Taking Olympic love to Turin
It seems only fitting that the start of the Olympic Games coincides with Valentine’s Day this year for Carl and Michele Roepke. After all, their love has always seemed to have Olympic ties — and it’s only getting better.
On Saturday, The Roepke’s leave for Turin to begin their Olympic jobs as English-speaking announcers for all tracks events, including luge, skeleton and bobsledding. In March, they will announce disabled alpine events for the Paralympics.
"We met at the UOP while working for the 2002 Olympics in 1996, so it’s a full circle kind of experience," Michele said.
The two can’t believe how fortuitous everything has been. As people with sports careers, they are both used to leaving each other for extended periods of time, so being together for a two-month assignment was thrilling.
"To be side by side is unique," Carl said. "For me to say I’m leaving for two months it’s different than being deployed, but it’s still leaving. The fact that were together it’s crazy fun."
"This is the one you want to be together on," she said.
The double assignment was borne of luck and experience. Carl, a veteran at the microphone, announced for eight medal events in the 2002 Games, and was able to parlay his experience into a position in Turin. Michele has a degree in sports broadcasting from Northern Arizona University and has been working in the field in some capacity since graduation.
"She’s the one with the degree in this. I just got lucky," jokes Carl.
Michele said they were informed of the assignment in October, which was nice considering most Olympic athlete hopefuls must wait all winter to find out if they’ve made the team.
"We realized how special it was to know so early," Michele said. The Roepkes got their tryout of sorts this past November at a World Cup luge event in Europe.
"It was during that time that they realized a husband/wife team would be cheap," Carl said.
There is another Olympic twist here. Michelle will be about three months pregnant at the Games and the doctors have figured out that she likely conceived while at the World Cup making the baby-to-be truly an Olympic baby.
"Our whole marriage has revolved around the Olympics, so to be pregnant here is perfect," Michele said.
The idea to cancel the trip because of the pregnancy was barely even discussed. The doctor actually recommended it, since Michele would be sitting as an announcer, rather than enduring the rigors of coaching in her regular occupation. So, they knew they couldn’t pass up the chance to go. In fact, the Olympic prospect may have played a role in the pregnancy. The Roepke’s had struggled to get pregnant for years, but after deciding to quit worrying about it so they could focus on the possible trip to Turin, she immediately became pregnant.
Carl says that they are both ready to be at the Games They are bursting with information about various athletes and the specific events.
"You get to know these people," Carl said.
Both say that the realization of going to the Olympics is just setting in. The logistics of leaving their home for two months and finding a suitable babysitter for Tucker the cat have been at the forefront of their minds for the past few weeks. They also had the monstrous task of trying to pack for two months.
"It started to sink in a couple of days ago," Carl said. "Now it’s hard to sleep at night."
"Being pregnant, it’s a little overwhelming," Michele said. "It’s joyous overwhelming. Once we leave the ground, with the real stuff behind us, it will just be excitement."
The experience should be fun, but also quite demanding. Because they are on air, the Roepke’s can’t ever be sick or late to the venue. So, they will receive rock star treatment, with a driver that takes them right to venue each morning and picks them up each night. There are also events on the Turin track almost every day, so there will be little down time. The Roepkes of course, will be sharing a double bed while in Italy, but Michele says that since they will announcing in shifts most of the time, they will likely not share it too often. All in all though, Michele says that the Turin Olympic Committee (TOROC) has made every thing, thus far, very easy.
When they are not on the world stage, the Roepkes are still rather Olympic. Carl works as the coordinator for the control tower and tour programs at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP). Michelle is an assistant coach for the Park City Disabled Ski Team and for the Park City Disabled Bobsled Team. When they met at the UOP, Michele was a special events coordinator and they were able to jointly start the public tour and The Comet bobsled rides.
During the Paralympics, Michele plans to try and drum up interest for disabled bobsledding. Currently, the U.S. is the only nation with a team, but she hopes that she can open minds while in Turin.
"I really see disabled bobsledding as becoming, in the next 15 years, as big as disabled ski racing," Michele said.
Carl is also no stranger to the icy track. He has been announcing events for various track events and working with the UOP’s track for nine years, spent many years on the U.S. Luge team and recently won the U.S. Luge Masters National Championship.
Now, if they could just settle on a baby name worthy of their Olympic love affair.
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The Summit County Board of Health has selected Phil Bondurant to be the Health Department’s next director, opting for continuity rather than a broad candidate search while the department continues to navigate the pandemic and its aftereffects.