TOKYO 2020

SLC Woman, Utah-Based Company Participate In Olympics In Special Way

Aug 7, 2021, 6:26 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns work in some capacity with the Olympics, beyond just athletes. A woman from Salt Lake City has been working with NBC since 2002, doing makeup for athletes and on-air hosts, while Utah-based company, OC Tanner, has spent more than 20 years creating customized rings for every American Olympian.

Kathy Eckenbrecht — NBC Olympic Makeup Artist

If you’ve been watching the Olympics the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen plenty of on-air hosts and reporters and plenty of athletes being interviewed.

NBC has a team of makeup artists to make sure those people you see on camera look their best.

One of their best makeup artists is from Salt Lake City.

Her name is Kathy Eckenbrecht.

She got her start doing makeup with NBC during Salt Lake’s 2002 Winter Olympics.

Ever since, she has been to every single Olympic Games with NBC, doing makeup, including Tokyo. 

She has done the makeup for Gold Medal winnings athletes, such as Michael Phelps and Shaun White, before their big national interviews, as well as many of the hosts you see on-air.

The Olympics can be a long, grueling assignment, but it’s a job, she said, she never gets tired of.

“I am always in awe of an athlete that, if I’m doing makeup on them, they’ve done something really right,” said Eckenbrecht. “I feel like I am in the room with someone who just made history? And to maybe assist them for just a minute before they go in a studio to be interviewed with a million people viewership. I’m happy to do that.”

Eckenbrecht said one of her biggest challenges was back when Standard Definition television turned to HD, and now, some broadcasts are playing with 4K definition.

She is another example of just how many Utahns work in some capacity with the Olympics, beyond just athletes.

OC Tanner Creates Customized Rings For American Olympians

In fact, back in Salt Lake City, hundreds of people are just starting their work for these Games.

Not every athlete who came to Tokyo will go home with a medal, but thanks to one Utah company, they will all have a piece of precious metal to commemorate their dedication to their sport.

The jewelers at OC Tanner have been creating keepsake rings for Team USA for more than 20 years now.

“It’s powerful to have people who care about making something beautiful and dedicate their life to being able to do that,” said Sandra Christensen, vice president of awards.

It’s truly a labor of love for Christensen and the team of 1,500 employees who help design and hand-craft these rings for every American Olympian.

“This dedication and sacrifice that they make, to get on the world stage and to represent the United States is just phenomenal,” said Christensen.

The rings are far from one-size fits all. Each one is custom made for each athlete.

“They can choose a different material, if they want. They can add diamonds, if they want,” said Christensen. “Depending on the sport, boxing and track and field generally go for more of the bling because they love the flashiness of that, which is really fun.”

“If they’re on a team, they might want their team number on their ring,” she continued. “Sometimes, they’ll use a nickname to customize it with, personalize it with their name. Their sport pictogram is on one side of the ring, and then that customization on the other side.”

COVID has changed how the process works this year.

In other Olympic Games, OC Tanner would be there, working one-on-one with the athletes to finalize their design.

“Some of these athletes are very young,” said Christensen. “This is the first piece of jewelry they’ve ever owned, and so, they ask questions like, ‘Well, do I want diamonds? What rings, what finger should I wear on? Most of them aren’t even sure which finger the wedding ring goes on.”

“They’ll put, they’ll put rings on every finger and stand there for hours and decide,” she said.

Christensen said she’ll miss that personal part of the process, but in the end, the most important thing is the members of Team USA taking home a ring that will forever remind them of their achievement.

“We always think about the athlete,” she said. “You know, at the end of this equation is an athlete who’s going to get this ring and cherish it and probably pass it down. And so, making sure that it’s crafted with love and care and to the utmost quality.

Athletes this year will get to make all of those personalization decisions online.

OC Tanner is set to continue to make rings for Team USA for at least the Beijing and Paris Olympics.

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SLC Woman, Utah-Based Company Participate In Olympics In Special Way