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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 11:24 GMT

Sue asks the right questions

BBC presenter Sue Barker, a former tennis star, explains why not being an expert on the Winter Olympics can be an advantage.

Because there are so many different sports, the Winter Olympics are always entertaining.

From the quietness of the curling to the mayhem of the ice hockey, it is so diverse.

The Winter Olympics was actually one of the first things I did for the BBC.

I came on board to do Wimbledon and then they offered me a contract and the first major event they asked me to front was the comeback of ice dancers Torvill and Dean at Lillehammer in 1994.

I sort of knew Jane and Chris, not as great friends, but I had met them a number of times and got on with them.

So the BBC said they wanted to nurture that relationship and have me fronting it.

I feel that having competed in a sport at the top level you understand the pressures involved.

The nervousness, the disappointment, the elation, all those emotions you can identify with.

"I just love nation playing nation"
Sue Barker

It doesn't matter what sport you've been involved in, those absolutely remain the same.

I think sometimes if a commentator has too much knowledge you can lose the viewer at home.

I was talking to a guy about the bobsleigh and he was saying about how a lot of the foreign teams are putting in women's luges at the front because they read the ice so well.

I said "How do you read the ice? Surely ice is ice isn't it?"

Yet you know people at home listening to that interview are going to be thinking "how do you read ice?"

If you have too much knowledge you are not asking the questions viewers probably want you to ask.

Obviously you have to know a lot about it, but sometimes those sort of questions are probably more entertaining to people at home.


Before I began covering the Winter Olympics I always watched from home and I found the ski jump quite entertaining.

But when I stood at the top of that ski jump it was terrifying!

I've got to say my estimations of Eddie the Eagle went up because even to go down that thing is enough, it doesn't matter that he didn't go that far.

I also love the ice hockey.

I lived in America from the age of 17 when I was on the tennis tours so I used to watch the pros. I understood the game.

I just love nation playing nation, that is always what meant so much to me, to play for my country.

I think you get far more pride and satisfaction out of winning for your country than winning for yourself.

You can tell that is the case for the ice hockey players.

"I can't believe the way technology has moved on and how great it is for people sitting at home"
Sue Barker

You could watch them win the NHL and then watch them win the gold medal and it's different for them.

These Winter Olympics will be especially exciting for BBC viewers because we are presenting interactive coverage.

When I finally got the hang of interactive television at Wimbledon, I realised exactly how brilliant it was.

A number of people came up to me and said 'we didn't want to watch what you were taking us to, we would rather do our own thing".

I think if I was sitting at home that is exactly what I would do.

I can't wait until I retire when I can sit at home and do my own Wimbledon directing. It will be a dream come true.

There is a huge fan base for winter sports.

Ski Sunday has always had great viewing figures but it is not just skiing and now people will be able to tune in and watch what they want.

I can't believe the way technology has moved on and how great it is for people sitting at home.

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