NEWS

Why sprinter turned Olympics commentator Matt Shirvington is winning at life

He remains the second-fastest sprinter in Australian history.
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It’s been 21 years since Matt Shirvington donned the green and gold while competing for Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

WATCH Matt Shirvington’s Highs And Lows From His Olympics Career

But the track star will be front and centre of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games as he leads Channel Seven’s afternoon coverage as a commentator.

Matt Shirvington
It’s been 21 years since Matt Shirvington donned the green and gold while competing for Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. (Credit: Are Media)

“I’ve been involved as an athlete and a broadcaster and it’s much harder doing the commentary,” the 42-year-old former sprinter tells WHO with a laugh.

“I used to run 100 metres then had a rest. But in broadcasting, we work around the clock,” he explains.

The five-time Australian 100m sprint champion came fourth at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, smashing the Australian 100m record in the process.

Matt Shirvington
Through it all, Shirvington’s greatest support has been his childhood sweetheart Jessica. (Credit: Getty)

Even though he held the national sprint title until 2002, an Olympic medal remained elusive.

But in a world where many of our sporting greats, including Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, battled mental health issues after retiring from their sporting careers, Shirvington went on to reinvent himself as a TV presenter.

He joined the Seven Network in July 2020, where he has forged a successful second career he loves.

Matt Shirvington
The five-time Australian 100m sprint champion came fourth at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, smashing the Australian 100m record in the process. (Credit: Getty)

In his short time with the network, Shirvington’s popularity took off, seeing him quickly go from reading the sports news to hosting fun game shows like this year’s Holey Moley.

“I’m really proud of it actually,” he says of his success. “I’ve worked really hard, made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of help along the way.”

Through it all, Shirvington’s greatest support has been his childhood sweetheart Jessica.

Matt Shirvington
Shirvington went on to reinvent himself as a TV presenter. (Credit: Getty)

He met the young adult fiction writer when the pair were just 17 and in March, they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

The couple share three kids – daughters Sienna, 15, and Winter, 13, and son Lincoln, 4.

“Jess was there through my whole athletic career. She sacrificed a lot to support me,” Shirvington says. “I have a lot of repayment still due there.”

Matt Shirvington
While he admits to feeling nostalgic while watching the Games, Shirvington is happy to pass the torch on. (Credit: Getty)

As a young athlete, the pressure Shirvington felt was immense. It’s something he knows this year’s competitors will be feeling as they enter the arena with the hopes of the nation on their shoulders.

“Tokyo’s not going to be like any other Games in history,” he says.

“We can’t underestimate the pressure on our athletes, particularly those with past success. There is the assumption they’ll win again, but the past 12 months has caused problems for some and given others a chance to prepare more fully.

“Anyone has a chance of winning a medal this time around.”

Matt Shirvington
In his short time with the network, Shirvington’s popularity took off, seeing him quickly go from reading the sports news to hosting fun game shows like this year’s Holey Moley. (Credit: Getty)

As for supporting athlete’s mental health, he agrees more needs to be done to help them transition to life outside of sport.

“The best way I can describe it is like climbing Mount Everest. Athletes are preparing to climb to the peak, which is winning that gold medal, but nobody is thinking about what they need to do to get back down the mountain,” Shirvington explains.

“I realised my athletic career was always going to be over by the time I was 30 and was lucky enough to have a great family, coach, manager and psychologist behind me.”

Matt Shirvington
As for supporting athlete’s mental health, he agrees more needs to be done to help them transition to life outside of sport. (Credit: Getty)

While he admits to feeling nostalgic while watching the Games, Shirvington is happy to pass the torch on.

“Running in Sydney will always be the highlight of my career,” he says.

“But I don’t miss the dedication, sacrifices and having to put the rest of your life on hold,” he adds. 

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