Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Claire McCollum and Ruth Gorman on getting 2019 off on a high as awards hosts
Among our best known faces of sports reporting, Claire McCollum and Ruth Gorman will present the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards next month. At a special photoshoot at The Boulevard, Banbridge, Claire and Ruth talk to Leona O'Neill
They've been sports mad since they were little girls - and have harnessed that passion and honed their talents over the years to ensure they have both reached the top of their games in the world of sports presenting.
And next month Ruth Gorman and Claire McCollum will join forces on stage at Belfast's Waterfront Hall to celebrate the very best sporting talents Northern Ireland has to offer with the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.
The ladies say they cannot wait for the glittering ceremony as it combines two of their most favourite things - sport and talking about sport.
One of the most recognisable faces on TV, Claire McCollum (44), who lives in Whiteabbey with husband Alastair Clarke (46), a financial advisor, and their two children Samuel, (12) and 10-year-old Rosa, says hosting the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards is always a night she gets "worked up" over.
"This year has been great for me," she says. "There have been so many great moments and I have been really privileged to have been asked to host a number of events.
"I was asked to do the NHS at 70 programme for Songs of Praise to commemorate Aneurin Bevan opening the first NHS hospital. It was wonderful experience, a real career highlight. I attended the Pope's visit to Ireland and did the programme from Dublin for Songs of Praise. For the last couple of years I've co-hosted with Stephen Watson the North West 200 launch which is always very special. It was one of my favourite events to cover when I was with UTV full-time in sport. To be involved in that still is a real privilege."
Claire says that the awards night is an opportunity to celebrate the best of Northern Ireland sport.
"Hosting the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards is always a highlight and probably one of the events that I get most worked up about in a good way," she says. "It is always such a great night, in amongst people that I worked with for many years. You're welcomed back in like you've never been away. It's so lovely. I love sport and to see sport celebrated, when so many not so nice things are happening around us, is amazing. There's so much talk about Brexit and awful things in the world and we get to celebrate our finest sportspeople.
"The awards attract the biggest names that we have ever had in sports, every year, and it is an honour. It's a room full of the best talent that we have and to be there, on the stage, looking out at all those people is wonderful. It is a rare privilege to be there handing out the awards. I am delighted to be alongside Ruth this year. We worked together at UTV. She is such a great girl and she has been so committed right from the get go."
Claire says that sport has always been a passion from she was a young girl, but she never imagined it would also dominate her adult life.
"I rode horses and had my own pony when I was growing up and it was all consuming," she says. "My pony was called Ziggy and my horse was called Cronie. I loved horse riding and did it right up until I left for university. I also played hockey at school and loved swimming. When I was at university I played hockey and rugby. It was great, for making friends and being part of a team. I never played it to any great level, but I enjoyed it immensely.
"Sport has always been a big feature in my life. It was never what I thought I would end up doing as a job, but very happily I ended up in the UTV sports department and had almost nine fantastic years there. I still meet up with colleagues every Christmas for a night out. We catch up and tell the same stories, laugh at the same jokes. It's lovely."
Claire says her mum and dad are her "biggest fans" and watch her every move with pride. Claire's dad, Sam, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease several years ago. It was a devastating blow to her and the entire family. The news led her to become a VIP supporter with Parkinson's UK, helping raise over £4,000 for the charity in 2018, and ceaselessly trying to raise funds and awareness about the condition.
"I'm very lucky to live very close to my mum and dad," she says. "They are my biggest supporters, along with my husband and kids. They still have VHS tapes of every single broadcast I did with UTV over the years and they have scrapbooks of paper clippings. It's something that only your wonderful parents will ever do.
"My dad has Parkinson's and mum looks after us all, not only dad. It is wonderful for dad to still see all the things that go on.
"Dad is an amazing man, always has been. But Parkinson's is a progressive illness so it's not great, but we are a wonderful team. Mum is an amazing wife and carer. She is my inspiration as a mother, as a woman and a wife and a partner. They are a real example to myself and my sister Kelly of what a partnership and a marriage should be.
"Dad carries his Parkinson's extremely well. I think if I had been dealt that hand, I wouldn't handle it in the way that he does. He is amazing. He and mum are in good tune. They always wish me the best every time I go out to do a job, no matter what that job is. They are our greatest supporters. They are wonderful."
Claire says that her dad started off her career in broadcasting, putting her in front of the camera at a young age.
"Dad really inspired me in terms of my career," she says. "If he had to do his career again he would be a TV cameraman or editor, or both. He had a video camera at home. He would have filmed family occasions. And he was good. He wouldn't just let it run, he would edit it on camera. He was brilliant and he always got me to be the reporter alongside him. I would have done family weddings, birthdays and big celebrations. I guess it got me really comfortable in front of the camera and being alongside and interviewing people.
"He is my inspiration in terms of my career. And also my grandfather on my mum's side was the deputy editor of the Northern Whig newspaper. He also played bowls for Ireland and did commentary and sport for UTV because of his love and knowledge of sport. So even though I never met him as he died before I was born, I always felt I was following in his footsteps."
Claire says she doesn't make too many New Year's resolutions, but that there is one she will stick by this year.
"I suppose the best New Year's resolution is to keep on truckin'," she says. "Just put one foot in front of the other and do your best every day."
‘My ideal job would have been in sport but I knew I wasn’t Jessica Ennis’
UTV Sports Correspondent Ruth Gorman will host the Sports Awards alongside Claire. The Co Down native, who is called Ayrton Senna by her colleagues due to her "life in the fast lane", says sport has been her passion since she was a child and that she is "honoured" to host one of the most prestigious sporting celebrations in the UK.
"I cannot wait to host the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards," she says. "I have been going to the awards for many years now and I think it is one of the best nights of the year in the sporting calendar. It is very prestigious, it covers all sports in Northern Ireland and has a very good judging panel. It is one of the highlights of my year so to be actually involved in it this year is a real privilege. And I am incredibly honoured to be sharing the stage with Claire McCollum, who was so good to me when I went into UTV. I always looked up to her, so to be actually sharing the stage with her, she is so professional and such a lovely lady, is so exciting."
Ruth says sport has been a constant thread in her life.
"I was always massively into sports since I was a little girl," she says. "I played everything I could. I did gymnastics as a kid, tennis, hockey, netball, pretty much anything I could. It was always my passion. I was also in the orchestra at school, I played the violin. But because it was on the same day as hockey I had to choose one or the other, and I chose hockey.
"Sport was always a big passion. My ideal job would have been in sport, but I knew I wasn't Jessica Ennis, so I knew I wouldn't be paid to play sport. I was always good at creative writing and English so I decided to try putting the two together and report on sport instead. It's the next best thing, really. Because you still get to have the experiences, only you're reporting on them instead.
"It was always sport, never news. I don't know how my colleagues at UTV do it. I couldn't. I'd be too emotional to report on a lot of the news that goes on."
Ruth has had a busy year, and has another equally as hectic schedule ahead of her in 2019.
"This year really was the year of Irish rugby," she says. "It was just amazing to see them win the Six Nations and the Grand Slam, then the series in Australia and to beat the All Blacks on home soil.