Olympics ‘awesome’ experience for Lalji
Farhan Lalji got what he asked for and it was even better than he imagined.
Last year, knowing the assignments for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games were coming up, Lalji told his bosses at TSN that if they were going to send him, the New Westminster resident had just one request. He wanted athletics, and no other.
“I kind of felt, if I wasn’t going it was no problem it just meant more time with the family, but if I was to go that’s what I wanted to do,” said Lalji upon his return from London this week. “It’s the signature event at the Olympics. No one ever got back to me, but when the list of assignments came down there it was.”
It meant a lot of work. Lalji had to get to know the backgrounds of 2,500 athletes in 45 different events. The heavy-duty homework was worth it.
“I’ve never put that much time into something at TSN or any class at university,” said Lalji, who called it the best experience of his career. “It was awesome, it was everything I expected it to be.”
Lalji got to witness athletic history several times including those authored by Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt.
He interviewed Bolt one-on-one three times, even being the first one to ask Bolt, gold medallist in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metre relay, about IOC president Jacques Rogge's comments suggesting he wasn't a legend. American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant was standing in Lalji’s area during one of Bolt’s semifinals, Lalji introduced them to each other and then eavesdropped on their conversation.
“Just listening to the two of them, how much respect they had for ear other, arguably the best athletes in their sport. That was kind of cool,” said Lalji. “[Bryant] was just so blown away by the athleticism of Usain.”
The homework really paid for what was Lalji’s personal signature interview at the Olympics. Last Saturday night, Lalji interviewed Jared Connaughton after the sprinter’s stepping on a line disqualified the Canadian 4x100 relay team from winning a bronze medal. After viewing the video on the scoreboard and on Lalji’s monitor, Connaughton admitted to Lalji he had made a mistake that had cost him and his teammates a medal.
“It was tough,” said Lalji, who spent 90 minutes on the phone with Connaughton prior to the Olympics as part of his preparation. “Jared Connaughton is a really, really wonderful guy.
“It was difficult for him, and it was certainly a difficult interview to do because he had been through the most gut-wrenching moment of his life, and I had to ask him about it. I was so impressed with the way he handled it.
“People will remember him for that. The country’s response to him owning it and not being a whiner and a complainer and being sore, just the way it was handled by him a lot of respect goes out to him.”
Lalji said although he wish it never happened, he would rather be the one covering the story than not. He’s going to take Connaughton’s response and use it when his New Westminster Hyacks football team begins practice next week to teach them about accountability.
“I talk to my players about owning it all the time,” said Lalji. “There’s not a bigger example of accountability than he did.”
But Bolt, Bryant and heartbreak for Canada weren’t the most amazing moments for Lalji. That came the previous Saturday when Great Britain won three gold medals—Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon, Greg Rutherford in the long jump, and Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres—in the space of about 45 minutes.
Lalji said the electricity in the stadium with 80,000 people going nuts was beyond anything he had witnessed before. When Ennis could’ve have finished third in the 800 metres, the last event of the heptathlon, and still easily won the gold she was spurred on to victory.
“The crowd went ballistic and they pretty much put her on a carpet, raised her up in the air and carried her across the finish line,” said Lalji. “I’ve done multiple Super Bowls, this was my fifth Olympics and nothing has ever compared to that.”
After a few days off, he’ll be back on the sidelines at BC Place this weekend covering the B.C. Lions game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Then on Monday, he’ll be back at another of his passions, guiding the Hyacks football program which is something that gets him just as excited as talking about as the Olympics.