Ryan McKenna, shown interviewing TSN’s Bob MacKenzie, is getting ready for a trip of a lifetime — to Sochi, Russia, to write about Paralympic sledge hockey for the International Paralympics Committee. Photo courtesy Winston Chow
TORONTO, Ont. — The countdown is on for Central Bedeque’s Ryan McKenna, who heads to Sochi, Russia, in less than a week to cover the Paralympic Winter Games.
McKenna found out last fall that he would be taking a huge step towards his dream of becoming a sports broadcaster after being hired by the International Paralympic Committee, to write about the sport of sledge hockey.
McKenna, a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ont., will be following all eight teams that will be competing, at times, covering three games a day and writing several stories for the IPC’s website.
He has been writing about sledge hockey since February 2013.
“It’s kind of crazy. I started to countdown on my whiteboard here at 36 days,” McKenna said Tuesday. “You see the Olympics and you think, oh man, it would be so cool to be there and you realize, wait, I’m actually going there. It’s pretty surreal. It still feels as though it is miles away but these next six days are going to fly by.”
He leaves March 3, flying out of Toronto and making a number of stopovers before arriving in Sochi early afternoon March. 4.
“I start working pretty much right away,” said McKenna. “I probably won’t be writing anything until March 8 because that’s when sledge hockey starts. I am sure when I get there I will have meetings and protocol and that sort of thing.”
Hockey has always been near to McKenna, having played the sport and, now, broadcasting the sport for Ryerson Athletics the past two years.
Covering sledge hockey at the Paralympic Winter Games will be his biggest gig to date. McKenna has worked the past two summers at the local radio station and he’s also done writing and broadcasting for Ryerson’s athletics department.
McKenna admitted that his parents, Kevin and Cathy, are more nervous about the trip, given the political unrest in the country leading up to the Winter Olympics.
“I am worried, too, a little bit. This is my first international reporting experience,” said the 20-year-old who has only been as far west at Lethbridge, Alta., and as far south as Boston. “I will be going by myself and not really knowing anyone. That sort of portion of things makes me a little bit nervous. But, the whole security aspect of things, I am confident that things will be OK. I keep saying to myself if nothing happened during the Olympics I think we’ll be fine.”
There won’t be much down time while in Sochi.
Sledge hockey begins Saturday, March 8, with four games that day, another four games on March 9 and another four on March 10.
“That starts at 9:30 in the morning and the last game starts at 8 o’clock at night,” said McKenna. “We are looking at 12-to-14-hour days and I have to write recaps for all those games and we have to put together previews for the next day’s games.”
He admitted that he likely wouldn’t stray too far away from the Paralympic Village, but added he would like to take in snowboarding, biathlon and para-skiing events.
“It would be pretty neat to see and I hear it is beautiful there.”
And he’s been forewarned by a friend who was photographing the Olympics that the food in the village will be nothing write home about.
“I hear McDonald’s is a great option,” he said with a laugh.
Until he leaves, though, McKenna’s focus will be on school.
“I want to get caught up, if not a little bit ahead, before I go. That portion has been pretty tough,” he said, adding he’s taking a mid-term exam with him to write while in Russia and an opinion piece he has to write for class.
McKenna will be tweeting while in Sochi from @RyanBMcKenna and his stories will be online at www.paralympic.org/ice-sledge-hockey.