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Clare Balding: a new kind of Olympic heroine

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Faye Mooney
WVoN co-editor

The London 2012 euphoria has finally subsided, but good news is still on the cards for British broadcaster Clare Balding, who has just sealed a deal to present Channel 4 racing, and will be the anchor for Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games.

The news follows an “Olympic Gold” broadcasting performance by Balding throughout London Games.

Praise for her professional and authoritative presenting style during the Olympics has come gushing forth from every quarter, from the Guardian to the Independent, even the Daily Mail – and, of course, the twittersphere.

A particular highlight was her joyously hilarious interview with Burt le Clos after his son won an unexpected gold medal in the 200m Butterfly, in which she managed to simultaneously put the excited parent at ease and indulge his excitement.

The sports blog Deadspin went so far as to call it the “media moment of the Olympics”.

She has also been credited with creating the amusing Mo Farah “mobot” celebratory dance. Indeed, anyone who has seen her on panel shows such as “Would I Lie to You” will be familiar with her sharp sense of humour and ability to handle herself amongst the “laddish” banter.

In 2011, WVoN covered the story that Balding thinks that her popularity is down to the fact that, as she is openly gay, “women are not afraid that she’ll nick their husbands”.

However, it seems to me that her sexuality is far from the key to her growing status as a “national treasure” (I wasn’t even aware that she was a lesbian).

It is possible that her popularity is, rather, simply down to the refreshing nature of her totally un-sexualised presenting.

Whilst broadcaster Gabby Logan also did an excellent job, there sometimes seemed to be a sense that she was the “sexy” face of the Olympic broadcasting team. However, as the Daily Mail points out, Balding completely refuses to flirt with viewers, colleagues or sportspeople.

Indeed, it is perhaps this that makes her such a remarkable broadcaster. She shines brightly in the male-dominated world of sports coverage and is often far better than them in terms of her knowledge and affability. She resists the temptation to use sex to procure credibility, and is all the more successful for doing so.

For women who feel unnerved by the still deeply masculine world of sport, Balding is a true inspiration. She is also an incredible role model for the gay community and a real heroine of the broadcasting world.

Sports Personality of the Year, anyone?

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