Clare Balding is a natural on camera, turning her hand to everything from the Grand National and Crufts to the Lord Mayor’s Show.
But looking back on the career that gained her an OBE in 2013, it’s her work on the Paralympics that really stands out for her.
So finding herself without a job during the pandemic came as a shock.
But it did allow the 50-year-old presenter, who lives in London with Alice Arnold, her wife of six years, to throw herself into writing.
It also led her to conclude that television is not the be-all and end-all of everything.
When we catch up with Clare on Zoom she tells us about her “moment” at this year’s Games, refusing to be defined by her role on TV and why she is determined to become more adventurous.
Hi, Clare. How different were the Olympics and Paralympics this year without the crowds?
It was actually especially great because there was even more focus on the athletes. There were no fans in the crowd, so there are no distractions for the athletes.
But also, there’s nowhere else for the camera to focus on, other than right on them, which I love.
Out of everything that I do, I think the Paralympics has the greatest power to change people’s lives, change the way people think and to have an influence on everyday life. That’s why I think it matters.
You said para-equestrian Lee Pearson’s wins were your “moment” of the Games. Why?
I have a deep connection with Lee Pearson. I’ve known him since 2000. I covered the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, when he started, and I love seeing him go through the trials and tribulations.
I think all sportspeople have been able to find a much stronger voice this year. They’ve been empowered by people like Marcus Rashford and Simone Biles and they know they have this platform.
I really love that we are hearing very strong words from young active people from a range of different backgrounds. They understand the world and they have things they want to talk about.
You were working alongside Alex Scott. How was that?
God, Alex is an absolute superstar. I really enjoyed working with her. It was the first major multisports event she’s worked on and my focus was to make sure she enjoyed the experience.
We made the best programme possible, as I knew a lot of people weren’t able to watch during the day.
So, in an hour and a half, not only did we cover the highlights, but we had a bit of fun as well.
What advice would you give people starting out in sports presenting?
I talk to a lot of kids who want to either get into commentating or presenting and I say to them all the time, “Start doing it now, watch things and think about how you would tell that story.
If you want to be a commentator, start commentating and record yourself. Listen back to it and listen back to the commentator.
See what they picked up on or what you missed.” It’s about finding your own voice and growing that confidence.
You and Alice have been married for six years. What is your secret?
Watching telly together! No, we are very easy together. We don’t row. I don’t know how we achieve that but I don’t think there is a secret. You’re on this wonderful adventure together.
I’m always saying to Alice, “Let’s do this – it will be fun.” We went walking around Scotland the week after the Olympics finished, as I was recording a series of BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings. Normally, Alice wouldn’t come with me for a work thing, but we loved it.
We’re determined to have more adventures together because it enlivens you. Lockdown shrank our ability to go places, so it made us conscious of how much we want to do that now we can. We’re making up for lost time.
How did you find lockdown?
I think for lots of people, the uncertainty was difficult.
I am self-employed myself and everything I had coming up was being postponed, which was worrying because you didn’t know when you would be working next. But I threw myself into writing. I wrote two books during the lockdowns, including a children’s book, Fall Off, Get Back On, Keep Going.
Spending my time writing gave me a structure and a sense of purpose. For me, that is very important as I don’t like drifting. By the end of lockdown, I came to this epiphany of, “I don’t need to be on television to prove my existence.”
Tell us about judging the Kindle Storyteller awards…
I love reading new ideas and great stories. The award is so much more than just winning a prize. Kindle Direct Publishing gives the winner an opportunity to be a published author without having to go through the commissioning process, which sometimes can be a bit soul-destroying.
It was a pleasure to be on the judging panel this year, to see people’s stories come to life and be a part of the process with so many inspirational authors in the making.
The Kindle Storyteller Award celebrates independent and newly published work in the English language across all genres. For details about the shortlist, see amazon.co.uk/storyteller. The winner will be announced soon.Read More Read More