The glory in a televised sporting event is focused on crossing the finish line, shooting the game-winning goal or the moment when the judges reveal their top scores. But that moment of magnificence is just the conclusion of a lengthy tale – one with an extensive backstory and many more characters than the athlete alone.
Skype to interview journalists and experts from a wide variety of sports (badminton, anyone?) to comment on hot topics from the hysteria around doping accusations to proven instances of match fixing.
The interviews get behind the scenes with the people who are closest to the athletes and closest to the action.
Tania Farah, for example, is the wife and publicity manager of British runner Mo Farah. She digs deeper into why she thinks that Mo performs best with a “home field advantage,” as well as the emotional upside of balancing family responsibilities with a strict training regimen.
Evening Standard sport writer Dan Jones riffs on the future of sprinting and the building rivalry between Jamaican runners Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. He’s also able to deliver a candid critique of the intersection of sports and sponsorship that you’re not likely to hear on television channels supported by those same sponsors.
Retired swimmer Gary Hall Jr. gives his insights on the ability of old teammates like Ryan Lochte and newcomers like Missy Franklin. Speaking as a former swimmer, he has a keen sense of his has “over-trained,” who looks tired and who is the next big thing.
On to the controversies: Andy Goode, who used to play badminton for Britain, is adamant that ticketholders should be refunded for the recent match-fixing scandal. However, when it comes to accusations about Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen and the use of performance-enhancing drugs, David Hobbs of the British Swimming Coaches Association urges restraint. He reminds us that all athletes should be innocent until proven guilty.
Whether it’s David Beckham’s first coach, Stuart Underwood, expressing his disbelief that Beckham wasn’t selected for the British football team or star Aussie swimmer Emily Seebohm’s mother, Karen, leading us through the parental ups and downs of watching her daughter swim in a big meet, these interviews deliver an intimate and unscripted viewpoint on athletes that is rarely seen.
Behind any major victory, there are parents, spouses and friends who have sacrificed time, money, energy and, most importantly, being around their loved one to make sure that their athletic dream was realized. These are the people who attended all of the athlete’s first events, held down the homefront when the athlete was abroad, and chewed their nails before every competition. There are also the early coaches and old rivals who may not get the credit now, but pushed the athletes to improve before they were in the spotlight – who often encouraged the athlete to pursue a sport in the first place.
While the conclusion of a story may deliver the biggest impact, it is the characters and the challenges that they all must overcome along the way that makes them relatable and makes us actually care about that final outcome.