UC Alum Broadcasts 7th Olympic Games
In a sea of 80,000 people at the London Olympic stadium, UC alum Lewis Johnson watched the Olympic Games from one of the best seats in the house - trackside in the mixed media zone. As a track and field analyst and reporter at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Johnson captured the stories of Olympic gold medalists and athletes who fell short.
Among Johnson’s favorite moments was witnessing Usain Bolt win three gold medals - two personal and one as part of the world-record breaking 4x100 relay team.
“It was awesome to be right in the middle of Bolt Mania II!” Johnson said. “It’s incredible to watch him compete and witness his speed in person 30 feet from the finish line.”
In addition to Bolt Mania, Johnson will forever remember another astonishing race - the Men's 800-meter Final. Johnson foreshadowed David Rudisha’s world-record breaking 800-meter performance in his set-up comments to colleagues Tom Hammond and Craig Masback.
“There comes a moment when talent, speed, power and strength meet a great situation,” Lewis explained. “The weather is perfect and the stadium is full. I think it's going to be David Rudisha...Gold Medal...World Record ”
After the gun sounded, Johnson watched the athletes run the first lap around the track, and with 300-meters left in the race Rudisha took off to claim an Olympic gold medal and the world record. Johnson jumped to his feet, mirroring the reaction of the 80,000 fans in the crowd, screaming as Rudisha set a new world record time of 1:40.91 in the 800-meter event.
Those close to Johnson understand why he’s partial to the 800-meter dash. His passion for track and field started as a walk-on to the UC Track and Field Team in 1985. He earned All-American status in the 800-meters in 1987, qualified for the Olympic Trials in 1988, as well as in 1992, where he reached the semi-finals. He later became one of UC’s Track and Field legends and still holds the school record for that event and is a member of the UC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Johnson’s early success in track created an opportunity to pursue a professional athletic career, a decision that wasn’t easy to make. As a Communication major at UC, Johnson interned with Procter & Gamble and was offered a full-time position with P&G following graduation, but decided to pursue his track dreams.
Competing professionally for seven years, Johnson never made an Olympic team, but was ranked in the top 10 men’s 800-meters in 1988 and in 1992.
Running continued to be a theme throughout his professional career as he transitioned to broadcasting. To get his foot in the door, he worked as a “runner” for ABC sports, working behind-the-scenes at the Rose Bowl, the British Open Golf Tournament and three Academy Awards shows for ABC Entertainment in the early 90s. Johnson made his network debut on ABC as a post-race interviewer for the network’s coverage of the 1995 Track and Field World Championships in Sweden.
Johnson went on to captivate audiences with his track commentary in the Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London Games. At the last three Winter Olympics he worked as a Special Features Reporter in Salt Lake, covered the Alpine Events in Torino, and the Sliding Sports in Vancouver. Johnson’s career also includes sideline reporting on NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame football, coverage of two NBA All-Star games and the NBA Finals for NBC, working the NBA Playoffs with Turner Sports, as well as March Madness with CBS. Johnson’s anchor credits also include the NBC Sports Update Desk, college football with Versus and Equestrian events for Animal Planet. He has also worked college basketball for Fox Sports Net, and track and field for Universal Sports and ESPN.
According to AP Television Writer, David Bauder, who was covering the London Olympics, “Lewis Johnson is a real bright spot as a reporter on NBC’s track broadcasting team. His questions are smart and to the point. He does his job and elicits information from the athletes, instead of trying to become part of the moment.”
Lewis Johnson, fresh from announcing the 2012 Olympic games, is centralizing his passions and expanding his motivational speaking and media training.
As a public speaker, Johnson applies his Olympic broadcast experience and relationships with the many great athletes he’s covered to life to help motivate crowds of 50 to 500 people. As a speaker for idreamspeakers, Johnson's speaking topics include:
• How to Win Olympic Gold in The Game of Life
• Replace Your Bronze or Silver Performance With World Class Gold!
• How to Achieve a Gold Medal Mentality
• A Step Above: Winning The Gold In Business
• If your life was the Olympics would you be getting a medal?
• How to Compete Like An Olympian in Life
• Olympic Hopeful to Olympic Commentator
• Inspiration from the Olympic Broadcast Booth
Through his media training program, Johnson trains collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes on how to effectively communicate with the media.
“After 15 years track-side, court-side, mountain-side, interviewing and reporting, it is clear to me that many athletes need help becoming more effective communicators,” Johnson said. “On the biggest stage of all, the Olympic Games, I’ve watched too many athletes have amazing performances or crushing disappoints, only to ‘drop the ball’ in the interview and press conference after those moments. I am teaching athletes to recognize their unique window of opportunity and help them develop a core message so they will always have something of value to say.”
Johnson credits his success as a broadcaster, public speaker and athlete to his start at UC.
“UC really provided me a foundation,” said Johnson, “UC gave me a path to discover my passions.”