The Olympic Announcer
Luke Van Valin will be the voice of freeskiing as an announcer for NBC at the Winter Olympics, which started last week in in Sochi, Russia. A former professional skier himself, Van Valin, 29, aims to take his deep-rooted love of freeskiing and share it with the world in front of the biggest audience he's ever spoken to. The first freeskiing event -- women's ski slopestyle -- takes place on Tuesday. These are Van Valin's words.
I realized I wanted to do something besides be a competitive skier when I was at the Candide [Thovex] Invitational in France circa 2005. I saw Jossi Wells do the most beautiful 540 up and over this 120-foot jump that Candide had built. I was suffering from shoulder injuries, so I wasn't exactly pushing it anymore. When I saw what that little 14 year old just did, I realized that I had in some ways reached my obsolescence.
It was that moment combined with the fact that I had jumped on the microphone at the U.S. Open with [longtime announcer] Uncle E earlier in the season. I had done some announcing and E told me I had a future in it and if I was interested, he would be more than happy to give me my start.
The inevitability of it all is I will in my announcing come to a point where I am no longer the man for the job. I'm affronted with the idea that I will be able to recognize when that's the case and I'll have the humility to step down.
I think the reason I've been so good at this is that I've known everybody. It's been very easy for me to talk about them without having to do a great deal of research. It's appropriate for me to go from an athletic career to a freeskiing announcing career and be relatable.
My aunt is a vocalist coach. She's an instructor for people who sing at a high level. She taught me how to warm up my voice daily by humming in the shower, opening up and warming up the entirety of my vocal chords.
There were some conversations where Billy Matthews, who's the producer of the Dew Tour and will be producing a bunch of stuff for the Olympics, made it very clear to the production group at NBC that there are certain intricacies to freeskiing, which require a freeskiing-specific broadcast talent. After that conversation, I quickly got a phone call in November and they offered me the job.
There was an online petition to have me announce for the Olympics. I don't think that did anything but help. I don't think I've ever been so flattered in my life. I have such a deep, thankful heart to Jen Hudak and everyone else that was involved in putting that thing together.
If I wasn't nervous I would either be asleep or completely insane. Maybe both.
The challenges inherent to this opportunity are that I'll be speaking to a mass majority of viewers that have never seen slopestyle or skiers in a superpipe.
Telling the story of where we've come from while at the same time informing the audience on what they're looking at, introducing the lives of these athletes, calling the tricks, pleasing the viewer who is a serious ski enthusiast or a first timer ... those are the balls I will have in the air. I'm just going to be juggling.