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March 6, 2018

It’s been all fun and Games for Tobi Antigha

The Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the B.C. Lions in CFL action on August 13th, 2017 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Derek Mortensen/Electric Umbrella

The rings have been the things for Tobi Antigha of late.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end worked for NBC during its coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and he’ll remain there while the network covers the Paralympic Winter Games as well. That event begins Thursday.

Antigha, 24, has been assisting NBC’s engineers and technicians, assembling and testing equipment or doing fibre-optic work to help with the production. In his spare time, he was able to take in a few Olympic events — and to feel a kinship of sorts with the athletes.

 

“You want all of them to win because you understand all the long hours and the dedication to their craft,” Antigha said from his hotel room in Yeoju, South Korea. “But ultimately there are only three medal-winners.

“You definitely get the understanding of, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve dedicated my whole career to this one moment and I have to take advantage of it.’ It’s kind of like in football. You get to the playoffs and every play counts. Every little thing matters. There’s a lot of similarities there.

“Everything is fine-tuned and detail-oriented when you get on a big stage like this, whether it be at the Olympics or the playoffs or the Grey Cup.”

Antigha is to be in South Korea until March 13, so he’s going to see the kind of preparation and effort required to be a Paralympian as well. The product of Tampa, Fla., knows he’ll be inspired by those athletes.

“It’s amazing to see, just the sheer will and desire to overcome anything that stands in their way,” Antigha said. “As athletes, we all face obstacles, but Paralympic athletes have different obstacles that they have to overcome. You take your hat off to them for not giving up, for staying true to what they want and what they believe.”

Antigha got the gig in South Korea because his agent knew an NBC employee who was looking for people to help with the network’s production.

Antigha doesn’t have any professional experience in the field, but he took TV production classes in high school. He also minored in theatre at Presbyterian College, so he knew the kind of work that would be required behind the scenes.

He didn’t work at any of the Olympic venues — “I was in the big warehouse, doing all the nitty-gritty work,” he said with a chuckle — but he still got a sense of accomplishment seeing NBC’s coverage of the Games.

“The thing about the Olympics is that it’s crazy, it’s hectic and it’s busy but it’s also enjoyable,” Antigha said. “When you sit back and see the fruits of your labour and you get to see the production and the assembly of all the different venues and events, it’s kind of fun to see how it all culminates in one final product in terms of the production.

“It’s a jigsaw puzzle and once you put all the pieces together, it’s really cool to see it all happen for real.”

Antigha took in a couple of men’s hockey games (including Canada’s shootout loss to the Czech Republic in pool play) as well as the ski cross. He found himself cheering for his adopted home country during events, but admitted with a grin that he was torn when Canadians faced Americans.

“Then I’d just go with whoever won,” he said.

Asked if he saw any events that he wouldn’t want to try, he replied: “Most of them.”

“Luge, ski jumping, snowboarding — I was like, ‘There’s no way I would ever do this,’ ” Antigha added. “I definitely respect all these athletes, what they go through and what they put their bodies through in order to perform at the highest level.”

Antigha had never been before to the region, so he’s hoping to see some of the sites. Some of those are in Seoul, which he hopes to visit so he can simply be a tourist.

He already has dabbled in the cuisine and gave rave reviews of kimchi (“It looks like lasagna, but it’s cabbage”), dumplings (“They’re absolutely phenomenal”), eel (“It’s actually good”) and seaweed (“It’s good — once you get over the texture”).

“Whatever you put in front of my face, I’ll eat it,” Antigha said. “I’ll try anything at least once.”

Antigha has been putting in long hours at work, but he hasn’t let that affect his training for the 2018 CFL season. The Roughriders’ nominee for the league award as most outstanding rookie in 2017 has been hitting the gym regularly after his work days are over.

“This hasn’t slowed me down at all,” he said. “I’m excited to get back home so I can continue to train and focus all of my attention on it.

“Nothing has changed. Nothing stops. I’m still putting myself through the grind.”

Antigha will be sporting a new number when he returns to Saskatchewan — he’ll wear No. 0 after giving up No. 92 for free-agent signing Zack Evans — and he’ll have a new mentor as well.

The Roughriders acquired Charleston Hughes from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Feb. 2 and Antigha plans to soak up as much as he can from the veteran defensive end.

“It’s going to be a great learning experience for me,” said Antigha, who had 30 tackles and five sacks in 17 regular-season games in 2017. “I’ll get to learn all the intricacies of learning to play defensive end.

“Willie (Jefferson) has been a great help, but to get a veteran like (Hughes) who has been around this game and this league for a long time is going to help me develop and mature as a player.”