From Roanoke to Tokyo: Local man’s Olympic dreams come true

A.J. Speaks works behind the curtain at this year’s Olympic games

The spotlight is on the athletes for the much-anticipated Tokyo Olympics. But it takes an incredible amount of work, talent and time behind the scenes putting on the show for the entire world to see. A Roanoke native is a big part of making that magic happen this year.

A.J. Speaks, a senior producer for the Miami Heat, has come from shadowing local sports coverage in southwest Virginia now all the way to the Olympic games.

“I’m a son of the Star City. I never thought I would be in Tokyo having this responsibility, and I’m sure some of my teachers at Glen Cove and Northside are probably looking at their screen like, ‘Who? Not that boy!’ But you know, yeah it’s me, that knucklehead from Northside,” Speaks said.

Speaks is one of the people behind the lens of the Olympic games, broadcasting all the action to the entire world. He will be covering both the men’s and women’s teams in Tokyo.

“I grew up playing basketball in the streets of Roanoke, and to be able to be part of the broadcast that goes out to the entire world, is truly crazy to even think about, but it’s a lot of fun,” Speaks said.

Despite the 13-hour time difference and the massive prep work to get the cameras ready for the world stage, Speaks made time to zoom with 10 News to talk about the experience he calls a dream come true. Speaks arrived in Tokyo earlier this week and said he couldn’t help but be amazed when he saw the sights.

“I usually try to play it cool, but it was really exciting to be able to walk out on the floor here and to be here in Tokyo,” Speaks said.

Speaks got his start in sports photography in Roanoke, shadowing area professionals when he was in the 11th grade. After graduating college, he quickly worked his way up the ranks of professional sports producing for the Miami Marlins, Miami Dolphins and he now works as a senior producer for the Miami Heat. After 19 seasons of working in the heat house, Speaks said he got the opportunity of a lifetime — the Tokyo Olympic games.

“My dream really was to work the Olympics,” Speaks said. “I went to the Olympics as a fan in 2000, but I wanted to work it. This opportunity presented itself and I jumped at it.”

Though he’s made it to the largest sports stage in the world, he still proudly claims his hometown and says his success is largely due to the support he received from the community in Southwest Virginia.

“I’m proud to be from there. I’m proud to represent it,” Speaks said.