Michael Gilday is going back to the Olympics.
That opening line would be enough to get tongues wagging here in town but no, he’s not making a comeback.
Gilday will be going to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea as an analyst for the CBC broadcast team for short-track speedskating. It’s the second time the national broadcaster has asked the former national team member and Olympian to join its ranks, following up on his broadcasting debut with CBC in 2015 for a World Cup short-track event.
In normal Olympic years, the same team has done both long-track and short-track but Gilday thinks he may know why there are two teams for speedskating this time around.
“It might be because Korea has huge medal potential in short-track,” he said. “Those races are in prime time over there and the audience could be huge on T.V. All I know is there’s going to be two teams for speedskating and I’m on the short-track team.”
Gilday’s last broadcasting stint was done at the CBC studios in Toronto, where he provided analysis while watching the event on T.V. This time, he will be at the arena in-person and needless to say, he’s pumped.
He said there are big similarities between being an athlete on the ice and being in the broadcast booth.
“You learn things as an athlete,” he said. “You need to perform on demand and that’s perhaps the biggest similarity. It’s live and you have just one shot to make the right call, just like an athlete has just one chance to win a race. You’re the one who chooses what to say or not say during the broadcast.”
The other similarity deals with prep work before a broadcast, which is sometimes the life or death of a broadcaster.
Gilday said just like an athlete, proper preparation is important.
“You have to approach it in the way of not leaving all of the pre-show work until the last minute,” he said. “I’ve been doing some work with people on the technical side on how to make the broadcast sound good.”
One of the people helping Gilday has been Phil Dugas, a former CBC employee who now works in the private sector training on-air talent for broadcasts.
“He’s been making sure analysts who are ex-athletes sound good when they’re on the air,” said Gilday. “We’re the experts in the field but there’s always the chance that we could confuse some people who are watching with jargon. It’s all about conveying the message clearly and making sure people watching understand what they’re watching.”
So is there anything Gilday needs to work on? Sure, he said.
“They find I’m good on the communication side but I just need to work on the emotion and the ebb and flow now,” he said.
Gilday will be flying over to PyeongChang the week before the Olympics begin in February to get used to the broadcast booth, watch the teams practising and get a sense of what everything will look like.
He said he can’t wait to do it all again.
“I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve done so far,” he said. “I still watch World Cup events as a fan and that allows me to be analytical having raced in several of them over the years. I’d love to do more of this sort of work for short-track but it all depends on what the future holds.”
As for making broadcasting a career choice, it’s a wait-and-see process.
“I would certainly investigate other opportunities if they arose but branching out all depends on how this one goes,” he said.