When Paralympians compete in London Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, Jamie Blanchard will be there with them, telling their stories of athleticism, inspiration and courage.
Blanchard, communications manager for the United States Olympic Committee’s U.S. Paralympics division, once described herself as shy but lost that label in middle school when she discovered journalism.
In 1999, as a young, aspiring middle-school journalist, Blanchard wanted to work with athletes.
“I wrote to some of my favorite figure skaters and asked if I could create their official websites,” she said. “A few of them said ‘yes,’ and I have ended up working with everyone from Evan Lysacek to Sasha Cohen to Johnny Weir since then.”
As a journalism student at UA, Blanchard said her fondest memories were learning from professor Jay Rochlin.
“After I took El Independiente in my fall semester of senior year, I took his Cat Scan class in the spring, just to earn my final credits,” Blanchard said. “He really exposed me to the power of online journalism. Since I graduated, I have touched base with Jay from time to time, and he still remains a great mentor.”
Blanchard’s first journalism job was with KUAT-TV, the local PBS affiliate, as a teleprompter operator. She ended up working different control room positions.
“Not only was I able to learn a lot about the behind-the-scenes work of television, I was able to put powder on the faces of many notable politicians, including John McCain and Gabrielle Giffords,” she said.
The summer before her junior year, Blanchard interned with USA Volleyball, the national governing body for the sport, located in Colorado Springs, Colo. The internship set the stage for her new career in sports.
Blanchard continued in the world of sports and accepted a part-time position on the sports desk with the Arizona Daily Star covering high school sports and occasionally filling in on the college sports beat.
“Some of my favorite experiences at the Star were the Friday nights during high school football season,” she said. “It was absolutely chaotic at times in the newsroom. Reporters would be sending over stories right at deadline and the phones would always be ringing with coaches who wanted to report their box scores. But those Friday nights taught me how to be quick without being careless.”
After graduation, Blanchard accepted a six-month internship with the communications department at the USOC, joining them during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. She handled media relations at men’s gymnastic events before they left for Beijing, helped create President George W. Bush’s schedule for what events he would attend and wrote press releases and magazine stories.
The highlight of her internship came when Blanchard worked at the 2008 Asian Beach Games in Bali.
“To be an intern, and to travel to Indonesia for such an incredible event, was more than I ever could have asked for,” Blanchard said.
By May 2009, she found herself moving to Oklahoma City to work for the Amateur Softball Association of America/USA Softball. She worked as the marketing and communications coordinator, then became the assistant director of marketing and communication. She traveled to various states, Colombia and South Africa while with ASA/USA Softball.
“What I am most proud of is how I helped ASA/USA Softball become one of the digital media leaders in the Olympic movement,” Blanchard said. “Not only did I oversee the ASASoftball.com and USASoftball.com websites, I also oversaw the daily maintenance of social media platforms, growing the reach of Facebook and Twitter to nearly 75,000 ‘likes’ and 20,000 followers.”
Blanchard’s work from her previous internship with the USOC landed her a new position with the communications team for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games.
Little did Blanchard know that her experience with the communications team would land her a communications manager position in early 2012.
“The most rewarding part of my position is that through my work, I have a part in inspiring all Americans,” Blanchard said. “The stories of U.S. Paralympians are incredible. Whenever I set up an athlete interview, or post on our Facebook page, I know that I am a part of something larger than myself. I am the team behind Team USA. It gives me a great sense of pride to work with the incredible athletes who represent my nation.”
Although in years past the Paralympics have been overlooked, Blanchard is seeing a shift in awareness and popularity. In addition to television coverage of the Paralympic Games on the networks of NBC Universal, and extensive online coverage including more than 500 hours of live streaming through USParalympics.org, Paralympians are making appearances on talk shows, in commercials and in magazines, allowing Americans a glimpse into what Blanchard calls “miraculous stories of perseverance.”