As Cheltenham looks forward to hosting the finish line for the 7th stage of OVO Energy’s Tour of Britain outside No.131, we caught up with presenter Jill Douglas to discuss her career, getting the giggles and cycling.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING PART OF BEING A SPORTS PRESENTER?
I’ve been fortunate to be at the very best cycling events in the world. So, when you say “what is the most exciting part of being a Sports Presenter”, I think it’s having a ringside seat to really amazing moments in sporting history. Whether that be Sir Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, or being in Hampton Court when he won the Olympic Time Trial Gold just a few days later. The opportunity to travel and visit wonderful places is also a real bonus…I was able to spend nearly two months travelling in Australia for the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO GET THE BEST INTERVIEW FROM SPORTS PERSONALITIES IN THE MOMENT? FOR EXAMPLE, THE INTERVIEWS YOU TOOK ON TRACK AT THE 2012 OLYMPIC VELEDROME EVENT.
I think this really comes from experience. Knowing the right question to ask someone like Sir Chris Hoy, when he has just made history after winning his sixth gold medal, can be daunting. I was lucky to see him win his first Gold back in Athens in 2004 – what a sportsman!
Really, you want to get an emotional response because straight after an event it’s very difficult to get an analytical assessment of the performance. You’re really looking for that raw emotion, and often you don’t need to say very much! You have to trust yourself to find the right words and that just comes from experience. And always remember it is about the athlete- what I say should be the least memorable part of the interview! It’s a bit like training for a marathon. You train and train and so that when it comes to the big moment you are able to deliver.
IF THERE WAS ANYONE IN THE WORLD OF SPORT THAT YOU COULD INTERVIEW, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
It’s an interesting one, because I have had the chance to interview so many amazing people. Whether it’s been Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams or Andy Murray. I’m sure there are people that I would still love to meet and interview.
I guess at some point I would like to sit down with Lance Armstrong and ask, “Why did you do it?” but realistically he cast such a shadow on the sport that I love, and there are so many wonderful people doing great things in sport which should be celebrated, and so I almost feel like it would be a shame to go back to that. Better to look forward!
There are so many interesting people in sport…I mean of course Hugh Jackman would be great to interview and would always be top of my list. I mean he did star in the Eddie the Eagle film, so there is a tenuous sporting link, and he is apparently a very big rugby fan! If Hugh is out there I’m more than happy to give him my time.
WHAT EXCITEMENT CAN THE COTSWOLDS AND CHELTENHAM EXPECT FROM THE 7THLEG OF THE TOUR OF BRITAIN?
I think it’s really going to be amazing. It’s not just the race, its everything around the race. On the day, the roads will be closed, and people will be out lining the route at the sides. Everyone will be able to see the team cars and vehicles come past.
There’s something beautiful about watching a bike race…. It’s the colour, it’s the spectacle, it’s the flowing movement of a peloton at speed. Whether it’s the sharp climb that stretches everyone out, and the steep slope where you see them bombing it down, it’s an incredibly elegant sport. What I love about cycling is the etiquette around it and the unwritten rules of the peloton.
Because its coming through the Cotswolds and Cheltenham, it has a beautiful backdrop. To think of them sweeping past the Racecourse and through Pitville, is so memorable as there will be a huge amount of local kids there watching.
On the whole, it will be so much fun, the town will be buzzing! It will be a Saturday which means many people will be free to come and spectate. I think lots of people will cycle here in order to watch the race, and there is a cycling festival planned where there’s a variety of different things going on; demonstrations and opportunities to learn about cycling. I really think it’s going to be a great event, finishing right outside No.131 which will be amazing; I can’t wait! It will really show off the town and county beautifully and I just hope people get behind it and support it.
IN THE LIGHT OF CYCLING BECOMING SUCH A TREND OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, HOW CAN YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVE THEMSELVES IN THIS SPORT?
The one thing about cycling is that we all learnt to ride a bike when we were kids. It’s like a rite of passage which is wonderful! My kids learnt to ride their bikes down in Pitville Park on a stretch of grass that slopes gently down to the lake. Even today they love to ride bikes, and have enjoyed trips off to watch the Tour de France. When it comes to the Tour of Britain, we will all go out as a family and ride together. A bit like when you’re watching Wimbledon and you want to play tennis!
In Gloucestershire, there are loads of great places to ride bikes for all ages which are very safe and some are off road. The Forest of Dean has brilliant tracks, there are tracks in Stroud, by the lakes in Cirencester etc. If you want to learn how to ride on the road safely, and learn the etiquette of this, then there are loads of clubs you can go to with people who will help you feel confident. They arrange chaperoned cycle rides which are really effective! Go to the British Cycling Website.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT TO GO TO OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Interesting you ask! Of course, I love cycling and rugby, but actually my big thing is racing. I don’t work in racing but I love both flat racing and I really love national hunt racing.
I live very near to Cheltenham Racecourse and I have been coming to Cheltenham festival since I was at school, I actually used to bunk off so I could come down. I grew up with horses and I loving racing so yes, my favourite sport to see outside of work would have to be horse racing.
WHERE WERE YOU DURING THE LAST MAJOR CYCLING EVENT? WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT IN YOUR EYES?
I didn’t cover the Tour de France this year but I watched from TV at home with my family. Every afternoon we would have this on, through to the evening where we would be watching the highlights also.
In May this year, I actually did the Women’s Tour of Britain which was a really big event that has truly grown in stature, with all the top cyclists in the world. In the women’s racing calendar, it is one of the two or three major events which is really well supported; it was fantastic this year! It all came together in the centre of London so it was a brilliant experience for everyone.
And I’ve just enjoyed a fantastic weekend in London for Ride London – the world’s biggest cycling festival with thousands of people taking part in the Freecycle, the sportives and the many activities over the weekend. There are two elite races which are now on the World Tour which gives them added status in the racing calendar. One of the highlights is when the streets around central London are closed to traffic and you can ride on traffic-free roads past some of the most iconic sights in the world! We took our bikes up and had a brilliant day!
WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN WHILE PRESENTING?
This is a difficult question to answer really because I have seen all sorts of strange and funny things. What makes me laugh is not so much something happening, but something somebody says. When I work in snooker, I work with the former player Neal Foulds who is really good at making me laugh at the wrong time!
I often struggle to keep a straight face, and it’s happened to me in all sorts of studios over the years, in all kinds of circumstances. It’s often things that nobody else would find funny. When you’re on live television it’s like being in church and not being able to laugh. It just builds up and builds up and you’re almost holding your breath trying to get your words out… That happens a lot!
For a front row seat of the finish line for OVO Energy’s Tour of Britain, book your table at No.131 .