The Daily Telegraph(Sydney)
July 25, 2002, Thursday
The deep end - The challenge of going from sports star to TV star -
Legends preaching what they practised
The lure of a glamorous TV career puts stars in the eyes of many retired
sports champions but do they have the talent to make the transition? KATRINA
BEIKOFF looks at TV's Commonwealth Games debutants.
It's not as simple as it looks, Kieren Perkins says about his new sports role
as host of Seven's coverage of the Manchester Commonwealth Games.
His words are a warning to the hundreds of young sports stars who think that
when their athletic days are over, a media role is a given.
This belief that the transition from sports star to TV star is a natural
progression is given credence by the plethora of stars in commentary roles.
Two faces synonymous with Australia at the Commonwealth Games -- dual
Olympic gold medallist Perkins and 1995 world indoor 200m champion Melinda
Gainsford-Taylor -- will host Seven's saturation broadcast.
The former darling of the Commonwealth Games pool, Hayley Lewis, will
conduct interviews poolside, while multiple gold medal-winning Hockeyroos
captain Rechelle Hawkes will add her expert commentary as will nine-time
Paralympic champion Priya Cooper.
In fact, Seven's commentary team boasts more than 15 Olympic medals and 30
Commonwealth medals, many from our most recent successes at Sydney and the 1998
Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
But is Seven's strategy of putting former athletes, people who have spent
practically their whole lives being lean, mean athletic machines, in front of
the camera to suddenly sparkle with wit and personality going to work?
Media analysts claim Seven's team is designed to appeal to the under-40s,
the viewing group in which big multi-sport events are traditionally weak (and
which could be drawn to Ten's spoiler, Celebrity Big Brother).
Even with the nightmarish nine-hour time difference -- it will demand
serious sleep sacrifice from fans keen to see many live finals, including the
Ian Thorpe medal blitz, scheduled between 3am and 6am -- Seven's 18 hours a day
of action is expected to be a ratings winner.
The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur delivered Nine a ratings bonanza
and at year's end, five of the top 10 spots in the national TV ratings were
Commonwealth Games events. The men's 1500m freestyle, won by Grant Hackett,
attracted more than three million viewers, taking out the top spot as the year's
most watched television event.
Seven's line-up is headed by Australia's premier sportscaster Bruce
McAvaney. He is one of 35 commentators in Manchester, the others including
athletics stars Raelene Boyle, Dave Culbert and Sebastian Coe, former swimming
coach Don Talbot, Hayley Lewis and Priya Cooper.
A unit of 170, including breakfast host Johanna Griggs, Perkins and
Gainsford-Taylor, will remain in Melbourne.
Perkins agrees the pressure is on the Games debutants to deliver. During his
sporting career, Perkins says he might have considered a media job easy. After
all, as an athlete he just had to turn up and answer a few questions or, in the
guise of guest presenter, it was simply a matter of reading from the auto-cue.
"I've learned now it's not a case of just turning up and doing it. The
amount of work that goes into it really does surprise me," he concedes.
Perkins says his role will be to provide an insight into the personalities
of the champion swim team and the nuances of the sport -- the way an athlete
swims, rather than the time just being fast or slow, their stroke, their
breathing techniques and their tactics.
"What I can offer, I think, is to give the inside running on what's going
on," he says. "It will be from a reasonably unique position in that I'll be able
to give an in-depth reading of what people are doing and feeling."
The job will require ignoring some of the golden rules of an athlete's media
"You spend so many years as an athlete on guard about what you say,
protecting yourself and not wanting to be too controversial or say anything that
would get you into trouble or cause problems for the sport," he says.
"But coming over to the other side it is different. I won't be sanitising
what I am thinking or what I say."
BACK TO NEWS