BBC Sports Presenter Hazel Irvine

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"If I know I'm prepared, I can relax and enjoy it," says Hazel Irvine.

Colin Jackson: How long has it taken for you to get where you are in the world of sports journalism?

Hazel Irvine: It's taken 21 years. I've been working for a very long time to get where I am. It's been a really interesting journey. I've covered lots of different sports along the way, and now I get to do the things I really love - athletics with you, golf with the golf team, snooker and all the Olympic sports.

CJ: Were you a sportsperson yourself?

HI: I was a jack of all trades, master of none. I did everything at school, from gymnastics to swimming. I was swimming four days a week, training hard. I was getting up at six o'clock in the mornings.

I played hockey and golf too. I did everything. My poor Mum had to wash my kit every single day, because I always had some kind of extra-curricular activity after school, and I played hockey every Saturday morning. I couldn't get enough of sports.

CJ: Why are you so passionate about sport?

Profile

Name:
Hazel Irvine

Born:
26 May 1965

From:
St Andrews, Scotland

Job:
Sports journalist/presenter

Achievements:

  • Royal Television Society Award for Best Regional Presenter/Reporter (1999)

HI: My Dad was, and still is, a very fit man. He played five-a-side football until the day he retired, with the students at his college. He used to run rings around them, at least that's what he told us anyway (laughs). He always had a wonderful interest in sport of all kinds, and in keeping himself fit.

He took my brother and I to all sorts of sporting occasions. He used to take us to the football, which was a bit strange 30 years ago. We used to go and see Celtic, Rangers, and Aberdeen, whatever and wherever the good matches were. He used to support a local football team as well. He instilled in me a love of exercise.

The 1972 Olympics completely captured my imagination. I had a sticker book and I was absolutely obsessed with the Olympics. I remember saying to my friends at the time 'What do you want to do in life? I want to be an athlete.' I actually wanted to be a hurdler.

CJ: Good choice.

HI: I was okay but I was never going to be a Colin Jackson (laughs).

CJ: When did you decide that you wanted to be a sports presenter?

HI: I didn't consider a career in sport because, when I was growing up it wasn't really a job. It was something you did as an amateur, in addition to your real job. I was told 'It's not a real profession, you're not going to earn any money,' so it's not something I actively pursued.

I was quite interested in my studies at school and university. I gradually realised that I didn't have the ability to be an Olympic athlete. I didn't have the dedication because I knew I wasn't good enough to get to the top.

When I started in work I didn't know if it was sports journalism I wanted to do. At school, as a jack of all trades, after every hockey game or athletics meet, I was always the one who had to write up the report for the local newspaper. In that respect I've been a sports journalist since I was 11-years-old without really realising it.

I went along to meet a television executive for an audition and he asked me 'What do you want to do in television?' I said 'I'm not very sure.' He took one look at my CV and said 'It's pretty obvious to me what you should be doing.' That was that.

CJ: How do you go about preparing for a live broadcast?

HI: I make lots of notes before an event. When I was at school and university, nothing really stayed in my head unless I wrote it down. I like to feel that I know the answers to some of the questions that I'll be asking people. Also, half of the fun is asking questions that I don't know the answers to.

If I know I'm prepared, I can relax and enjoy it. There's nothing worse than turning up to an athletics meet not knowing your subject. I hate that. I also enjoy the discipline of learning and studying, doing my research on the internet. It can be a chore when you're at school and university, but for me it's never stopped. I've always had to keep doing the same things I used to. The weird thing is that I now enjoy it.

Live broadcasting is like sitting an exam every week. It feels really good when you get through the broadcast and it's gone well. It's a constant process of preparing, doing it, preparing, doing it.

CJ: Who inspires you?

HI: I get inspired working next to someone like you (laughs). I wanted to be a hurdler, so I used to get a real thrill from speaking to people like you. In golf I get a buzz from speaking to people like Laura Davies or Nick Faldo. I still pinch myself now and again when I say 'I was speaking to Colin the other day' and everyone says 'Colin Jackson?' I say 'Yes, I know Colin Jackson (laughs)'.

I'm very privileged to be in a situation where I can ask you questions that I'll never know the answer to. I'll never know what it's like to stand on the start line in an Olympic or World Championship final, or to know what it feels like to cross the finish line having set a World record. It's completely out of my reach, as it is to most people on this planet. So to be able to get insights into that is absolutely fascinating.


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