Leona O’Neill

Among our best known faces of sports re­port­ing, Claire McCol­lum and Ruth Gor­man will present the pres­ti­gious Belfast Tele­graph Sports Awards next month. At a spe­cial pho­to­shoot at The Boule­vard, Ban­bridge, Claire and Ruth talk to Leona O’Neill

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - NEW YEAR COMPETITIONS -

“Claire McCol­lum and Ruth Gor­man are among our best known sports pre­sen­ters and, as they pre­pare to host the Belfast Tele­graph Sports Awards, they tell me about their suc­cess­ful ca­reers, what they get up to away from the cam­eras and how their fam­i­lies have in­flu­enced them.”

They’ve been sports mad since they were lit­tle girls — and have har­nessed that pas­sion and honed their tal­ents over the years to en­sure they have both reached the top of their games in the world of sports pre­sent­ing.

And next month Ruth Gor­man and Claire McCol­lum will join forces on stage at Belfast’s Water­front Hall to cel­e­brate the very best sport­ing tal­ents North­ern Ire­land has to of­fer with the Belfast Tele­graph Sports Awards.

The ladies say they can­not wait for the glit­ter­ing cer­e­mony, on Jan­uary 14, as it com­bines two of their most favourite things — sport and talk­ing about sport.

One of the most recog­nis­able faces on TV, Claire McCol­lum (44), who lives in White­abbey with hus­band Alas­tair Clarke (46), a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor, and their two chil­dren Sa­muel, (12) and Rosa (10), says host­ing the Belfast Tele­graph Sports Awards is al­ways a night she gets “worked up” over.

“This year has been great for me,” she says. “There have been so many great mo­ments and I have been re­ally priv­i­leged to have been asked to host a num­ber of events.

“I was asked to do the NHS at 70 pro­gramme for Songs of Praise to com­mem­o­rate Aneurin Be­van open­ing the first NHS hos­pi­tal. It was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, a real ca­reer high­light. I at­tended the Pope’s visit to Ire­land and did the pro­gramme from Dublin for Songs of Praise. For the last cou­ple of years I’ve co-hosted with Stephen Wat­son the North West 200 launch which is al­ways very spe­cial. It was one of my favourite events to cover when I was with UTV full-time in sport. To be in­volved in that still is a real priv­i­lege.” Claire says that the awards night is an op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate the best of North­ern Ire­land sport. “Host­ing the Belfast Tele­graph Sports Awards is al­ways a high­light and prob­a­bly one of the events that I get most worked up about in a good way,” she says. “It is al­ways such a great night, in amongst peo­ple that I worked with for many years. You’re wel­comed back in like you’ve never been away. It’s so lovely. I love sport and to see sport cel­e­brated, when so many not so nice things are hap­pen­ing around us, is amaz­ing. There’s so much talk about Brexit and aw­ful things in the world and we get to cel­e­brate our finest sports­peo­ple. “The awards at­tract the big­gest names that we have ever had in sports, every year, and it is an hon­our. It’s a room full of the best tal­ent that we have and to be there, on the stage, look­ing out at all those peo­ple is won­der­ful. It is a rare priv­i­lege to be there hand­ing out the awards. I am FAM­ILY LIFE: de­lighted to be along­side Ruth this year. We worked to­gether at UTV. She is such a great girl and she has been so com­mit­ted right from the get go.”

Claire says that sport has al­ways been a pas­sion since she was a young girl, but she never imag­ined it would also dom­i­nate her adult life.

“I rode horses and had my own pony when I was grow­ing up and it was all con­sum­ing,” she says. “My pony was called Ziggy and my horse was called Cronie. I loved horse rid­ing and did it right up un­til I left for univer­sity. I also played hockey at school

I did the NHS at 70 pro­gramme for Songs of Praise ... it was won­der­ful

and loved swim­ming. When I was at univer­sity I played hockey and rugby. It was great for mak­ing friends and be­ing part of a team. I never played it to any great level, but I en­joyed it im­mensely.

“Sport has al­ways been a big fea­ture in my life. It was never what I thought I would end up do­ing as a job, but very hap­pily I ended up in the UTV sports de­part­ment and had al­most nine fan­tas­tic years there. I still meet up with col­leagues every Christ­mas for a night out. “We catch up and tell the same sto­ries, laugh at the same jokes. It’s lovely.” Claire says her mum and dad are her “big­gest fans” and watch her every move with pride. Claire’s dad, Sam, was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s Dis­ease sev­eral years ago.

It was a dev­as­tat­ing blow to her and the en­tire fam­ily cir­cle. Her fa­ther’s ill­ness prompted her to be­come a VIP sup­porter with Parkin­son’s UK, help­ing raise over £4,000 for the char­ity in 2018, and cease­lessly try­ing to raise funds and aware­ness about the con­di­tion.

“I’m very lucky to live very close to my mum and dad,” she says. “They are my big­gest sup­port­ers, along with my hus­band and kids. They still have VHS tapes of every sin­gle broad­cast I did with UTV over the years and they have scrap­books of pa­per clip­pings. It’s some­thing that only your won­der­ful par­ents will ever do.

“My dad has Parkin­son’s and mum looks af­ter us all, not only dad. It is won­der­ful for dad to still see all the things that go on,” she says.

“Dad is an amaz­ing man, al­ways has been. But Parkin­son’s is a pro­gres­sive ill­ness so it’s not great, but we are a won­der­ful team. Mum is an amaz­ing wife and carer.

“She is my in­spi­ra­tion as a mother, as a woman and a wife and a part­ner.

“They are a real ex­am­ple to my­self and my sis­ter Kelly of what a part­ner­ship and a mar­riage should be.

“Dad car­ries his Parkin­son’s ex­tremely well. I think if I had been dealt that hand, I wouldn’t han­dle it in the way that he does. He is amaz­ing. He and mum are in good tune. They al­ways wish me the best every time I go out to do a job, no mat­ter what that job is. They are our great­est sup­port­ers. They are won­der­ful.”

Claire says that her dad started off her ca­reer in broad­cast­ing, putting her in front of the cam­era at a young age.

“Dad re­ally in­spired me in terms of my ca­reer,” she says. “If he had to do his ca­reer again he would be a TV cam­era­man or ed­i­tor, or both.

“He had a video cam­era at home. He would have filmed fam­ily oc­ca­sions. And he was good. He wouldn’t just let it run, he would edit it on cam­era. He was bril­liant and he al­ways got me to be the re­porter along­side him. I would have done fam­ily wed­dings, birth­days and big cel­e­bra­tions. I guess it got me re­ally com­fort­able in front of the cam­era and be­ing along­side and in­ter­view­ing peo­ple.

“He is my in­spi­ra­tion in terms of my ca­reer. And also my grand­fa­ther on my mum’s side was the deputy ed­i­tor of the North­ern Whig news­pa­per. He also played bowls for Ire­land and did com­men­tary and sport for UTV be­cause of his love and knowl­edge of sport. So even though I never met him as he died be­fore I was born, I al­ways felt I was fol­low­ing in his foot­steps.”

Claire says she doesn’t make too many New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, but that there is one she will stick by this year. “I sup­pose the best New Year’s res­o­lu­tion is to keep on truckin’,” she says. “Just put one foot in front of the other and do your best every day.”

Claire wih hus­band Alas­tair and chil­dren Rosa and Sa­muel. Right, Claire’s fa­ther, Sam

PIC­TURES: PE­TER MOR­RI­SON

STYLE QUEENS: On these pages, broad­cast­ers Claire McCol­lum and Ruth Gor­man model a range of dresses from the LK Ben­nett store at the Boule­vard in Ban­bridge for our spe­cial Sports Awards shoot

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