“Next thing you know I was in Salt Lake City working with CBC,” said Rob Snoek, former Paralympic athlete and now Olympic commentator. He shares his journey of an athlete turned Olympic commentator who became who he is today because of one special gift.

Snoek holds Paralympic records in track and field, and won a silver medal for Canada in 1998 at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Birmingham, UK. Throughout his athletic career, which has spanned for over a decade, he has represented Canada in three Paralympic games.

Even while competing, Snoek has always had an inner passion for broadcasting. “The last few years of my life as an athlete, every time I was interviewed, whether it was television, radio, or print, I would ask a lot of questions as I had a drive and passion for that side of things as well.” He wanted to boost his knowledge of television broadcasting in the hopes that one day he would be the one conducting the interviews.

As an Olympic commentator, Snoek had the privilege to travel to Sochi for this year’s winter Olympics. Being at the Olympics was a gift itself, but covering them was an even bigger honour. He was able to report on several events throughout his time in Sochi.

“I did the play-by-play of all the snowboarding events…slope style, half-pipe, snowboard cross, and the alpine events.” He also had the chance to cover some skiing events. “Ski jumping I did as well. That’s when they have this humongous hill and they fly 130 meters in the air. That’s not so much a Canadian specialty…it’s dominated by Europeans for sure.”

His past experiences brought a smile to his face as he reminisced on the memories. At the end of his athletic career, Snoek got the chance to experience life as a broadcaster. After doing news for the radio, his new found career took off. “Next thing you know I was in Salt Lake City working with CBC and that was the first of many CBC assignments in 2002.” This opportunity would be just one of many experiences for Snoek throughout his broadcasting career.

“It started off with Paralympics in ’02, and then Athens in ‘04 and then every games after,” Snoek said. “’06 was Tarino, I worked for CBC on the Olympics in Toronto and Italy, and the Paralympics in ‘08.” While covering the Olympics, broadcasters and commentators had specific sports to cover. In 2008, Snoek covered field hockey and one of his most interesting sports to commentate to date: water polo. “Water polo was probably still the hardest thing I’ve ever done, having to call water polo off of a TV monitor from 12 time zones away.”

For any broadcaster or commentator, research is an important aspect of reporting. Each sport and event must be extensively researched. “Going on YouTube, digging into research, looking back at who the last Olympic champions were, the last World Champions, the last World Cup Champions and so on, so that when you get to the games you have a pretty good sense of where the medals are probably going to go and who to pay attention to.” He said that this process is more time consuming than one would think.

From a broadcaster or commentator’s stand-point, you have to be ‘on the ball’ constantly. One bad call, and the viewers at home are raising their eyebrows. Out of all the events Snoek covered, there was one specific time where he made a mistake and wish he could have corrected it. “As a professional broadcaster you always want to get the call right. But you can’t plan out too much either because you don’t exactly know what the moment’s going to be like. Germany and Austria were battling for the team ski jumping event, and it came down to the last jumper and it would be either Germany or Austria who won the gold. The person in the building working graphics flashed up the wrong country and I went with my gut feeling and went with the other (team) and hesitated a little, which would leave uncertainty for the viewers watching at home.”

Overall, Sochi was a great milestone in Rob Snoek’s expansive career. Snoek says, “It was an awesome experience,” that he will take with him for the rest of his life.

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Mr. Snoek won a silver medal at the 1998 Paralympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Mr. Snoek did not compete in Nagano; he won a silver medal at the 1998 IPC Athletics World Championships in Birmingham, UK. We regret the error.