Cory Smith, a Pilot Mountain native and East Surry graduate, is working for the Olympic News Service in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Smith graduated from East Surry in 2012 and went on to graduate from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this past May with a major in broadcast journalism.
“It’s a phenomenal experience, after spending four years studying journalism, my first job out of college is at the Olympics,” Smith said.
Smith said that sports have always played a major role in his life, having played four years of both varsity tennis and soccer in high school, even serving as the captain of the soccer team during his senior year.
“It’s surreal that I’m here right now, having grown up dreaming of the Olympics,” Smith said.
During the course of the Olympics, Smith is serving as a flash quotes reporter, meaning that he speaks with athletes immediately following their matches, gathering quotes and background information that other news sources around the country will use in their Olympic coverage. Smith explained that immediately following his interviews with the athletes he uploads the information that they provided him onto the organization’s website, which can then be accessed by other news agencies.
Smith said that although his name doesn’t appear on any of the bylines of the articles that he provided information for, the fact that he can read an article and know that the facts that are referenced came from him is enough validation.
Smith cited the fact that Australia only has one reporter at the Olympics and they aren’t able to cover every single event so the work that he does makes the job that other reporters do a lot easier.
Smith explained that working with the Olympic News Service means that he is often the first member of the media that is allowed to speak with athletes following their performances, adding that a large majority of his job entails gaining background information about the athletes that might be of interest to the general public such as fascinating aspects of their personal lives or the political state of their country.
Smith first learned about the internship from a flyer that was posted on the campus of Chapel Hill, which piqued his interest. He was later approached by a professor that urged him to seize the opportunity.
According to Smith, 25 other students from Chapel Hill are working for the Olympic News Service in the same capacity that he is, in addition to 15 students from the University of Memphis.
Smith said that the most poignant moment that he’s experienced at the Olympics thus far was interviewing Majlinda Kelmendi on Sunday following her gold medal win for the women’s judo 52-kg win. Smith explained that Kelmendi was emotional and cried following her victory due to the fact that her win was the first gold medal ever to be awarded to an athlete from Kosovo, a Southeast European country that declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
“It’s an incredible honor to get to see athletes experiencing extreme highs and painful lows,” Smith said. “It’s remarkable getting to be here in the center of it all, being around athletes from all corners of the globe.”
Smith said that opportunities such as interning at the Olympics are fairly common at the School of Media and Journalism at UNC, explaining that he also interned as a reporter at 247 Sports while in college. Smith added that 247 Sports is a CBS Sports entity and gave him great insight and preparation into his current outing in the world of sports journalism.
“It was a great introduction to what I’m doing now,” Smith said.
During his four years a Chapel Hill, Smith also produced a live weekly talk show.
“I’ve always thought of sports as more than just entertainment, it’s about telling people the stories of the athletes who compete in the sports,” Smith said of his motivations for seeking a career in sports journalism.
Smith explained that when he was a child and would accompany his father to sporting events, he would provide commentary of the happenings of the games.
One of the eye-opening experiences that Smith has encountered during his time at the Olympics is that there’s a wide assortment of sports at the Olympics that the mainstream American media does cover, citing table tennis.
“It has showed me so many sports competitions that I didn’t even know about, not to mention countries that I didn’t know about,” Smith said.
He said that traveling to Brazil for the Olympics was the first time that he has traveled abroad and only his second time flying in an airplane, with his first being several months ago.
“It’s exactly what I hoped my first international experience would be like,” Smith said.
The one road block that Smith has run into during his time at the Olympics has been the language barrier due to the fact that the official language of the majority countries competing in the games is something other than English. Despite the frustrations that come with the communication barrier, Smith said that there’s one language that everyone at the Olympics speaks — the language of sports, citing the notion that when an athlete is in the throes of competition, their actions are understood by all.
“I’m enjoying this moment and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” Smith said of where he thinks his career will take him after the Olympics conclude.
Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.