(For those new to short track and the vagaries of this sport - check out my post under Torino Olympic Journal 2006 - Torino #3 1/2 - its an insider's view into the sport based in some part on Apolo's own ups and downs within this turbulent but exciting world.) Its been a long, but interesting day. I arrived at the Olympic Oval at 8:30 this morning in prep for my gig as in-rink announcer for this 3 day event.
Despite my stint for NBC as statistician for the Olympic games in Torino, I had never done microphone work before and was suitably nervous as I was introduced to my co-announcer Carl Roepke - an accomplished Luger who worked Torino as well doing the commentary for Luge and Bobsled.
Thank God for Carl - as the first race was called to the line - I froze - I suddenly didn't know the first thing about the sport and couldn't even begin to think of something to say. But Carl, the cool professional read the heat card notes and called out the names of the skaters in the echoey rink.
Slowly but surely Carl and I developed a rhythm - along with Paul the DJ. Carl would call out the skaters names coming out for the race. I would do most of the actual race announcing - passes, laps to go, background on some of the skaters. Carl would ask a few questions during the quiet periods of the longer races - "tell me about the skates, John..." or "what should we expect to see in this relay, John?" and I would respond naturally (I hope) "Well, Carl, what you can expect to see is...."
I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this - after all, I'm pretty much an introvert - mildly anyway - and I'm a visual, not verbal thinker. But I found, after a time, that there was a pacing to the event - like a waiter knows when their food is ready we knew when it was appropriate to comment or be quiet - when to call the race to the line, when to wait. And in those moments as a good friend Kevin Lowell writes in his book "In the in-between" we, in our support roles, established the rhythm and meter for the event - human metronomes for the music unfolding on ice.
Apolo looked solid - breezing through his preliminaries and heats in both 500 meter races (they are running the event twice here at this world cup) and his 1000m prelims and heats as well. Team USA qualified in both the men's and ladies' relays into the semi-finals as well. No finals were run today - those are saved for the weekend.
In other news I finally met Kori Novak, in the marketing group for U.S. Speedskating and a former pupil of my favorite aunt - Sharon Shaub.
All my team is here from the 1994 games - from our coach - Jeroen Otter - and Randy Bartz, Andy Gabel, Eric Flaim, and Tony Goskowicz.
Its 6:30 now and we just finished up the day - 10 hours straight of calling races and learning - me about how to announce and inflect my voice, Carl about the nuances of the sport and complexities of the relays.
Tonight, now doubt will want to be a late one - and with Bartz and Flaim not needing to work in the morning, will require some discipline on my part to ensure adequate sleep.
Oh, one other completely self serving note - to be found in the internet tags linked to this blog: Allison Baver and I had a chance to catch up in between races - unfortunately she missed the start of one of her events (1000m) due to a change in race order. She was visibly upset - rightly so. I asked about her an Apolo - whether they were still an item, and the answer was equivocating - "on again, off again". So considering that a good portion of the traffic to this blog appears to be from women seeking the answer to the question "Does Apolo have a girlfriend?" The answer is "sort of."
Friday, February 8, 2008 - U.S. Olympic Oval, Kearns, Utah