Public relations student to volunteer on world's stage at upcoming Winter Olympics

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Athletics

January 27, 2010

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Vanessa Virbitsky
When the world's top athletes gather for the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Vanessa Virbitsky will play a key role in assisting many of them to become instant household names.

Virbitsky, a graduate public relations student at Ball State University, will serve as a press officer for the international event, scheduled for Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver. In her volunteer role for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), she'll serve as an assistant morning show liaison, coordinating with producers of NBC's "Today Show" as its anchors feature the most recent medal winners.

"This is a dream come true for me," said the 23-year-old former All-American college gymnast from Harrisburg, Pa. "I'll be able to work closely with some of the top athletes in the world as they go on NBC to tell their stories."

NBC has paid $820 million to broadcast 835 total hours of the Olympic Winter Games. Athletes from more than 100 countries will participate in 15 winter sports.

Implement Managing Victory program

In addition to working with the network, Virbitsky will assist with interview and sponsor requests, research information on athletes and implement the Managing Victory program, which guides U.S. athletes through the avalanche of news media interviews that follow a medal-winning performance. 

The program began at the Salt Lake games in 2002, when USOC officials discovered that medal winners were being overwhelmed by media requests.

"It is an incredible opportunity, but I know it will be a lot of long, hard days — some lasting more than 18 hours," said Virbitsky, who received her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. "I'll be there very early in the morning working with the networks until very late at night. But this type of experience comes rarely in someone's life. I will try to enjoy every moment."

After athletes from the United States win a medal, they will be escorted to a series of interviews, with outlets ranging from their hometown newspaper to the nation's top sports outlets.  

"As a former college athlete, I'll enjoy assisting medalists as they meet with the media," Virbitsky said. "Every one of them has an incredible story to tell."

Internship led to opportunity

This will not be the first time Virbitsky has played a pivotal role for the USOC. For six months in 2009, she served as a media and public relations intern for the organization, helping to publicize several events, including the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Induction and the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit. Virbitsky also assisted television producers from NBC during this season's taping of "The Biggest Loser," when the show's cast visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"It was a great experience that led to the Winter Games," Virbitsky said. "One day, the USOC's media relations director called me and my fellow intern into his office and wanted to know when we were going to ask if we could go to the games. I immediately asked because I had waited my whole life for this." 

Joe Hernandez, Ball State's associate athletic director of media and alumni relations, said Virbitsky is the best person to handle the job. He hired her to work as graduate assistant sports information director handling field hockey and softball. She also will blog about her Olympic experiences at www.ballstatesports.com.

"Vanessa has an outstanding work ethic and is a people person, which makes her a great fit for the collegiate athletic world," he said. "She is a tireless worker and always willing to get the work done. Vanessa excelled athletically and academically as an undergrad.  As a graduate assistant in the media relations office, she jumped right in from day one and has fit in perfectly with our staff."

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