Finding a Story When Clearance is Tight.

6.29.2019 - Thomas Coiner

The Event

It’s the 2019 NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth Texas.

Knight Eady is an operations partner of this incredible championship. Think about everything that goes into ticketing, bringing in the stage, team logistics, venue signage, and everything else. That's our role. I was fortunate enough to come on this trip even though we didn’t have any contractual requirement to generate marketing content.

I wanted to see if there was any story we could capture and share out to our partners of the event. Unfortunately there was one main hurdle, ESPN. They have a strict (and very rightfully so) policy that only their team can film the actual event.

How can I capture a story of a championship without actually showing the champion?

Enter Chelsea

As I was helping on the operations team the night before the semi-finals, I noticed a young girl and her coach warming up after all other teams have left for the night.

I quickly told myself that this girl was going to steal the show.

Her name? Chelsea Werner. Chelsea is a two-time world champion gymnast, a Target fashion model, and has downs syndrome. But that last characteristic has never defined her, her energy and pure talent. Chelsea was set to perform her floor routine the following night in front of thousands of spectators and my mind quickly jumped into action.

I be-friended her. Learned her story.
I then told her I'm here to share that story.

I requested clearance from ESPN to capture her routine and out of pure kindness, they approved.


The next night rolls around, and even though my camera was turned off during Oklahoma’s iconic championship performance, I found myself with a smile stuck to my face knowing that I had the chance to capture, edit and share a story that needed to be seen outside the walls of the arena.

Sure enough, Chelsea had everyone on their feet after she hit the last pose and within one hour I had the video sent out to our event partner's channels.


-Keep your head up and ears on at all times during an event.
-Don’t just give up on shooting when you’re not allowed to.
-Follow the rules, but seek out whats hidden, uncovered story is waiting to be told.
-The great thing about storytelling is that it isn’t a finite resource. Find a new one not being sought after.
-The camera isn’t your most valuable tool, perspective is.