On air from Jyväskylä – Broadcasting for NBC from Finland
Feb 11, 2021
As the Biathlon World Championships start next week, few of the Americans watching the contest at home can guess that Chad Salmela’s colour commentary for the event emanates from thousands of kilometres away, from Jyväskylä’s Crazy Town.
Chad Salmela has worked for years as an analyst for NBC Sports Olympic in Nordic skiing and biathlon. He also coaches Nordic skiing and running for the College of St. Scholastica and formerly was a member of the U.S. national biathlon team. Until last summer, he, his Finnish wife Mimmu Salmela, and their two children lived in Duluth, Minnesota, United States. Then the family decided to move to Jyväskylä.
To Finland – now or never
They had previously considered moving to Finland for an extended period, especially to improve the children’s language skills.
After the onset of the coronavirus epidemic last spring put an end to Mimmu’s work in communications and marketing, as well as Chad’s coaching duties at the college – and the autumn seemed to be no busier – there was nothing really holding the family back in the United States. The kids’ school was about to shift to distance learning as well. Chad calls the situation a “perfect storm.”
We’d bought the tickets for our annual holiday in Finland back in December, before the pandemic. However, the final decision to stay for a longer time was made only a few weeks before our departure, he says.
Enriching and challenging experiences
The quick decision to move meant that arrangements had to be quick.
When we left, we had no idea how this was going to turn out. Obviously, this sort of decision-making isn’t for everybody, there are a lot of stress factors involved, says Chad.
And yet I wouldn’t change a thing – it’s been both an enriching and a challenging experience at the same time. And people here in Finland have been so very friendly and helpful, says Chad.
Things did turn out well eventually: the house in Duluth got a tenant and the family rented an apartment in the Jyväskylä city centre. The children were soon in school as well, and in the autumn Mimmu got a new job.
I haven’t had to job hunt, so for my own part everything has gone smoothly, says Chad.
Announcing sports from Jyväskylä
His steady job with the NBC media conglomerate has meant that Chad has been able to continue working as analyst announcer for Nordic skiing and biathlon from Jyväskylä.
Crazy Town in the city centre provided a suitable working space.
My employer has – after the initial surprise – been very amenable to the situation, and they delivered all the professional equipment like monitors and headphones that I need, says Chad.
From Jyväskylä, he is connected to the NBC Sports studios in Stamford near New York City; while living in the United States, he had to fly there.
These are hectic weeks, as next week the Biathlon World Championships begin in Slovenia, then come the Nordic World Ski Championships in Germany, and after that we have two more Biathlon World Cup events in the Czech Republic and Norway, says Chad.
Easing the workload is the fact that the events are all in Europe, so Chad can keep to normal working hours.
My colleagues in the U.S. have to wake up at three or four in the morning, he grins.
In Finland we have quite a few cross-country skiing and biathlon fans considering the size of the population, but in the United States the Nordic winter sports are an “Olympic sport” for a smaller group of enthusiasts. For this reason, Chad plays an important role.
It’s my job to not just commentate, but to help viewers learn the finer points of the Nordic sports and to pump them up to get excited about the right things at the right time. At the same time, I’m preparing a fanbase for the next Olympics, says Chad.
Jyväskylä is the choice of an athletic family
Over the last six months and change, the Salmela family has found its bearings in the new situation.
The children go to the Steiner school, we found a new home in Haukkala and my wife has the perfect job as international sales and marketing manager for Secapp, says Chad.
Jyväskylä has also proven its merits as a base of operations and a place to grow.
To be totally honest, we did think about other options before. I like Tampere very much, and in Helsinki I’d have more networks and job opportunities, says Chad.
But now that we decided to come for a longer time last summer, we didn’t even consider other locales. Mimmu’s parents live here, and Jyväskylä is in its size and nature very much like Duluth, an outdoor city four seasons a year. And both cities are really into ice hockey, laughs Chad. Chad is a passionate mountain cyclist, Mimmu and their daughter play ice hockey, and their son plays floorball.
I think Jyväskylä is exactly the right place for an athletic family like ours.
You can read more of Chad’s thoughts and experiences on his blog.