You will probably recognise Aly Vance from top events such as the Longines Global Champions Tour and Olympia 5* shows as she interviews the world’s best show jumping athletes for all the top sport TV channels.
A talented busy sports journalist and presenter giving us the post competition run downs with the big GP winners appearing on CCN, BBC, Sky Sports, BT Sport and Channel 4.
I constantly try to balance my full-time job and love of equestrian sport (sometimes unsuccessfully) so I wanted to catch up with Aly and ask how she manages to combine travelling, working with animals, her love of horses and a home life.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL INTEREST IN EQUESTRIAN SPORT?
Yes – My mother was a keen rider so I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by horses. I was typically pony mad from a young age but I began taking competing more seriously from about the age of 14 when I got my first eventer. Throughout university I competed two horses to a pretty decent level but I was never really talented enough to consider taking it into a full-time career. When I was 23, I fell off going cross-country and broke my back and neck. That confirmed to me that I should perhaps keep horses as a hobby!
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE EVENTS OF THE CALENDAR? AND WHY?
All the LGCT events have something very special about them with their unique venues and high standard of competition. You can’t go wrong with any of them but my personal favourites are Miami (there can’t be a crazier location than right next to the ocean) and Chantilly (for it’s wonderful French hospitality and relaxed atmosphere). Olympia is another highlight with its magical Christmas buzz.
When I’m not covering show jumping I work predominantly in the horse racing world. The Cheltenham Festival in the UK and the Kentucky Derby in the US are amongst my favourites. They’re totally mad events that everyone should put on their bucket lists!
WHEN AT A BIG SHOW, WHAT IS THE TYPICAL DAY?
My role at an LGCT event is very varied. In the morning, before the 5* classes start I do my homework as well as write and voice packages that will be shown on the big screen and for digital. We usually go on air about an hour before a big class and that’s my busiest time. One minute I’ll be reporting live from around the show ground and giving the views of what happens behind the scenes. I could then be interviewing riders or VIPs as well as anchoring in the studio. Very occasionally I step into the commentary booth but I’d prefer to leave that to the experts. There aren’t many sports where you’re expected to do so many roles but I love the variety.
In 2017 CNN came on board as a broadcasting partner. As I present all of their horse racing coverage so I took on the equestrian role as well. Our coverage is aimed at a business/non-sporting audience so we do more general packages on the event locations, the riders to watch out for and try to get across some of the interesting stories behind the sport. It’s a great opportunity to sell equestrian to new fans.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ATHLETE TO INTERVIEW?
Eek…now I wouldn’t want to favour any rider as I obviously have to deal with them all! Therefore my lips are sealed but I will say that the smiley, enthusiastic interviewees are always the best!
FAVOURITES PARTS OF THE JOB?
The buzz of being part of a big event. I love the pressure of live production and feeling part of an important sporting occasion. I’m probably too laid back in life so the more pressure I’m under when I’m broadcasting the better! For example it’s far scarier interviewing the winning rider in the arena at Olympia, with all those eyes on me, then it is doing a live hit on CNN World Sport. They say CNN has a reach of 300 million homes but being able to see your audience is very different! I host Royal Ascot and it’s quite nerve wracking knowing that the Queen is also watching that. However, I’m very lucky to work at these events and I don’t take these moments for granted.
LEAST FAVOURITE PARTS OF THE JOB?
Jet lag and I also hate not being about to run everyday! I do my best to keep fit when travelling but it’s hard.
MOST MEMORABLE INTERVIEW/INTERVIEWEE AND WHY?
Having covered all sports I’ve been lucky enough to interview lots of big names including Jonny Wilkinson, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sebastian Coe. However the interviewees that stand out aren’t usually the household names. At the Rio Olympics I covered shooting amongst other sports and the emotion that poured out of the athletes in the moments after securing their gold was memorable. I’d love the show jumpers to sometimes show a bit more passion but I guess they’re at the top because they have nerves of steel and can’t let their emotions get in the way.
ANY FUNNY STORIES OR INCIDENTS WHILST WORKING?
Things are bound to go wrong with live TV but it’s hiding it from the audience which is the key! There are lots of trade tricks which I’ve learnt to cover most situations, however you can’t control the weather or animals. Both of which usually cause havoc at some point during the season! No floaty skirts on a windy day is one rule and I also assume that all horses, however sweet they look, will take a chunk out of my arm whilst I’m trying to deliver my lines and they also will never stand still when required! They usually make me look like an idiot but hopefully makes for more entertaining and engaging TV.
ANY GOOD TIPS FOR TRAVELLING?
I should have got it nailed since I seem to spend every week on a plane but not sure I have! Avoiding horribly early morning flights, living close to the airport helps and I’ve also perfected the art of sleeping whenever I can. If there’s a spare hour at lunchtime then a quick snooze sorts you right out!
WHEN YOU ARE NOT TRAVELLING, HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME?
Sadly I’ve recently sold my homebred eventer as he was completely wasted with me being away so much. It’s very strange now having free time and not having a horse! What do normal people do with their weekends?? I’m no good at spending time at home so I try and see friends, watch sport (I’m a big Welsh rugby fan!) or go for lovely long runs!
All photos courtesy of Aly Vance.
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