Mel gets her games face on

Mel McLaugh­lin laughs that it’s taken about 14 years to be­come an overnight suc­cess. The Com­mon­wealth Games co- an­chor made sport a life­time pas­sion long be­fore that. Deb­bie Schipp re­ports

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

MEL McLaugh­lin ad­mits if she hadn’t ac­cepted the gig with Chan­nel Ten, no sports lover would “think I was of sound mind”.

Last year, the sports pre­sen­ter and ra­bid Manch­ester United fan was lov­ing life with Fox Sports, host­ing and reporting soc­cer.

She’d cov­ered the 2003 Rugby World Cup, net­ball, cricket, Aus­tralian Open ten­nis and in­ter­viewed sport­ing greats in­clud­ing Greg Nor­man and David Beck­ham.

Then Ten came dan­gling some sport­ing car­rots.

The fi rst was host­ing the net­work’s T20 Big Bash cricket. Oh, and then could she nip over to Rus­sia to host the Win­ter Olympics?

By the time they’d added Brazil for the FIFA World Cup, and the Glas­gow Com­mon­wealth Games, 34- year- old McLaugh­lin’s head was spin­ning.

“I never thought I’d be able to leave work­ing with A- League be­cause I am so pas­sion­ate about it, but once the boss threw in Brazil, I re­alised there’s not one per­son that would think I was of sound mind to say no,” she says.

So be­gan McLaugh­lin’s world­wide sports odyssey: Big Bash, Sochi Win­ter Games, Mel­bourne F1 Grand Prix, Aus­tralian swim­ming tri­als, FIFA World Cup and now Glas­gow, to an­chor along­side swim­ming great Ian Thorpe.

Not bad for the tomboy from Syd­ney’s western sub­urbs, who grew up in a fam­ily of three girls, with her soc­cer- mad dad re­cruit­ing her early to the Manch­ester United foot­ball cause.

“There were no broth­ers drag­ging us out to play sport. That was me,” McLaugh­lin says.

Be­com­ing a sport jour­nal­ist was the per­fect way to live her pas­sion.

From her fi rst me­dia job at Ra­dio 2 in Syd­ney as a sports pro­ducer, she moved to SBS cov­er­ing the A- League. Next was Sky news for A- League cov­er­age, then in 2007 she joined Fox Sports as host and re­porter for their soc­cer cov­er­age as her profi le grew.

She’s look­ing for­ward to work­ing along­side Thorpe. She was a fan of his when he swam, and de­vel­oped a new re­spect for his skills as a com­men­ta­tor at the Lon­don Olympics.

“I was in Lon­don work­ing for Fox and he was do­ing com­men­tary for the BBC,” she says. “Ev­ery­body loved him. The English were ham­mer­ing the Aussies for how badly they were go­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion, but they loved his com­men­tary.”

Thorpe, who last week sat down with Sir Michael Parkin­son af­ter a “very tough six months” is look­ing for­ward to his pub­lic re- en­try into sport­ing life.

“I thor­oughly en­joy tele­vi­sion work and com­men­tary, not only across swim­ming, but all the Com­mon­wealth sports,” Thorpe said.

“It has been a tremen­dously tough start to the year for me, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to my health and the mul­ti­ple surg­eries I have un­der­gone on my shoul­der.

“I am on the mend and re­ally wrapped with the ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that lay ahead.”

McLaugh­lin may be mak­ing her fi rst Com­mon­wealth Games mem­o­ries, but Thorpe has a swag of his own.

“One would have to be the 200m freestyle fi nal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 where I won the gold and nar­rowly missed the world record by one hun­dredth of a sec­ond,” he says.

“The sec­ond was in Manch­ester in 2002 when I won the 400m freestyle and broke the world record.”

McLaugh­lin says Glas­gow is a chance for Aus­tralian ath­letes to bury some ghosts af­ter a lack­lus­tre Lon­don Olympics.

“There are bruises left from Lon­don. They want medals. And they’re hun­gry. We haven’t seen gold in a lit­tle while.”

GLAS­GOW 2014 XX COM­MON­WEALTH GAMES Starts 5.30am Thurs­day, TDT, ONE and TEN­PLAY

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