DULUTH, Minn. – St. Scholastica Head Nordic Ski Coach Chad Salmela will once again work for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Colombia starting in February.
Salmela will be the color commentator for the biathlon, cross country skiing, and the cross country skiing portion of Nordic Combined.
“I am obviously very excited for the opportunity,” Salmela said. “I have spent most of my life trying to promote and help athletes in these sports, so to get the opportunity to deliver these sports to the American television market on such a grand scale inspires me.”
Salmela started as a public address announcer in 1998 after he stopped competing. His first big gig was at the IBU Biathlon World Cup in Lake Placid in 1999. From there, Salmela got hired to work events like the USSA Junior Olympics.
In 2002, Salmela was the sports manager for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake, but also was asked to do the color commentary for the biathlon. He also did one women’s cross country race in a fill-in role.
After the Salt Lake Games, there was a big push to get Biathlon more television coverage. During this time Salmela created his own production brand called “Salmela Sports Action.” Salmela used it to get more PA production work. Over that time, he pretty much had a lock on any major ski events across the country that needed stadium production.
Heading into 2006 Torino Games, Emmy-Award winning independent TV producer, Kent Gordis created a highlight reel for Salmela and sent it to NBC lobbying for him to be the biathlon color commentator for the Olympics. Salmela was hired and biathlon was the lead event on NBC’s coverage of the 2006 Olympics on the USA Network.
For the first time in history, every biathlon event at the Olympics was televised in Torino, primarily live early in the morning in the US, but four events were televised on Saturday and/or Sunday on the NBC network’s prime mid-day coverage. Ratings on the NBC mid-day shows were right around 16 to 18 million viewers.
After the passing of long-time cross country skiing Olympic commentator Paul Robbins last year, Salmela was approached by NBC to the possibility of doing all the Nordic sports for the Vancouver Olympic Games. After a tryout at the FIS World Cup Cross Country Finale in Sweden this past March, Salmela was offered the job.
In Vancouver Salmela will be working with Al Trautwig, who has been doing cross country and Nordic combined events for quite a while at the Games. It is not known at this time if all of the competitions will be broadcasted.
“I’m a little daunted at the schedule, trying to cover all three sports, combined being the busiest venue of the Olympic Games, but I’m excited for the challenge, Salmela said. “It’s simply great to have a role like this in such a major world event. I try not to think about the magnitude of it when I’m on the air.”
Salmela is the only St. Scholastica Nordic Ski coach in the young program’s history. He was hired by CSS in July of 2006 and the program is starting its fourth year of competition this year. Over the past two years, Salmela has guided two CSS men skiers to the NCAA Skiing Championships.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.