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Posted: November 28, 2007

Triathlon: Sneak Preview of NBC Ironman Broadcast (Saturday, Dec 1)

With no Americans finishing in the medals at the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, it’s been anybody’s guess how NBC’s annual broadcast will play out.

The answer became a bit clearer today when we spoke with the show’s Emmy-award winning producer, Peter Henning, during the annual media conference call (The show airs this Saturday from 4:30 to 6:00 pm ET).

Perhaps most telling was who was on the call: Charlie Plaskon, a 64 year-old blind athlete who finished this year’s race accompanied by a guide; Brian Boyle, a 21-year old college student who survived a near fatal automobile accident three years ago; and Scott Rigsby, the first below-the-knee double amputee to finish the World Championships.

Missing in action was Navy Lieutenant Andy Baldwin, 30, the first star of 2007 season’s “The Bachelor.”

Apparently Baldwin e-mailed moderator Max DeFillippis minutes beforehand to say the Navy couldn’t accommodate his taking time for the media conference.

Too bad for the “OK! Magazine” reporter.

Ah well, the rest of us got our stories.

“We did the narration with Al Trautwig yesterday,” said Henning. “Today, it’s colour correcting and some minor adjustments for time and getting the graphics down. It’s going to be a great show.”

The race coverage last year featured Texan poster-girl Desiree Ficker pulling off a surprising upset in finishing second to Australia’s Michellie Jones.

No such luck this year.

Henning said Ficker’s on again – only this time, she’s struggling far down in the field in the lave fields.

“The pros validate what the rest of the field goes through. It’s a tough race.”

Henning added: “It isn’t easy to show an event which is - at best - 8 hours and 15 minutes long and try to keep it entertaining.”

He plans to do that by focusing on the hard core competition in the first half of the show, with the second half featuring human interest stories. Although he added that stories of inspiration will be woven throughout the broadcast.

“Yes, we’re a sports program. The Ironman is considered one of the most grueling endurance sports in the world and there are a number of pros who make a living out of it but it’s becoming more of a sporting event.”

“It’s become a way of life for people to get their lives back together again. It gives people a platform to go out and prove themselves that they have it all.”

Henning said the special athletes they have chosen to feature represent the essence of overcoming the odds.

He points to Brian Boyle who was flat-lined eight times in the hospital following his car accident.

“Anybody who dies eight times is good in my book.”

“You do what you have to do,” added Charlie Plakson, who finished in 14 hours and change. I don’t consider myself a particularly inspiring individual but hopefully, I’ll light a fire for someone out there to cross that finish line in Kona.”

I can’t see,” he added. “He can’t walk,” referring to double-amputee Rigsby. “You do what you have to do. We found an ability in our disability to make the doggone thing work.”

Henning added that with over 1800 athletes in this year’s event, the show is only able to skim the surface.

“We figured these were the best stories to represent what the Ironman is all about.”

As for the hue and cry in some corners that the annual broadcast needs more head-to-head competition: “I get e-mails all the time from people who say want to see more race coverage. I answer, that is what IronmanLive is all about.”

“Our show is for the lay public. Every time you ask somebody where they heard about the Ironman, 99% of the time, they say they saw it on the NBC show.”

“The Bachelor’s” Andy Baldwin was MIA but will be featured on the NBC show. (www.starbulletin.com)

64 year-old blind triathlete, Charlie Plaskon, will be featured (www.cdifferent.org)

© Copyright 2007 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa.. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at: lynnebermel@rogers.com.

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns


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