Australian commentator Mike McCann has been the voice of the swimming events at the FINA World Championships since 2001. Along the way, he has witnessed some of the greatest swimmers in the sport dominate at the global level - from Michael Phelps to Katie Ledecky to Sarah Sjostrom to Ian Thorpe. This week’s world champs in Budapest marked his tenth FINA World Championships.

McCann got started as a newspaper journalist in the late 1970s in his home state of Tanzania, and transitioned to television side of sports media, where he started his sports commentating career with the Australian Broadcast Company (ABC) in 1981. It was through ABC he got his start covering swimming in 1987 when Brisbane hosted the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, where McCann distinctly remembers a 15-year-old Janet Evans starting the peak of her prime.

McCann had enjoyed his time in the various sports he was assigned but hadn’t done any swimming outside of the '87 Pan Pacs. In 1998 at the Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand, he formed a good working relationship with TV director Keith Thomas. It was through Thomas that McCann wound up in the commentary position at the 2001 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, where he was the play-by-play guy for swimming, artistic swimming, and the highlights package in the evening.

“I don’t know how I agreed to that but that’s the way it was then,” McCann said.

Thomas and McCann have worked together for every FINA World Championships since 2001, except for one.

“21 years ago from a technology point of view, the internet was very new,” McCann said. “There was no social media, no Twitter. In terms of gathering information, we didn’t complain because that’s all we knew, but you were always looking for magazines and hard copies to try and keep up to date with what people were doing.

“It’s so much easier now in some ways but you can be overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s out there. At times I’ll look up information from a historical point of view or record progression even as a race is going on on my mobile phone. 21 years ago you had no chance of getting that information, let alone doing it on the spot.”

McCann, although not a former athlete, has stuck around in the sport of swimming for over two decades. What has kept him in it for so long?

“It’s a great sport, a wholesome sport. It does mean a lot to me,” McCann said.

“Some sports don’t require a lot of commentary because you can see what is happening. With swimming, so much happens under the water and so much is about the time and statistics. But if you were watching at home, you wouldn’t be aware of some of those things. I think swimming is one sport that relies on the commentary to tell the viewer about the background of the swimmer and the importance of these times and the relevance of all of those times. I’ve always thought it was an important role.”

McCann’s voice has become synonymous with some of the big moments in the sport since 2001. He was there to call Michael Phelps’ seven gold medals in Melbourne 2007, where his iconic line, ‘superman does it again!’ has lived on for years. He has seen firsthand the dominance of Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte, Katinka Hosszu and Grant Hackett. After so many meets, so many heats, so many finals, the one meet that sticks out to him the most is the 2009 Worlds in Rome.

“In the superset era there were 43 world records,” McCann said. “Some world records would last one race. It was oh so exciting and unbelievable to be a part of, and some of those records still stand. It’s quite ridiculous really. We were commentating outside, it was really stifling the temperatures. We were trying to commentate under shade umbrellas in one hand, and commentating in the other. It was 40 odd degrees, but the swimming kept us interested. I don’t know how many world records I recall but I can assure you, most of them were at the one championships.”

McCann, although based in Sydney, Australia, has tried to remain neutral when covering so many great swims, whether they are from Australian athletes or not.

“I get very excited about all the swimmers and all the achievements. I am very conscious of having an Australian accent; I try to counter that by saying we’ve all got accents. As an Australian, particularly when Australia is doing well, which isn’t always the case, but particularly when (Ian) Thorpe and (Grant) Hackett were at their peak - I am very conscious of trying to be neutral. I carry an Australian accent but this is a world coverage and I try to show as much excitement for any victory - an Italian victory, a German victory, a French victory, an American victory as I would Australia.

“I am very conscious of that and I have tried to make that the case. I know more about Australian swimmers than I do from the rest of the world so I suppose at times I might give more information and sound like I’m Australianizing it, but I am conscious of that and do try to do a job for the world commentary.

As for this week in Budapest, McCann will have a hard time forgetting the Hungarian crowd during Kristof Milak’s 200 butterfly world record.

“The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic,” McCann said. “The times that have been swum in those records have been unbelievable. We come here as neutrals but wherever you go, you hope the host nation does well because that creates a great atmosphere and great excitement for television and to see that world record from the Hungarian that was pretty special.”