This is Deji Ogeyingbo’s interview with Rob Walker. Rob Walker is a commentator for the ages and has spent the last 3 days commentating on every moment of the World Championships. Rob Walker, in your editor’s mind, has been a commentator for ages. In Doha 2019, I was sick one night and listened to Rob do World Athletics Radio. He captured the Men’s high jump, where 40,000 Qataris were screaming for Mutaz Essa Barshim. It was a moment for me (I always recommend WA Radio for those who can not watch the WA Champs). 

Rob Walker is an amazingly talented commentator, and yes, he was born to do commentary! 

Rob Walker: “I was born to do commentary”

A skilled athletics commentator can brighten up the dullest of track meets and further enhance the viewing experience when the on-field action is entertaining. Rob Walker is particularly adept at capturing the mood of a world championship and transmitting it to those watching along at home.

The British Commentator has horned a name for himself as the voice many look forward to listening to at the global championships of Athletics and Snooker.

Rob Walker, Glasgow World Indoor, March 1, 2024, photo by Deji Ogeyingo

Walker started as a broadcaster in his early years until his breakthrough came in 2007 when he took the chance to go to the World Championships in Osaka to take the lead for Commentary. At that point, he knew he didn’t want to be in the mixed zone; he was born to run Commentary.

“Always be prepared”. That’s his go-to mantra when it comes to getting it right. We caught up with him at the World Indoor Championships taking place in Glasgow, and he has this to say about some of his best moments.

The National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Deji: What has been your best-ever World Championships?

Rob: That is so difficult. They all have a unique appeal. I will always remember my first World Athletes Championship in Helsinki in 2005 because I first fell in love with athletics watching Helsinki in 83 when I was 8 years old, and it was pouring rain in Helsinki. There were some brilliant performances from great athletes, so that’s a special one, but I also think Budapest last summer was off the scale. The way we were made to feel welcome by the people of Hungary, the profile, and the importance they attached to hosting the event was incredible. Therefore, the quality of the athletes and the stories unfolded on those sweaty and balmy nights were phenomenal. It was the best edition of the World Athletes Competition I’ve worked on, and I have done 10.  It was the best of the lot.

Rob Walker, Glasgow, Scotland, March 1, 2024, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

Deji: Was your favorite piece of commentary at an event ever?

Rob: That’s such a difficult one to answer, but I think it was Karsten Warholm who decimated the World Record in Tokyo 2021; I saw Kyron McMaster breaking the Commonwealth Games record, Santos breaking the South American record, and giving us an indication of why he will become the global champion in Eugene the following year. That men’s hurdles, even though there was hardly anyone there, was very special, as was the very last event of Budapest 23 when Femke Bol, having fallen en route to what should have been gold for the Dutch in the mixed 4x400m on the first night, won the gold for the Dutch Quartet literally on the line with a push for the tape. You couldn’t have scripted a better end to the best edition of the world athletics championships we’ve ever had. It was awesome.

Rob Walker, Glasgow, Scotland, March 1, 2024, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

Deji: The men’s 100-meter final at the Olympics or the men’s 10,000 at the Olympics?

Rob: It’s going to be 10,000 because I know the men’s 100-meter at the Olympics is a truly iconic moment because it marks the fastest human being on earth at that moment, and there are a lot of people on earth. I just think the way the momentum irresistibly built in the 10,000m is the most intense sporting drama for men and women. You just can’t beat 10,000. It’s absolutely unbelievable.

Joshua Cheptegai takes the 10,000m, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Deji: Any piece of commentary that you feel or regret not having done in your years of commentating?

Rob: before I started as a commentator, Haile Gebrselassie was against Tergat in the final of the men’s 10,000 in Sydney; that race was so close that even if you watch it now on YouTube 24 years later, you will still think Haile Gebrselassie was going to win. It was such a great rivalry. They had a phenomenal manner of respect between the two iconic figures, and I think that is the greatest race over 10,000 meters I have ever seen. Still, it was before my time as a commentator, so I was watching it as opposed to working on it.

Rob Walker, A commentator for the ages, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

Deji: During your time as a commentator, which moment do you think you would have done justice to?

Rob: I think Kipchoge’s winning back-to-back golds in the marathon so long after getting a medal on the track in 2004 and 2008 was incredible. Also, Bolt doubled in Berlin in 2009. I remember I wasn’t the lead commentator on the 100m- the 9.58s as I was co-commentating. When the race was on, the lead commentator, Peter Matthew (who sadly has passed away), I remember taking my headphones off and taking a moment to savor the sight of someone running like that. I remember even at the time thinking I’m not sure I will ever going to live long enough to see a human being quicker than that with a naked eye. And then in a blink, the race was over and I put my headphones back. There are so many moments. One moment has yet to happen, and I sincerely hope she does it in Paris because I think it is coming. I would love to see Shericka Jackson become the Olympic champion for the 200m and I think for her to do so she will have to break Flo-Jo’s Records. It’s been coming, and she’s been getting closer. If she has an injury-free buildup to Paris, it might at last be her last time.

The battle over 800m, Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson, World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022, by Kevin Morris

Deji: What moment do you want to comment on in Paris?

Rob: The Women’s 800m. If we have Athing Mu, Mary Moora, and Keely Hodgkinson all fit, I think that will be an iconic race. I’m also looking forward to the men’s marathon with a heavy heart. I thought Kelvin Kiptum would break 2 hours on April 14 at Rotterdam, and I thought he would be the favorite to beat Kipchoge in Paris. However, I still think the Kipchoge moment might be enormous because he will have the emotion of knowing Kiptum is not on his team. Still, depending on how he runs in Tokyo this weekend, I think he would do something no man or woman ever does again. Three marathon golds in the Olympics back to back will be incredible. Abebe Bikila and Waldemar Cierpinski have have done two; Kipchoge has done two; but to be the first and only to do three in a row over the marathon, the distance was so great that it could go wrong so long after he won medals on the track. 2004 and 2008 would be a moment that will go down in history, so the men’s marathon would be very special but will be changed to sadness because Kelvin Kiptum won’t be there.

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