Follow the Pac-12 to Rio: Beach Volleyball

SAN FRANCISCO (July 29, 2016) - It’s time to follow the Pac-12 to Rio! Leading into the 2016 Olympic Games, Pac-12 Networks Insider will profile its on-air talent with Olympic ties. Whether they’re broadcasters, competitors or have accomplished both feats, we have you covered.

This week, Pac-12 Networks Insider features beach volleyball analysts and Olympians, Kevin Wong and Dain Blanton.

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From competing against each other to working together on the broadcasting circuit, Kevin Wong and Dain Blanton are two Pac-12 Networks analysts who are Rio-bound for the Olympics as analysts for beach volleyball matches.

Wong, a 1993 and 1995 UCLA National Champion, and Blanton competed in the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, with Blanton competing again during the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.

Blanton, the first two-time U.S. male Beach Volleyball Olympian, wanted to make a commitment to soak in the unique experience.

“We wanted to be in the village and experience everything,” Blanton said. “The biggest surprise was playing in front of 10,000 people. The enormity of the situation and how many Americans were supporting us.”

“I just fell in love with the Olympics when I was a really young kid,” Wong said. “When I got there and saw all the flags and surrounding activities, it was just systems overload! Just so much going on.”

After their professional playing careers ended, both Wong and Blanton switched to the other side of the camera.

Wong, who called 54 Olympic volleyball matches in the 2012 London Games, compares broadcasting to taking an open book test.

Ninety-five percent of the work is done before I get there,” Wong said. “I know what makes people tick on and off the court. I know my storylines, and then that way I can go into conversations we have with the athletes on the warm up courts and practice courts - I’m already crafting the final draft.”

Blanton, who won a 2016 National and Pac-12 Championship with the USC Women’s Beach Volleyball Team as an Assistant Coach, added that working as a broadcaster is easier in comparison to actually playing due to worries shifting away from how you’re feeling in regards to injuries.

When asked about his most memorable Olympic call, Wong recalled the match with Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor winning their third-straight gold medal.

“Thirty million people watched that broadcast,” Wong said. “That’s the sign of top of the mountain as a broadcaster. I don't know if there’s anything more I can ask for. It was a great match between two teams, lots of drama and come from behind victory.”

With Opening Ceremonies a week away, Wong thinks the battle between the host country vs. the U.S. on both the men’s and women's side will be compelling due in part to injuries and partner changes for the U.S.

“The Brazilians have been sitting on the beach and relaxed this year, whereas the U.S. teams have had to grovel. It should be interesting to see which of those roads better prepares them for Olympic success.”

Check back on Wednesday for a feature on Aly Wagner and Cobi Jones.

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