The Voice of the Track: Carl Roepke
You may never have heard the voice of Carl Roepke. But every Olympic slider -- bobsled, skeleton or luge -- has heard that voice since the 2002 Olympics. Competitors at the start wait anxiously to hear Roepke's voice telling them the time of the sled that just finished a run. Others listen for Carl's voice to tell them that it's their turn in the start.
Roepke is the venue announcer for all sliding sports at the bobsled/luge track. He started his unusual career a lucky 13 years ago, when he started as a handyman at the 2002 Olympic track and soon, with his mellifluous deep voice, graduated to being an announcer.
"I've been here at the Park City track since 1997, when the track first opened up. I've done announcing from club races, to World Championships, to Olympic Games. This is my third Olympic Games, and I'm already setting my sights for Sochi, Russia, 2014," Roepke said.
Roepke is the English-speaking announcer at the bobsled track. He doesn't come alone. "My wife and I were a husband-and-wife team doing the English announcing in Torino in 2006. But this year, it's just me," he explains.
Unlike in other events, where venue announcers sit in dignified anonymity, Karl is often part of the action at the sliding sports. When piles of snow melt into puddles of water right where bobsledders have to work on the runners of their sleds, Carl will grab a broom and sweep the water away. If pieces of paper are blowing across the staging area of the luge start, Carl will pick them up. At the Park City Olympic track where he works when not announcing at the Olympics, all the athletes know Carl. Their conversations show that Roepke is considered more than a track employee; to the athletes, he's a friend and confidant. Many athletes have cried on Carl's shoulder after a disappointing result.
In the last practice session before leaving for Vancouver, skeleton athlete Zach Lund drove his car close to the track start, got out, saw Carl and slapped his head. "I forgot the gloves," he moaned. Turns out Lund had offered Roepke a pair of gloves he didn't need, but that Carl did. Carl laughed. "Just bring them with you," he said. It was so casual, so ordinary, but unstated was, "Bring them with you to Vancouver, to the Olympics, where you will be competing and I will be announcing your results. I'll get them from you there."
The conversation was so matter-of-fact, it was hard to believe the two were talking about the largest sporting event in the world. But 'matter of fact' is Carl's way. He's the guy who will take care of the track and take care of the athletes, who can always come up with the urgently-needed piece of elastic or file or roll of tape or needle and thread. He'll head back home to Utah at the end of February, but he won't get much time to relax. The Olympics may be over, but the 2002 Olympic track is still iced, still open -- and still needs its announcer.