It was the last question of the interview for an internship at NBC Sports posed to Alexa Ainsworth, then a sophomore at Syracuse University interested in a broadcasting career.

“Do you know anything about one sport in particular?”

Ainsworth, a native of Cape Elizabeth, hesitated. She had been trying to move beyond that aspect of her life, the part that had defined much of her childhood.

“Yeah,” she said. “I used to be a figure skater.”

She got the job, interned at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and has worked every subsequent Olympic Games. Now in her fourth year as an associate producer with NBC Sports, she has won two Emmy awards.

This week, Ainsworth, 30, will be working behind the scenes at the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston.

Throughout the competition – the first Worlds held in this country since 2009 in Los Angeles – Ainsworth will toil in the network’s live truck, helping with replays culled from a variety of camera angles. When she steps outside the truck, she’ll undoubtedly run into folks from her skating past – coaches, competitors, judges.

“I don’t have to remember which is the triple lutz or the triple flip,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about the ins and outs of the sport. It was a great way for me to (learn) the television knowledge without worrying about the specifics.”

Ainsworth was 8 when she started skating under the tutelage of Marty MacDiarmid, a longtime coach from Yarmouth. At 12, Ainsworth and her pairs partner, Noah Abrahams of Scarborough, won a bronze medal in novice competition at the U.S. Junior Olympics in Texas. When she was 13, they placed sixth in novice pairs at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Salt Lake City.

“She was a budding star, a great gal,” said MacDiarmid, who now lives in North Carolina. “As a little child, what was great was the support she had from her grandparents and her parents. And it wasn’t just the medals. She just had that drive, that inner drive.”

The 2015 U.S. Championships were held in Greensboro, North Carolina, which allowed Ainsworth and MacDiarmid to reunite. Ainsworth said they both got choked up, reminiscing about their days in rinks throughout Maine, about MacDiarmid bringing her blueberry muffins to morning practice at the civic center or Family Ice in Falmouth.

Ainsworth and Abrahams made it back to nationals in 2000 in Cleveland but dropped to ninth after a performance that included a short program accident in which Ainsworth landed on her head during an attempted overhead lift. Shortly thereafter, they returned to singles skating.

She said there were no hard feelings.

“Noah and I had a great relationship,” she said. “Honestly, it came down to me growing. The height difference wasn’t syncing up.”

Her younger brother, Rhys, wound up winning the 2008 novice national title in ice dancing with partner Chloe Wolf of Falmouth. He’s now an engineer in Phoenix. Their parents still live in Maine.

At Syracuse, Ainsworth joined a synchronized skating team after being recruited from her work-study job giving skating lessons. She wound up competing in two national synchronized championships. She didn’t compete as a junior or senior because of the NBC internship.

“She worked so hard as an intern that we wanted to keep working with her,” said Rebecca Chatman, coordinating producer for NBC’s Olympics coverage. “She had a great knowledge of figure skating but she also had that spark that we look for, that enthusiasm.”

The path from intern to associate producer was not direct. Ainsworth also worked as a production assistant and researcher for USA Network, ESPN and Universal Sports but always managed to find a role in NBC’s Olympic coverage.

“It’s not fair to peg her as the figure skating person,” Chatman said. “She’s a huge sports fan in general and she has that drive as an athlete to get everything perfect.”

Indeed, Ainsworth also has expertise in tennis and gymnastics, which will be her concentration in Rio de Janeiro this summer. Still, it is in skating rinks where she feels most comfortable.

Her first Olympic experience in 2006 included seeing Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir compete in men’s singles.

“That was my peer group,” Ainsworth said. “I remember saying, ‘Look, I still made it to the Olympics. They’re competing. I’m working.'”

At a Grand Prix event the following year, a journalist noticed Ainsworth’s credential and looked up quizzically.

“Aren’t you the one who fell on her head at nationals a few years ago?”

She laughed. “I guess that’s my claim to fame.”

Weir and 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski are now analysts with NBC. They also do voice-overs for two-hour skating telecasts Ainsworth helps produce from the NBC Sports studios in Stamford, Connecticut, from feeds all over the world.

The studios are attached to a sports complex that includes a skating rink, so Ainsworth still has a chance to lace up her boots on Friday lunch breaks.

Not this week, however. She’ll be focused on Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner looking to become the first U.S. woman to stand on a Worlds or Olympic podium in 10 years.

“She’s a great young woman and I think her focus is incredible,” MacDiarmid said of Ainsworth. “She always knew what she wanted and is still pursuing it.”


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