It’s the chance of a lifetime, a big step towards Ryan McKenna’s dream job of becoming a sports broadcaster.
Next March, the Central Bedeque native will be off to Russia, covering sledge hockey at the Paralympic Winter Games for the International Paralympics Committee.
The 20-year-old got the news this week after working for months contributing articles to the association’s website.
“There were a few fist pumps,” McKenna said of his reaction to the news.
The third-year journalism student at Ryerson University started writing for the committee’s website in February, contributing at least 10 articles on sledge hockey.
Hockey is a sport near and dear to McKenna, having played and, now, broadcasting for Ryerson Athletics the past two years.
But it was actually curling that, initially, helped McKenna land a job writing for Paralympic.org.
“It all came about in February. I got an email on the job board for Ryerson University and it was in regards to a curling internship at the World Junior Curling Championships,” he recalled. “The curling thing didn’t work out, but I received a response email saying that the International Paralympic Committee was looking for writers. I thought if I could write for an international website that would be great exposure.”
McKenna applied and, by March, was writing for the website, focusing on the sport of sledge hockey.
His boss, editorial and social media co-ordinator Stewart Lieberman, said there could be an opportunity for McKenna to be chosen as a volunteer writer for the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, depending on his performance.
He figures he must have done something right since, a month ago, he got an email saying he could end up in Sochi in March.
“From there, I got a little bit excited. It was just a little bit of extra motivation to keep working hard and get the stories in and do it to the best of my ability.”
Covering sledge hockey at the Paralympic Winter Games will be his biggest gig to date. For the past two summers, McKenna has worked at a Summerside radio station, hosting, this past summer, his own sports-oriented show. He’s also done writing and broadcasting for his university’s athletics department.
While being a sports broadcaster has always been his goal, even since elementary school days – and with TSN in his sights – McKenna said the Sochi gig, although not a paid position, is an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.
“I always had a passion for sports and ever since (elementary school) it has always been something I really wanted to do and I just pursued it from there,” he added. “Getting into Ryerson was a first big step for me.”
Parents Kevin and Cathy have always been supportive of his dream and were the first people he called with the news.
“They’re pretty excited. They were sending me some pretty excited text messages back and forth. Their concern is school and that’s very much understandable,” said McKenna. “It is just an opportunity I definitely can’t pass up.”
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Until March, he’ll continue to write about sledge hockey for Paralympic.org, focusing in the coming weeks on who to watch.
One of those players could be Summerside native Billy Bridges, who, Sunday, helped Team Canada to gold at the Four Nations Tournament in Sochi.
“I actually haven’t gotten the chance to talk to Billy Bridges yet,” said McKenna. “I am eager to talk to Billy. I think it would be pretty cool to talk to him about P.E.I. and, at least, have someone from home.”
The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games take place March 4 to 16.
To read McKenna’s articles, visit www.paralympic.org/icesledgehockey.