith-driven stories did you see in Rio coverage?

Haunted house Olympics: How many of the faith-driven stories did you see in Rio coverage?

For many Rio 2016 viewers, it was the emotional peak of the entire Olympics.

I am referring to what happened -- far from the finish line -- during a preliminary heat for the women’s 5,000-meter run. That was when Abbey D’Agostino of team USA collided with Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand.

Both went down. D’Agostino didn't know it, but she had a torn ACL. Nevertheless, she stopped and helped Hamblin. Together -- with the American runner clearly injured -- they finished the race. D’Agostino left the track in a wheelchair and, later, was not able to accept an offer by Olympic judges allowing both runners to run in the final because of their fine sportsmanship.

That's the story that everyone knows about, the drama that left viewers coping with tears. But why did D’Agostino stay behind to help, as the pack ran off into the distance? Catholic News Service looked for that angle, which was not hard to find:

“Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”
She had previously recounted how her reliance on God helped calm her anxiety before a big race. “Whatever the outcome of the race is, I’m going to accept it. ... I was so thankful and just drawn to what I felt like was a real manifestation of God’s work in my life.” She told Hanlon that previous injuries forced her “to depend on God in a way that I’ve never been open to before.”

Did anyone see that angle in mainstream coverage? Actually, one or two major newsrooms saw that religion ghost and ran with it, including Sports Illustrated online. But not many.

I was exchanging emails with a media professional the other day and mentioned that there was no way GetReligion could have done posts on all of the valid, and often crucial, religion-angle stories that received little, if any, news coverage during Rio 2016. I have never received so many contacts from readers about a subject, pointing me toward more and more URLs with other Olympics religion angles worthy of note. It was like one giant haunted house of religion-ghost stories.

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Washington Post cuts 'Sacred Heart': Yes, Katie Ledecky had help reaching her golden goals

Washington Post cuts 'Sacred Heart': Yes, Katie Ledecky had help reaching her golden goals

So who is winning the race, this far into Rio 2016, to be the beaming face on the front of the post-Olympics Wheaties box?

Will it be gymnastics icon Simone Biles? How about the amazing, and inspirational, Simone Manuel? Or how about the young swimmer whose record-smashing times have led some to call her the world's most outstanding athlete -- in or out of a pool -- at this moment in time?

That, of course, would be Katie Ledecky. The problem with this 19-year-old superstar is that she is stunningly normal, in terms of her life story. You can see the Washington Post wrestling with that reality in a feature story after her gold-medal blitz that ran with this headline: "Her goals met, Katie Ledecky speeds toward the next chapter of her life."

Once again, note that this is not a simple sports story. The goal here is to talk about Ledecky as a person, to talk about her future and what makes her tick. What are her values? What will shape her goals in life, now that she is packing away her Olympics experiences and heading to her freshman year at Stanford University?

Yes, GetReligion readers, we are looking for some sign of her strong Catholic faith. Let's look at some of the crucial material near the end:

Somewhere in that hug line was U.S. women’s assistant coach Greg Meehan, who has been handed the keys to the Lamborghini. The Stanford women’s swim coach recruited Ledecky with a pitch touting the school’s storied and talent-loaded swim program, its Ivy-level academic offerings and its opportunities for even a legendary athlete to blend into campus life.

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What. It. All. Means. Simone Manuel keeps trying to tell the world her whole story

What. It. All. Means. Simone Manuel keeps trying to tell the world her whole story

I don't know about you, but I am still fired up about that stunning and historic gold-medal win by Simone Manuel in the 100-meter freestyle.

So, yes, here is a follow-up post (click here for my quick earlier take in this week's "Crossroads" podcast piece) on the news coverage of this young woman and her amazing Olympics story. In other words, the scribes in the mainstream press are still hard at work striving to tell the world (all together now) What. This. All. Means.

Let's start with some crucial video work.

For millions and millions of folks, Rio 2016 is experienced through the "how many ads can we make you watch" entertainment package offered by NBC Sports. The stories run by major news organizations are important, but the images that flash across that big, glowing wall in the home entertainment cave is what really matters.

So please click here and watch this piece of video from an NBC interview with Manuel minutes after her win. What are the first words that she speaks, when offered the chance to say What. This. All. Means?

That would be, "All glory to God."

This is not surprising, of course, for anyone who has glanced Manuel's Twitter feed. Here she is again with the other glowing Simone of this Olympics, as in gold-everything gymnastics icon Simone Biles (one of several high-profile Catholics on the U.S. team).

Now, watch the official NBC version of that same pool-side moment (at the top of this post) that has been posted at YouTube. Spot a key difference, after the editors have had time to work on it?

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