This morning was a pretty busy morning for me at BBC Sport HQ in Salford. We had arranged for gymnasts Max Whitlock (European Pommel Horse Champion) and Nile Wilson (5-Time European Junior Champion) to come into the studios for a round of interviews across various BBC outlets – celebrating their success in Sofia.
I thought I’d give you a little insight into how these interviews tend to work and some behind the scenes snaps of the lads doing their thing…
0700 – Arrival. Both prompt and on time and Nile with the biggest entourage breakfast had seen for some time. No briefing but both came fully kitted out in their GB kit. First stop was make up! A novel experience for most blokes but a welcome one for Nile to cover up the odd blemish and get himself looking top drawer for the thousands of drooling teenagers at home. I can report that Max took the longest in the chair.
0715 – Newsround. Our first stop of the day (after a healthy helping of caffeine) is 30 minutes with Newsround on the CBBC channel. Braving the rain to cross into “The Studios”, the boys were whisked through to the Newsround studio for their first interview of the day with Leah Gooding. We were taken into the gallery to watch a slick and brief rehersal, during which time the boys were given a couple of questions they’d be asked in the live interview moments later. No sooner were rehearsals done than 5…4…3…2..1…. Roll Titles and we were into action. The boys answered their questions brilliantly and the interview was done!
0800 – Green Room. BBC Breakfast was their next stop but the pair had time to relax in the Green Room first and get some breakfast. A couple of pain au chocolats later, Max tells me his diet after a competition can be a little more relaxed although he could feel a bit guilty for the pastries.
0830 – Briefing. The lads were taken from the Green Room up to the BBC Breakfast studios where Sports Presenter Ore Oduba had a quick chat to ease their nerves and run through what they might be asked on the sofa. Nile’s heart starts to race a little more as he’s waiting on the sofas outside the studio and they use the time for a bit of Twitter catch up.
0835. BBC Breakfast. Into the studio they go. A little smaller than you might expect from the telly. A quick couple of camera and mic checks, a ‘how-do-you-do’ with Bill and Sally and then ROLL VT. Nile and Max get to see an edited montage of their exploits at the European Championships at the weekend and effortlessly answer all the questions thrown at them. They grew into the interview well and relaxed more as the questions kept coming. Nile’s Mum and sister Joanna watched from the wings with Dad outside.
0845. BBC Essex. Max’s roots in Basildon still ring true. You can tell from the accent and the cheeky smile. He’s taken to a spare radio studio to chat to BBC Essex’s Ben Fryer about his medal success, inspiring youngsters and his gym in Basildon. It’s a pre-recorded interview to be played out later on that evening. Nile and his family wait upstairs whilst Max does his thing.
0900. Blue Peter. A quick trip back in the rain to Bridge House next door where Blue Peter are filming some pre-recorded segements promoting a new sports badge. Nile and Max take it in turns to answer some set questions on their passions, motivations, achievements, and then some rehearsed lines encouraging children across the country to help their friends get fit and get involved in sport. Nile goes first and takes his time contemplating some of his answers. Max goes second and rushes through his answers before stumbling on saying his own name at one point. And the crowning glory for the pair – a Blue Peter badge each!! In my day – these were worth more than a collection of Eric Cantona shinies in the Panini Sticker Album. Stuff your European medals lads – you’ve hit the big time now!
0945 – BBC Sport. Sadly the lads couldn’t be accommodated on BBC Radio 5 Live or the BBC Sport website this morning but the final stop of the day is the BBC News Channel and BBC Sport. Will Perry, presenter, introduces himself in a dapper navy suit before going into intimate detail on the versatility of Coconut Oil. Ice broken. That man is a pro. The boys are then taken into the shiny studio and conduct a 5 minute interview with Will to be played out in chunks later on in the day.
1010 – Departure. And that’s that. I pack everyone off in different directions for their respective taxis and bid them adieu. I was staggered by their enthusiasm, professionalism and ability to take everything in their stride. At 21 and 18, Max and Nile were excellent ambassadors for the sport of Gymnastics and following on from the women’s success a week prior, shows how healthy the sport is to have such strong, young role models.
Whether it’s the Commonwealth Games, World Championships or Olympic Games in years to come that prove their true calling, a quick snapshot into the life and mind of an elite athlete was a real pleasure for me this morning. I wish the boys all the best of luck in the future and have no doubt we’ll be crossing paths again…. with even more bling around their necks… but let’s face it… it’s no Blue Peter badge!
Wednesday, 28th May 2014