#WMDCC2023 Sports Media Trainee Blogs

Alison and Logan at the World Mixed Doubles © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Logan Hannigan-Downs (21) from United States and Alison Umlah (19) from Canada are the latest winners of the Sports Media Trainee Programme. In March, both were selected to join the World Curling Federation Media Team at the World Mixed Doubles and World Senior Curling Championships in Gangneung, Korea.

Logan will be working as a photographer while Alison will be part of the team as a journalist, providing written and social media content.

Follow along with their time in Korea via their personal blogs.

© WCF / Stephen Fisher

Logan – Final blog: Back to reality

Headed back to reality. Emily mentioned that multiple times during our finals days of the championships in South Korea. For a multitude of reasons, this media trainee program has been one of the best experiences of my life. The friendships I made, skills learned, and experiences had are all indescribable. 

The final days of our championships went by in a blur, we *sang* karaoke, which Alison was definitely the best at. Stephen was a close second and I think surprised us all with his skills. Outside of curling, we explored the market some more, went shopping, and of course, ate more Korean BBQ and talked over drinks.

The championship day was a little stressful for me, with Stephen sending Eakin and myself over to cover the senior championship games before the mixed doubles final. Eakin left after the matches ended and I handled the celebration, closing ceremony, and trophy photos before hopping on an electric scooter and racing over to mixed doubles to get there by the start of the second end.

After the final handshakes, the athletes headed off to do TV interviews and we started editing. Earlier in the match, I spotted Korey Dropkin’s mother in the stands, which turned was about to be very useful information. Korey came sprinting out of the mixed zone and headed straight to his mom for a hug. I was fortunate enough to see him running and promptly took off (I think I actually pulled a calf muscle doing this, oops) after him, and was able to capture the two of them embracing in the stands. 

After the closing ceremony, Stephen instructed me to grab the USA team and do some more portraits of them on the ice with the trophy. I feel very lucky that he trusted me enough to do this, as I wasn’t even sure of my ability. The photoshoot went great, and I (and Stephen I think) were very happy with the results. 

© WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

The banquet was later in the evening, where all the various parties involved with the championships came together to eat, dance, drink, and socialize after a long 11 days. In a series of events, I’m still not entirely sure of, I somehow became the DJ for the last hour and a half. The night finished at the hotel doing karaoke (again) with a wide variety of athletes, coaches, and friends. We *sang* into the early hours of the morning.

Normally when you first meet a group of people you may feel uneasy or not comfortable with them at first. I can confidently say I never felt that when meeting the WCF media team (and anyone else at the event for that matter). Over the last 12 days, the media team spent most of our waking hours with each other and I can’t imagine spending it any differently or with a better group of people and friends. I owe them all many thanks. 

Working with Stephen helped me open my eyes to new possibilities and opportunities in photography, which I am very grateful for. He helped and supported me to try new angles, lenses, and different photography styles. It’s amazing how we can be doing the same thing (photography), but have such different styles and ways we go about it. 

© WCF / Eakin Howard

I have never met someone funnier than Amy, it also helps that she is amazingly nice and fun to be around. Besides being amazing at her job, she helped keep us all laughing and was always up for an adventure in exploring the hotel or city center. I consider Mike the mastermind behind us all, he has a wealth of knowledge that no one can rival. On the final day, I was still learning about the roles and positions he fills for the WCF. I hope to someday be as kind and knowledgeable as him. 

Emily and Mariann are some of the most helpful bosses I have ever worked with. They both were so supportive and friendly whenever I had questions and provided great feedback to me about my photos. Their organizational skills that kept our team focused are unmatched and they are the reason the WCF media team is as strong and successful as it is.

I could not have wished for a better fellow trainee than Alison. She taught me more about the sport than anyone and was always up for ice cream or an adventure around the city. This experience would not have been the same without her company and friendship. Thank you.

This experience is one I will never forget, and I will be recommending it to anyone and everyone I know. The knowledge learned is unbelievable, and cannot be learned in a classroom. I’ll be forever grateful to the WCF and WCF Media Team for picking me and making this such a positive experience for me. I’m now off to buy some Recast credits and join the curling club in my state. Cheers.

Alison – Final reflections: An unforgettable experience

After 30 hours of travel, I arrived back home in Nova Scotia. As I scroll through pictures on my phone, I’m reflecting on what an unbelievable trip I just had.

Since my last blog post, I wrote and released my main feature for the week. It was a ‘behind the scenes’ look at World Curling TV, its operations and all the work that goes into televising an event.

This was a really cool piece to work on. Mike put me in contact with several people working for the WCF who answered many questions I had. After interviewing them, I transcribed their quotes, wrote my story and went through the editing process with Emily.

Both features that I wrote this week involved exploring a writing style that was new to me. I typically write academic papers for my university courses, so this was way more fun. This new style challenged me and quickly taught me so much about sports journalism writing….and it turns out, I really enjoy it!

One of my favourite days of the week was the final day of games. My job for the day was to keep fans on Instagram up-to-date through Instagram Stories on the gold and bronze medal matches. This involved recording the last shot of each end and finding creative ways to post the action. This also meant shooting videos at ice level to get the best angles possible. I will never forget being on the field of play when Team USA won their gold medal. I loved seeing their excitement and celebrations after a week of excellent curling. It was amazing to be so close for such a memorable moment.

© WCF / Eakin Howard

After the finals, the media team attended the banquet. This was attended by a wide age range of people, but that went unnoticed once the night got started. Everyone spent the night laughing, dancing, (drinking soju), and celebrating the sport that brought us all together.

Sidenote: I mentioned in my last blog that the media team may return to the downtown market – and we did. It was more lively this time, and we enjoyed ice cream with fresh honeycomb on top (more sweets…but are you surprised?).

Before becoming a trainee, I had heard that people learn more in a single traineeship with the WCF than in an entire semester at university. Well, I can confirm that this is true. The hands-on experience from this traineeship is something that cannot be taught in a classroom.

I can’t help but give each media team member a special shoutout, because after all, they made this experience exceed any expectations I had.

© WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

Mike, thank you for letting me shadow you for so many days and teaching me all about sports journalism. You helped build my confidence in a position that was so new to me.

Mariann, thank you for teaching me about so many different media tasks that you do for the WCF. It’s impossible not to be inspired by your organization and work ethic after working alongside you.

Emily, thank you for pushing me daily. You encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, which made a huge impact on my growth this week.

Amy, thank you for teaching me about many hidden tools on social media, letting me watch as you edited stunning videos and for countless hours of  laughter.

Logan, thank you for being the best trainee partner I can imagine. Sharing this experience with you was so special (and teaching you about curling was pretty fun too!).

Stephen and Eakin, thank you for answering my numerous questions about photography. The two of you and Logan amazed me daily with your photos.

I can’t thank this team enough for welcoming me into their family for the past 12 days.

I went into this trip feeling so excited, but also nervous that I wouldn’t have the skills to keep up in this role. My one single regret is doubting that I could do this. If I could do this again, I would tell myself to dive in immediately and trust that I do belong in this space.

To anyone reading this who is considering applying to become a trainee: do it. I would again in a heartbeat. It has changed my life and given me a newfound love for the game I’ve always loved.

Logan – Day Five: What the fork?

Wow. I have learned a lot over the past few days. Curling is such a fascinating sport, and I am quickly growing to love it and all the people involved with it. On every bus and elevator ride, working on the media bench, or eating out at a restaurant there always seems to be someone who I can talk with and learn from.

On Sunday I spent the first two sessions by myself taking photos of the World Senior Championships at the Gangneung Hockey Center, which is about 1000m from the curling center. While there I was able to experiment with some photo ideas I had, some worked and others did not. Overall I felt fairly happy with my progress from the first day to the second.

Sunday night we went back to our favourite Korean BBQ restaurant, where we made friends with a young couple from the local area sitting next to us. They showed us how to make and drink soju ‘Korean style’. It involves mixing soju, beer, and Coca-Cola and chugging it down, I believe we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

On Monday I was back at the mixed doubles venue, where I admittedly struggled with my photography for most of the day. Covering a week-long event can be challenging to keep coming up with photo ideas, and I hit a ‘photographer’s block’ this day. Which I thankfully was able to overcome on Tuesday.

My background as a photographer is in newspapers and editorial photography. In that industry, editors will generally run the “Ole Reliable” photos. This type of photography is rather straightforward and does not support the photographers being as creative with their pictures. Additionally, the editing process is very strict. Photoshop is tabooed, the toning and colours have to be true to the environment and the only adjustments you can make are what you could do with the camera.

© WCF / Stephen Fisher

This is vastly different from the style of photography the WCF uses, which I consider more of a marketing style. This style is more focused on making the product (curling) and client (WCF) look good. With this comes more creative freedom in framing photos, creating motion blurs, using double exposures, and candid photos. It also allows a photographer’s editing style to be brighter and bolder with their colours.

During my first few days, I could tell I was still thinking about how to take and edit photos in an editorial style, as that is what I have done my whole life. Stephen has been very helpful in helping me bridge the gap between the two and start to think outside of the box. He also showed me his editing style, which I am now gainly confidence with. I also know that as I am becoming more comfortable with the sport my photography has gotten better.

Tuesday was my best day of photography so far, I was at the mixed doubles venue again and felt my ‘photographer’s block’ was gone. Before the sessions started, Stephen and I talked about some goals for the day, and he suggested some tips and tricks he uses, which was very helpful.

A few of us took the third session off and Amy, Alison, Stephen, and I went into the city center. We explored a large street market, which was full of colour and I loved exploring. Amy somehow found a local brewery, which we walked 1.2k to, all while exploring the local shops and sightseeing.

At the brewery, we ordered flights of local beer and dinner. The general consensus was that the Minori Session (a rice-based beer) or Zeumeu Blanc (a flower-based beer) were our favourites. The food was also quite delicious and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Stephen and I split a pizza, and while eating Alison pointed out the fact that I use a fork wrong. In the United States we are taught to use a fork with the prongs facing upwards, like how you would hold a spoon. I had no idea I had been using a fork ‘wrong’ for the past 21 years! Amy, Stephen, and Alison all showed me their different ways of holding a fork with the prongs facing downward, and I adapted a hybrid version of the three of those. I am still in shocked at how much easier and comfortable it is to hold and use with the prongs facing down. When I return to the Unites States I will be attempting to convert my friends to this style of fork using.

After dinner and my fork enlightenment we tried a local lounge near our hotel where Mike joined us, and for a while, we had to ourselves. Back at the hotel we meet up with Emily and shared some fried chicken and a beer before heading to bed. We also made plans for a karaoke night on Wednesday…stay tuned!

Alison: Day Five – Is work supposed to be this much fun?

Alison interviewing Australia © WCF / Stephen Fisher

It’s hard to describe how much gets packed into a day here in Gangneung. When I was brainstorming ways to write this blog entry, my first thought was to explain the two different sides of my experience here. The first side being the work side and the other being the fun side. I then quickly realised that describing it like that might suggest that part of what I’m doing here isn’t fun. So for that reason, I have titled the two sections, “The ‘Work” and “The Fun.”

The “Work”

I have loved all of the “work” that I’ve been assigned so far in Gangneung. I’m enjoying it so much that it doesn’t feel like work. I get to wake up every morning, head to the arena, and create social media content and write about one of my favourite things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been intimidated by some tasks at first, but the more I do them, the more comfortable I get and the more fun they become.

I mentioned in my last post that I may start to interview players by myself. Well, I did just that! Over the last few days, I have interviewed several teams for different purposes. I have done post-game interviews for Instagram stories. From these, I’ve learned that since players are excited after a win, they are always happy to have a quick chat.

I also had my first experience with a longer style of interview. I was asked to interview a mother and son competing at the championships this week and then write a feature for the WCF website. Although it was my first time doing anything like this, I thought the whole process was really cool. I enjoyed asking the players questions to create a story, transcribing the quotes, and making the story come to life. Stay tuned for this feature in the coming days!

Interviewing Germany’s Klaudius Harsch and England’s Manon Harsch © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Another highlight has been learning new tips and tricks from Amy about Instagram. She has taught me so many useful things in just a few short days. One of my favourite parts of this traineeship has been creating content for social media. I’ve been helping with Instagram Stories, tweets, and even posted my first reel.

On Monday, Mike took me to explore the TV truck, where they produce the live feed of the feature games. I can’t begin to describe how amazed I was. Having been a player in front of the cameras, I had never thought about how much work happens behind the scenes to produce live games. I can now confidently say – a ton. That short tour of the production truck has given me a whole new perspective, and I definitely won’t watch a game on TV the same again.

The Fun

By this point in the trip, everyone on the media team has developed a routine. Some elements of my daily routine consist of convenience store ice cream visits with Logan, and café visits across the street from the venue with whoever needs caffeine that day. Over the past week, my favourite ice cream dessert was something Google translated as an ‘Oreo frozen cheesecake stick’ and my favourite drink: an iced caramel macchiato. You might get the sense that I enjoy sweets…and I’m certainly making the most of that while I’m here.

Members of the Media Team © WCF / Eakin Howard

I have also had two evening sessions off from covering curling. A few of us used this time to return to the magical department store and explore downtown Gangneung, including the market. It was closing when we arrived, so we all decided that we’ll be making a trip back during the daytime, for more exploring.

This is just a small taste of how much fun this experience is. Laughing so hard until you cry is not a rare occurrence with this group of people. I am so grateful to be a part of this team.

Alison: Day One – ‘Trying a new role in the sport I love’

Senior Journalist Mike Haggerty with Alison Umlah © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Anyone who knows me would say that curling is my whole world. I’m on the ice almost every day practicing or competing and when I’m not, I’m watching it on TV.

This past curling season has been the busiest one I’ve ever had. My junior team represented Canada at the World Junior B’s in Finland and the World Juniors in Germany in December and February respectively. It was an incredibly memorable season – one that I thought couldn’t get any better.

Alison at the World Junior Curling Championships 2023, Füssen, Germany © Stephen Fisher

Then I heard that the Sports Media Trainee Programme was accepting applications. I applied without any expectations, knowing that people apply from around the world. Then, to my surprise, I was invited to attend the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in South Korea! I was thrilled but more than anything, I was shocked.

The World Mixed Doubles is the third World Championship that I’ve been a part of this season. But this time is entirely different. I’m experiencing curling from a whole new side, getting a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what it takes to run a successful championship.

So let’s start from the beginning.

My trainee journey began on Tuesday, when I started the 26-hour adventure to Gangneung. Those hours consisted of three flights; from Halifax to Toronto to Seoul, and two trains. I was joined on my adventure by Emily Dwyer, the WCF Content Manager. As luck would have it, we’re from the same city (even the same curling club!). Upon arriving in South Korea, Emily and I were joined by Logan (Trainee Photographer), Amy (Content Creator), and Mariann (Media Manager).

After a necessary night’s rest, the five of us had the day to explore Gangneung. Mariann took us to what we believed to be a grocery store… but it turned out to be one of the wildest department stores that sold almost anything you can imagine. We ate lunch at a hole-in-the-wall fried chicken restaurant. My one word to describe that meal: incredible.

In the afternoon, when we all started to crash from jetlag, Emily suggested a quick swim in the sea in front of our hotel. There may have been some screaming as we ran into the “refreshing” water.

The next day was practice day for all the teams. This was a busier day for Logan, but I got to help record some short videos of the practices for social media, which meant filming the players at ice level. It feels a bit strange to be in a different role at this event but I am enjoying seeing the game I love through a new lens.

© WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

Saturday was the first day of competition and my first real day as a trainee. I spent the morning with Emily, learning what each member of the Media Team does during a session. She also taught me how the WCF runs its social media and the ways they maintain consistency across various platforms. Following each session, I joined Mike, (Senior Journalist) as he showed me how to interview athletes after their games. In the coming days, I’ll get to try being the interviewer for the first time.

Since arriving in Gangneung, I have made so many memories. My time with the media team so far has been filled with new experiences and endless laughter. They are such a welcoming group of individuals who have made me feel at home despite trying a journalist role for the first time. I’m so excited for the week ahead, I’m trying to soak it all in!

Logan: Day One – ‘Trying to stay afloat on ice’

Logan shooting at the World Mixed Doubles © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Before I start I need to clear a few things up – before this trainee programme, I knew hardly anything about curling. That slim bit of knowledge came from watching matches in the Olympics and playing Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games on my Wii video game consul growing up. I am from the United States and there was only one curling club in my state [Oregon], and I lived about two hours from it.

I grew up playing a wide variety of sports and being fascinated with the ones I didn’t play. For as long as I can remember I recorded the Olympics when they were on and watched whatever was on. During high school, I became fascinated with photography and gravitated toward sports photography, which I now do full-time.

Before the fall of 2022, I would’ve never dreamed of having the opportunity to photograph curling, much less work with the WCF. One of my friends [Howard Lao] was hired to photograph the Pan Continental Curling Championships, and he told me about the Sports Media Trainee Programme. I turned on tweet notifications for the WCF as I waited for the application to open.

I was astonished when I received an email inviting me for an interview, but I happily accepted it. I was later elated when I found out I would be going to South Korea for the Mixed Doubles!

Upon landing in Seoul, my first challenge was finding the other WCF members I was supposed to meet. After finding a shuttle I hoped that was going to the right terminal (it did), and wandering until I found them, we were off to navigate the Seoul train system to find our way to Gangneung. After a 30-hour travel day, I collapsed into my bed that night.

The next morning a group of us, Alison (Journalist Trainee), Amy (WCF Content Creator), Emily (WCF Content Manager), and Mariann (WCF Media Manager) got breakfast and headed out to do a little shopping to try and hold off the jet lag.

There are no words that I can use to describe the store we walked into. The best I can put it would be a typical-sized mall squished into five stories with anything and everything you could ever need. After shopping we headed to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall fried chicken place we stumbled upon. The food was beyond excellent and we befriended a local that was also eating lunch there.

After lunch, we walked the 100m from our hotel to the ocean and jumped in, much to the amusement of a few other beachgoers. That evening WCF’s photo manager and my mentor, Stephen Fisher, arrived and we all headed to a Korean BBQ restaurant. It was delicious and we finished the night with some ice cream from a 7/11.

Practice day was the next day, and I spent most of it with Stephen taking photos of the World Senior Championship participants practicing. After one day I already felt much more knowledgeable and comfortable about curling.

Saturday was the first competition day and I was at the Mixed Doubles venue. I thought I knew what I was going to expect but I was very wrong. As I was told and very quickly witnessed mixed doubles is FAST paced. I could tell I was becoming overwhelmed very quickly when the curling started. It seemed like there were possible photos everywhere I looked. After I recomposed myself, I felt that I managed to do okay for the rest of the session.

In the second session, I could tell I was starting to learn when a big shot was coming up, what athletes gave good (or bad) reactions after a throw, and what photo positions I enjoy. I am already starting to feel a lot more confident with the sport (big thanks to Alison and the rest of the WCF Media Team for helping with that).

Stephen and I rounded out the third session trying out my two tilt-shift lenses, which I hope to experiment with throughout the week. Tilt-shift lenses are mainly used in architecture photography, but they can offer a unique perspective for sports.

I know the coming days will continue to be an adventure full of lots of learning and photography (there’s a rumour karaoke may be involved too).