My WTS Leeds experience - Mike Clyne
Having been given the opportunity to commentate at the 7Oaks Tri in April 2013 this led to a number of opportunities at a range of races to become a race commentator / announcer (or #mikeonthemic for the social media types among you). I’ve loved the chance to be at events both large and small and usually based at the finish line where you witness the excitement and emotion that I have known myself over the years.
At the end of last year I received an email out of the blue inviting me to join the commentary team at the World Triathlon Series in Leeds based on the kind recommendation of John Levison and Steve Trew. Naturally I was incredibly excited but after the ‘issues’ that the event had experienced in 2016 I wanted to get some other views so spoke to John (he of Tri247 fame). He explained the problems they had and how a whole new event management team was being brought in and crucially that he had full confidence in them. I’ve known John for a few years now and have worked with both him (and Steve) a couple of times so his endorsement was good enough for me. The weekend turned out to be very well organised which reflected his prediction.
I’ve worked for a few different organisations and whilst I have done events that had more people this was a big step up in terms of high profile events. Prior to the day I received my briefing packs which were incredibly detailed. As you would imagine the ITU are very precise about their whole delivery of their events and this came through strongly in the documents I was sent.
My role was to be based at Roundhay Park which had the swim and Elite T1 plus where all of the age groupers were swimming plus T1 and T2. Travelling up on Friday with John and with Steve they were incredibly supportive and encouraging for me stepping up to this level of event. We had a briefing meeting with a number of the organisers and the scale of the setup was becoming clear. We three commentators were supplemented by two local Radio DJs for some local flavour plus we had a ‘Floor Manager’ who was in charge of our work. Add to that a Media Manager whose job was all about the messaging plus over the weekend I had one person with me who was ensuring that I kept to timings, mentioned the relevant sponsors or messages; and you start to get a picture of the size of the infrastructure.
I was the voice of the event village and Aquathlon / Go Tri on the Saturday along with John Levison while Steve Trew was at the finish line in Millenium Square. At Roundhay we had a crew who were in charge of all things sound related plus there was a video / camera team who looked after the big screen there, the video feeds of the race, sponsor & race messaging plus a roving camera team who worked with me around the event village doing interviews etc.
Saturday’s weather was horrendous but as ever the triathletes just got on with it. After the racing had finished I had a run through at the swim start with the ITU Head of Operations who was to be overseeing me for my key role of announcing the swim start for the Elites. We ran through the scripts and practised on the full PA system. It had been explained to me that the whole thing had to be timed to the second because the TV feed came in at a precise point and therefore the ITU chap had to time my piece, together with the music and the infamous ‘heartbeat’ that is played just before the start.
And so to Sunday with another 5am start. We had the AG championship races going off all through the morning and I was working at the event village. As the time came for my first elite start (Women) I have to admit to being pretty nervous and my heart rate was probably as high as most of the athletes. I was sat on the bank of the lake just by the start pontoon across from the now large crowd and as the time came nearer I had my script, my water and the ITU representative who was overseeing me. He gave the cue for the first piece of music and then a few seconds later cued me to introduce the race officials. After another 1m52 seconds (exactly) the second piece of music started and then I had my cue to start introducing the athletes. He had timed the whole things and knew at each stage what the time should be so he could indicate that I should speed up, slow down or thumbs up to show ‘you’re on pace’. After the first 20/30 seconds a wave of relief came over me as I relaxed and received my first thumbs up. It was fine and my many run throughs (some out loud on the PA, some in my room speaking to myself) were coming to bear. Each of the GB athletes got a special cheer and we had factored that in so that as I came to the last name to read out we had hit the time we needed. There was another few seconds of music and then the heartbeat music came on. That finishes, a few seconds of quiet and then they were off. I relaxed and then did a bit of PA commentary on the swim and that was it for now.
By the time the Elite Men were getting ready the crowd on the side of the lake had really grown – I would guess a good few thousand – and there was a big buzz in the air. I had been told to ‘big up’ the GB athletes as the ITU always do at all locations for home athletes. The process was exactly the same for the Men’s introduction as it had been for the Women but was no longer too nervous but just excited. I started running through the names, the first few GB people got a good cheer and as we approached number 26 and number 28 you could feel the tension! “Number 26, Homegrown Talent, winner of……” I started as I had been able to put some of my own wording into the script. I ran through some of Johnny Brownlee’s previous accomplishments and as I punched out his name the crowd roared. At that precise moment it felt like someone dropped a huge adrenaline ball into my stomach that was now fizzing with energy – I reckon I could have floated! The same for number 28 “A local lad representing Great Britain”….. Well he’s nearly 29 but compared to me he is much younger and looks WAY younger! Once again his name elicited a huge cheer and once again I felt like I was about to explode.
Once the men were underway I once again did a few bits of commentary and as the last swimmer exited the water I ran off to get on the shuttle bus back to the city centre. Luckily I got back quickly and saw them pass on the bike as I was striding past the city centre loop course. My access pass gave me entry to most places including the commentary booth overlooking the finish line where I was in time to see the bikes come in to T2. The brothers flew out onto the run as I saw John & Steve executing an amazing commentary which drew on their encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport. As we saw them come through each of the laps the large crowd in the stands were on their feet urging them on and as Alistair came into the finish the place went nuts.
As the awards ceremony finished we gathered our things and went off to catch the train home. I was shattered and we slumped into our seats.
It had been an amazing experience and I can only hope to be able to do it again. This was certainly on my ‘commentating bucket list’.
Hope you lasted through my excessively long report and hope that I get the chance to announce more names of 7Oaks Tri Club members at events soon.
You can hear a short bit of me (in the background) introducing Alistair Brownlee on this clip https://youtu.be/hJx4i9IR7RA at about 1m24 in.