Athletics Weekly - - Action -

WHEN Chan­nel 4 showed the Par­a­lympics back in 2012, their cov­er­age ex­pertly cap­tured the per­vad­ing mood and at­ti­tude that some­thing truly spe­cial was hap­pen­ing to the move­ment, writes Euan Crum­ley.

The con­fi­dent and de­mys­ti­fy­ing na­ture of the pro­gram­ming, which gave birth to shows such as the con­tin­u­ally pop­u­lar and ground­break­ing The Last Leg, was hugely in­flu­en­tial.

The broad­casts cham­pi­oned the cham­pi­ons, not to men­tion the sil­ver medal­lists, the bronze medal­lists or any­one whose sport­ing prow­ess or force of per­son­al­ity had shone through the screen.

The stan­dards were raised to the ex­tent that, when the

Rio Par­a­lympics rolled around last sum­mer, there was high ex­pec­ta­tion and no lit­tle in­ter­est as to how well they would be able to con­tinue to de­velop the story of para sport. The ques­tions were em­phat­i­cally an­swered and, when it came to Lon­don 2017, it hap­pened again.

It may not have been the Par­a­lympics this time but the na­ture of the event, with the World Para Cham­pi­onships be­ing held vir­tu­ally along­side the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships and in the same arena for the first time ever, played right to the strengths of the Chan­nel 4 team.

Some of the faces in front of the cam­era may have changed but the tone of voice cer­tainly did not. From the first broad­cast there was the feel­ing of an­other op­por­tu­nity be­ing seized.

When the im­pres­sive Lee McKen­zie, who pro­vided the glue that held so much of the cov­er­age to­gether, said hello from the track­side for the first time she was so close she could prac­ti­cally have been part of the 100m heat which was about to start be­hind her.

The feel­ing of be­ing at the heart of the ac­tion was im­me­di­ate and un­mis­take­able.

Be­side her was Bri­tish Par­a­lympic hero David Weir, a man who cast a long­ing look at the track on more than one oc­ca­sion yet proved him­self to be an an­a­lyst of a very high cal­i­bre. The same could be said of Stef Reid, who leapt from her long jump gold into the stu­dio and ex­uded sheer en­thu­si­asm along­side a hugely in­for­ma­tive and elo­quent con­tri­bu­tion.

It was in the use of the ath­letes them­selves where the Chan­nel 4 cov­er­age, pro­duced by FilmNova, re­ally shone.

The in­jured New Zealand sprinter Liam Malone, who was on broad­cast du­ties, si­mul­ta­ne­ously con­grat­u­lat­ing Jon­nie Pea­cock on 100m gold and then ef­fec­tively chal­leng­ing him to a duel in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the race was to see ap­pre­ci­a­tion of an op­po­nent and a sim­mer­ing sport­ing ri­valry at play up close.

Pea­cock was a fine per­former in front of the cam­era, too, as was the likes of Bri­tish cap­tain Dan Greaves – whose visit to the stu­dio was an­other fine mo­ment.

That stu­dio was ably mar­shalled by Ade Ade­pitan, So­phie Mor­gan and Danny Crates, while the com­men­tary of John Rawl­ing, Rob Walker and Katharine Merry struck the right note, too.

Placed at the cen­tre of it all was a group of ath­letes burst­ing with an evan­gel­i­cal zeal about what they do and clearly rel­ish­ing an­other chance to do it in front of the watch­ing na­tion.

The au­di­ence sim­ply could not fail to have been im­pressed. Again.

Life through a lens: Lee McKen­zie with guest Greg Ruther­ford dur­ing the Chan­nel 4 cov­er­age

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