We check in with key FINA play-by-play caller Mike McCann from the broadcast commentary box. A Sydney-based freelance commentator, McCann is renowned internationally for bringing the excitement of swimming races and diving competitions from poolside into living rooms around the world.
In Budapest, McCann is the lead broadcast commentator for the swimming and diving competitions. In addition to over two decades of calling events for FINA, McCann has commentated on eight Summer Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Games, Paralympics, and other major international events, including football, cycling and athletics throughout 34 countries.
Budapest 2022 marks the 21st anniversary of your relationship with the FINA World Championships. How has swimming changed in this time and how does it feel to be the voice of the Championships?
It is a great honour to be the voice of the Championships, and I did not think it would last this long when it all started back in Fukuoka in 2001. It was a great opportunity. It is always a lot of hard work. But it was particularly hard to work back in 2001 when we did not have the same level of internet strength that we do now. We were not able to pick up our mobile phones and get the latest information. That was a different time and you had to rely on magazines and newspapers, meaning I had a lot more preparation to do for each event – especially since I was the only FINA commentator then across all the sports.
How has swimming changed throughout the years from the commentator’s perspective?
Well, swimming is important because you need to know the statistics of swimming to create a lot of interest. People who don’t swim themselves see the races differently, they might not know why one person is good and why another is less good. Statistics in terms of the splits, records and other information help make casual fans feel more closely involved.
Other sports can be understood more intuitively, you know if somebody has made a bad shot in golf for example, but I feel swimming is more nuanced and I enjoy bridging the gap between newer and established viewers.
How do you prepare for your commentary before a competition?
I prepare for the competitions with lots of research of previous events, I have a spreadsheet listing results of recent events: the FINA World Short Course Championships, Olympic Games, FINA World Championships, Continental Championships and other more. You try to draw on as much as you can but the most important information is always the most recent event and where the swimmers are at the current stage of their career.
What has been your favourite competition to commentate so far, and the most challenging one?
The most challenging is the 50 meters freestyle. The short distance makes for exciting finishes, for example, we had 0.16 seconds separating the top six in one race. You can often get a feel of who is in front by a fraction. However, sometimes the touch or half touch of the glide by the athletes can surprise you, it looks like they are going to win, but in the end, they get beaten because of the touch. It's a tough one to predict!
I enjoy covering the 1500 meters, people assume that longer races are less exciting than our sprint-equivalents, but having more depth in the field leads to great racing
One of the most memorable events I've commentated on would be the Rome World Championships, where 43 world records were broken! It was like the swimmers has superpowers - It was race after race! There were amazing times, but some records would only last three minutes before being broken again.
How have the swimming competitions at this edition of the FINA World Championships 2022 in Budapest been for you?
I am enjoying it and there have been some wonderful performances. It's been great to see Katie Ledecky back. There are a few absentees because of the proximity to other events, and the short notice that this FINA World Championships was arranged at, but having said that, Ledecky is showing at the age of 25, she's still the one to beat in the 1500 and the 800 meters and we look forward to her clash next time with Ariarne Titmus from Australia.
Another magnificent moment is Kristof Milak's record in front of the home crowd. The crowd loves him and he is so good. Leon Marchand is a new star in the individual medley. Thomas Ceccon has already achieved a wonderful world record. We can only imagine that there are more records ahead.