It’s not just the athletes who fight for places at big events and get nervous about their performance, says Steve Trew…
My very good friend, Mark Fewell (commentator at Sydney Olympic Games) totally hits the spot when he says that “the primary role of any on-site announcer is to provide colour, entertainment and information on the athletes and event to the crowd”. And again, “There is no greater compliment than for people to say that an event had a great atmosphere”. Commentators, like athletes, have egos and to be race commentator for a major event – Europeans, Worlds, ITU World Series, Commonwealths, Olympic Games – is parallel to a triathlete being selected for one of those major events. It’s almost the same process and criteria as well; do well at a local event; go to Regionals; do well, go to National Championships; do well, go to Europeans; do well, go to Worlds; do well, make the Olympics!
Hopefully the other parallel is that as athletes have to improve in fitness and race performance to move up a level, race commentators have to improve in delivery, awareness, knowledge of athletes, knowledge of courses and so on. It’s the background knowledge of the athletes and triathlon generally which can so easily make the difference between a ‘good’ performance and a merely adequate one. However, along with the big name events it’s crucial that race commentaries on the local races are approached as professionally – you wouldn’t expect to see Alistair and Johnny and Javier; Jodie and Gwen and Rachel not competing to their best in a lower key race, would you? So, too, do commentators put their best efforts into that level. Maybe we can attract newcomers to stay with the sport.
I also think that it is crucial that when there are two or more commentators at a race (usually a major event) that there is no clash of egos and that the commentary team get on well together. We get carried away with the sound of our own voices (or so I’ve been told) and it’s important to know when a fellow commentator is better placed to cut in and give coverage.Having joked and laughed away a lot of the time with Matt Chiltern, Rob Walker, Annie Emmerson and John Levison over many, many events; I think that we have had a pretty good team going. Going back a dozen years and more, co-commentating with Aussies Mark Fewell and Marc Dragan at the Worlds and Olympics in Perth and Sydney, and I realised that it might not be particularly appropriate for a very British accent to greet Chris McCormack or Emma Carney crossing the finish line when there was a plethora of Aussie accents to bring him in (mind you, when Simon Lessing was coming down the finishing straight in Cancun in ’95, you would have had to have broken my hands to get the microphone away from me…). I believe that spectators and athletes like to hear commentators giving each other a bit of stick.
I can also think of an occasion when working at a particular event where – how shall I put this? maybe just that we wouldn’t have chosen to go out for a drink together – tension between myself and my co-commentator caused a less than perfect commentary performance. Sorry, folks.
Thanks to the athletes and spectators who do take the time and trouble to come up after a race and tell you that you’ve done well, that they’ve enjoyed it… be nice to your race commentator.
A memory from a commentary; Bill Smith, three time World Champ Spencer Smith’s dad. Bill who had an answer for everything, (or he’d make one up); Bill who knew more about the real triathlon world than just about any athlete, coach, manager or organiser (and he’d tell you so).
Bill, who was so outspoken and outrageous in supporting Spencer… but who knew it. What did you say, Bill, after one particularly outspoken occasion? Something like, “I know, I was wrong and I hold my hands up… but he’s my son”…
But who was also one of the kindest people and a real ‘gentle’ man in the true sense of the word; who gave so much time to the new kids coming onto the British junior team. Still miss you Bill, gonna miss you for a long time yet.
Steve Trew: Coach & Commentator
This guy just loves the sound of his own voice! Steve is an advisory coach for Speedo, he can be contacted for all things triathlon at firstname.lastname@example.org