In the fall of 2008, I was asked if I wanted to comment on biathlon after Kjell Kristian Rike died. With that, I also got a new person as my closest companion. I myself am 28 years old. The partner in question is 71 and his name is Jon Herwig Carlsen. With us on the tour we had Ola Lunde who was then 50 years old.
It sounds like we have a challenge with three generations on the tour, but the truth is we enjoyed every second of it. We travel the world, all winter, the full four seasons. Ola driving, Jon sat next to me and I sat in the back and wondered if this was true. I’m on a trip with a legend!
Growing up above average interested in sports in the 80s and 90s meant that Jon Herwig Carlsen was a symbol of the joy of sports.
A fun voice that at the climax of the competition finds the tunes and words that make the sporting moment bigger than it really is. There’s a lot of athletes who have a lot to thank Jon for, like that.
When, a few years later, I shared a commentator’s box with what Rike called the “first commenter,” I immediately realized which professional I was dealing with. With a few simple teachings, he taught me everything I knew on the subject of commentary, without instructions.
Jon never wanted a lead role, he called himself a soundstage. And part of the background job is stepping in where it needs to be so people crowd around the TV when it really matters.
“Our main job is to tell viewers what to watch now,” Carlsen said.
Where he found words in the heat of battle was hard to comprehend. In a split second he was able to find a reference that made us stare, or rather made us laugh so hard that we had to pause.
“Chunli Wang, it has nothing to do with Sølvi”, he was suddenly able to tell when the Chinese biathlete came out from the start.
And then there are the moments that everyone remembers. Shoot, finish, final jump, or the deciding goal. Then just pour it out.
With the exception of the famous rhyme, not a single word was ever planned. “Let him have another staff then, man,” “Meine Damen und Herren,” “Four houses full in this weather,” “Schmack, schmack, schmack …” “Sausage and pocket.” It was impossible to plan for such spontaneity.
Simple storyteller with time
If you’ve ever felt that there’s a lot of atmosphere with Jon Herwig Carlsen in the air, I can comfort you that he himself thinks so too. If it’s played by an old clip with Jon in high gear, he can take off the headset and say “Was it necessary to scream so badly?”.
He really meant it, but he also knew that when it was done, it could be trusted.
We shared every trip and every meal for the four winters. This will be about a year in total. We didn’t argue once this time. Jon told a new story every day that we had never heard of before, and of course spoke to someone we had heard of many times. There are stories from NRK, from sports, from Oslo. He is an amazing storyteller, with simple style and great timing.
The itinerary has been fixed and booked as early as possible. Jon was the tour guide and I had all the plane tickets in mid September. The hotels are the same every year: Edelweiss in Hochfilzen, Ruhpoldinger Hof in Ruhpolding and Wegerhof in Anterselva are the hotels you should stop by if you want “The Carlsen Experience”.
I have no idea how many fun conversations we had at these places. Or how many times Carlsen a-man has been ready to go at the reception, while me as a b-man myself was on my way to breakfast. “Now you have half an hour for you…”.
– Seen in VIP
I like to think that the end of his NRK career was good for Jon, where he traveled with Ola and I and looked so legendary in the biathlon family that he had VIP accreditation wherever he went. And of course Ola and I had to join in too.
– See you in VIP, Jon always said after sending.
Because those are the little moments that are left. Like when in December every year we have a small Christmas gathering in Ola’s room, preferably in Hochfilzen or Bled. On the menu is a small aquavit and some Christmas carols over a small loudspeaker.
Sinéad O’Connor with “Silent Night” was a favorite, but it wasn’t Christmas before Jussi Björling himself sang “O weekend night”. Then we heard about when Jon miraculously entered a Björling concert in the University auditorium in the ’50s, without actually having a ticket. And then there are always a few words of wonder about how a man from Borlänge could become the greatest opera singer in the world.
Something completely for itself
The greatest voice in any other genre belongs to a man from Kampen in Oslo. Jon Herwig Carlsen has a career that only a sports commentator can dream of today. It was a different time, but the man was also something completely to himself. At the bottom lies general knowledge of the other world, very thorough preparation and the God-given ability to see humor in many ways. Then he was also lucky enough to have the most comfortable TV sound in the world.
In sports, one would say that Jon Herwig Carlsen was a centenarian. He was the voice of the Olympics at Lillehammer and more. That says a lot.
To me, he became a good friend of another generation. Which I have everything to thank for a career. And as I will always remember with a big smile.
Thanks for the ride, dear Jon. See you at VIP.
“Infuriatingly humble coffee guru. Travel practitioner. Freelance zombie fanatic. Certified problem solver. Food scholar. Student.”