Jeff Benjamin is covering the event remotely for RunBlogRun, but do not worry, as he will be covering the Paris 2024 Olympics Live.

The Worlds On NBC – Thoughts & Views From TV On Day 1! By Jeff Benjamin – 8/19

Tone, Timing & Humility.

These qualities are key for sports commentators no matter the Sport they are covering, especially live on TV. It is not always easy for an announcing crew to possess them, especially in a way that the 3 can balance and feed off one another.

But NBC, in my humble opinion, has put together a fine mix!

With the ringleader Leigh Diffey guiding the way, the commentating crew of Ato Boldon, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Kara Goucher have shown a smoothness in their abilities to convey the events live to a TV audience. Add in Paul Swangard and Trey Hardee in the field events, and the balance is produced successfully. Finally, working mostly on the fly, Lewis Johnson’s challenging task has always been to ask very quick questions off the cuff of the competitors as they’ve just finished their respective performances.

Some examples –

1) In the Men’s 1500 qualifying races, Diffey emphasized to the audience the new qualifying format (top 6 finishers in each race regardless of time), and when asking Goucher about favorite Jacob Ingebrigtsen’s tactics, she said that the Norwegian would attempt to control the event from start to finish.

BUT Goucher humbly added, “Who knows?? I could be wrong…but no matter their pace, he’ll be ready for it.”

As the race began, Ingebrigtsen was way back in last! “We’ll look at that, said Goucher with a chuckle, “he proved me wrong!!

Josh Kerr and Jakob Ingebrigtsen eye each other, M1500m, August 19, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

In letting all the 1500 races play out and interjecting at the right time, Diffey had to make sure he kept the balance with Goucher, but it wasn’t without some humor.

After one of the slower 1500 heats, Diffey nudged at Goucher, “Well, what do you think about the top 6 format now?”

“Well,” said Goucher laughingly, “It makes it exciting for us!”

2) Ato Boldon’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things sprinting always combines successfully with his knowledge of form, approach, and starting/finishing accelerations. Boldon also has no issue issuing great praise as well as tough critiques to the competitors if necessary.

The critique against Olympic Champion Marcel Jacobs (10.15), who barely qualified to advance in his heat, was very direct. “10.15 is NOT the way you want to open…No one’s losing sleep over 10.15!”

After a tough 100 filled with delays and false starts, Lewis Johnson asked Fred Kerley, who did qualify, the unscripted questions. Kerley concluded by turning the question on Johnson!

“I know what I got to do for tomorrow,” said Kerley.

“What’s that?” asked Johnson.

“Win!”

Diffey was then able to chime in with a great statement.

“” Word Economy” is what I attach to Fred Kerley!”

3)  Boldon mentioned the new Peacock film “Untitled”.

“The film is not just to know himself off the track,” said Boldon. “But for as an analyst, it gives me a peak into how he and his coach think about the plans.”

After Lyles competed to move on, Lyles also pumped up the new film.

“The man does his own promos,” Boldon said to Diffey jokingly.

4) The Swangard/Hardee field coverage team also successfully teed off one another as their flowing, even-keeled commentary went from Will Claye’s triple jumping to Anna Hall’s performances in the Heptathlon (“Anna Hall will not rest until she knows she’s the best!,” rhymed Hardee) on the way to Ryan Crouser’s unreal Shotput gold medal performance.

5) In the women’s 10K, the slow dawdling early pace was enough for any fan, including Goucher, to be pulling on their hair. when Diffey mentioned to Goucher that they were running through the 5K mark around a 36 minute (!) 10K pace, Goucher asserted that she had gone through in her 2007 Silver medal performance in “15:30!”  Goucher then apologized, noting that it’s not always easy, with weather and tactics, for a race with no pacesetters (“Rabbits”) to lead to a slow pace.

In the dramatic finish where Ethiopian winner  Gudaf Tsegay passed a fast closing but depleted Sifan Hassan leading to Hassan’s fall just feet from the finish, it was Goucher who was able to successfully explain to the audience intuitively how exhaustion in competition can lead to such a fall.

“When you’re in the well, it’s easy to get tripped up because your energy is gone.”

6) When the anchor legs of Team USA and the Netherlands in the Mixed 4X400 relay took off neck and neck with the lead, both Boldon and Ross seemed resigned to a Dutch victory, as Femke Bol was racing it out with newcomer Alexis Holmes.

Yet, Ross, like Goucher, was playing into her intuitiveness as well as the American was coming off the final turn closing in in Bol, stressing how relaxed the American looked!

The battle in the Mixed 4x400m relay! Photo by Kevin Morris

And when Bol (like fellow countrywoman Hassan) fell as well right before the finish, Boldon, Diffey, and Ross, all let out a howl like shocked fans!

After recovering their composure (no easy feat!), it was Ross who commented on Holmes.

“This young lady can be the anchor keg for many years to come!”

One hopes that, based upon the day one performances, this will also be the case for the NBC crew!

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