American gymnast Aly Raisman earned a gold medal for her athletic prowess in London. Its her mom whos gone viral.
NBCs video of Lynn Raisman watching her daughter perform on the uneven bars last Sunday, with her nervous murmurs and face and body contortions, was the single most replayed moment on Tivo digital video recorders that night. It has even inspired a YouTube spoof.
The network doesnt have parent cams trained on the stands during every Olympic event. Moms and dads are featured only when they are relevant to the story lines, veteran NBC producer Molly Solomon said Thursday. But theyve already been indelible parts of the networks coverage in the first few days of the London Games.
The parents of American gymnasts John Orozco and Dannel Leyva were palpable presences during that sports coverage. The bronze medal-winning Leyvas dad was his coach and a bundle of energy. NBC introduced Orozcos parents in a segment that talked about the sacrifices they made in helping the Bronx athlete reach a high level of competition. When Orozcos dreams were shattered by some subpar performances, he was near tears, and his mothers face reflected similar agony.
Can you imagine the emotions of watching your kid compete? Solomon said. To me, its part of the fabric of the story.
One of NBCs best moments came after South African Chad Le Clos unexpectedly beat American Michael Phelps in the butterfly. Americans by now are used to seeing Phelps mom, Debbie, cheer her sons many medal-winning performances. This time, the camera caught her in a double-take, first thinking it was another gold medal before learning her son had been beaten in the end.
NBC producer Dan Beard was in the stands and heard a man shouting, Thats my son! Thats my son! He quickly ordered cameras to catch video of Le Clos sobbing father, his head wrapped in a South African flag. The parents with their contrasting emotions made for arresting images.
For many American athletes, NBC producers know the parents already through the research-gathering process leading up to the Olympics. Seemingly more athletes these days are teenagers, and their parents are the emotional and financial support system through years of training. A Procter & Gamble ad campaign for the Olympics focuses on just these sacrifices that moms make.
Not all parents are comfortable being a part of their childs moments. Solomon recalled a recent Winter Olympics where the parents of an ice dancing team asked that the cameras stay focused on their children. The mother of American ice skater Evan Lysacek is usually out of the arena, unable to watch her son perform live.
If they dont want to be on camera, we are respectful of that, Solomon said.
NBC learns from Olympics officials where an athletes family has seats before the competition takes place. Theres always a double-check, with a researcher going up in the stands to make sure that information is correct.
Imagine the embarrassment of getting it wrong. Judging by many of the expressions, however, its usually pretty easy to tell when theyve got it right.