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
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