Ready set GOLD
Mel McLaughlin’s Olympic challenge
DIPPING one toe into the Speedo Swim Centre pool at Gold’s Gym in Bondi and Seven’s vivacious sports anchor Mel McLaughlin lights up “like a five-year-old”.
Short of competing in the Rio Games herself, the TV presenter’s energy and enthusiasm for the broadcasting challenge ahead of her is plain to see and hard to contain.
With 5000 hours of Olympic competition set to air across the multi-platforms of Seven’s biggest Games coverage yet, McLaughlin and the 450-strong production team charged with delivering all the action around the clock, know they will need to be on their game.
But for this self-confessed “proper nerd”, it’s as much about preparation as it is perspiration when that cauldron is finally lit this Saturday in Brazil and her director calls “action”.
“The Olympics is what you get into the business for, isn’t it?” McLaughlin tells TV Guide. “Big, exciting, really special times like this. Sure, it’s a massive challenge and I’m never relaxed about it; I never think it’s going to be easy, but I love that sort of challenge.”
Swotting up on sports which get little airtime outside the Olympics is a joy for this student of the Games, who will lead Seven’s coverage from its Sydney studios (delivering the 6pm Seven News sports bulletin each night and hosting live action nationally from 10.30pm).
With a CV that includes covering the Sochi Winter Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games on Ten, as well as the London Games for Fox Sports, the 36-year-old has earned the confidence of her peers.
Joining Seven’s impressive news and commentary stable, which boasts such luminaries as Bruce McAvaney, Jim Wilson and Johanna Griggs, has only acted to inspire one of TV’s brightest young stars.
“Bruce … is someone you aspire to be,” she says.
Anyone who watched as McLaughlin held herself with a quiet dignity when cricket star Chris Gayle sparked outrage by sexualising a sideline interview with her during a live BBL match on Channel 10 in January, would recognise this woman is made of tough stuff.
Switching stations in the months after that scandal, while also privately grieving the death of her sister, Tara last May, McLaughlin has endured both personal and professional tests.
But her passion for her work, she says, makes these Olympics a privilege, as well as a welcome excuse to party.
“It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, I’m always nervous, always aware of the gravity of what we’re doing. I know how huge this is, and I never ever take it for granted.”
Having covered the 2014 FIFA World Cup from Rio, McLaughlin predicts good times ahead.
“Brazil is just so much fun. It’s a proper party and I’m looking forward to it.”