Meet Molly Thompson-Smith – the powerful pundit

Posted by Alex Messenger on 01/08/2021
Molly commentating in Chamonix. Photo: Lena Drapella.

On Tuesday 3 August, climbing history will be created, as the best competition climbers in the world battle it out in Tokyo. Back home, GB Climbing Team member and BMC ambassador Molly Thompson-Smith will be heading into the BBC Sport studio to offer British viewers an inside view of this new OIympic sport.

As the excitement builds, we caught up with Molly to discover more about her upcoming assignment.

What’s the hardest thing about competing vs commentating?

The thing I find hardest about competing is dealing with the mental pressures of competition – whether that’s expectations from yourself or others, attitudes towards the routes or boulders in front of you, interacting with other competitors and also not necessarily being comfortable with the timetable. You have to be able to adapt. The climbing is the part we love to do every single day!

The hardest thing about commentary is knowing you’ll never please everyone, and will probably receive a fair amount of criticism from people who will never understand what its actually like to be in that position. Providing engaging, factually correct and useful information, all on-the-fly during a fast paced event, is quite difficult! But once you accept that, and see it as a cool opportunity to try and improve the experience for viewers, it’s actually enjoyable! 

Oh and, of course, getting the pronunciation of names right! 

How did your first time commentating go? What tips did you learn to improve?

I think it went well. I was pretty nervous before the first time but I ended up having a good time! I went back through the comments on Youtube afterwards to see what people thought, and find things to improve on. I also asked a lot of friends and family back home for an honest review to help me get better. Making an effort to go and learn how to correctly say people’s name is an important one, and respectful to that athlete. As a guest commentator, I learnt that you’re most valuable when providing ‘inside information’, whether that’s based on the fact that you’ve been in the athlete’s shoes, or that you know the climbers well and can add interesting details about their training and personality. 

 

How much commentating training have you done?

Barely any! But commentating during finals at the two French IFSC World Cups recently was great practice. As well as this, I had communication lessons, fantastic mentors (one of which did a lot of presenting for the Euros this month) and some time on TV during my Sky Scholarship which was all extremely useful.

How will you help people watching climbing for the first time understand the difficulties and intricacies of the competition?

I’ll actually be a pundit for climbing, so hopefully be able to use key moments during the comp and break them down in the studio between the rounds without distracting from the event. I’ll try to compare climbing to other sports that most people have been watching at the Olympics for years now. But I think we can all agree that climbing is a sport best understood once tried, and hopefully the Olympics encourages people to get out there and try it for themselves.

What reaction do you hope the audience will have to climbing at the Olympics? And how do you think they’ll feel after watching it?

I hope they’ll be excited by it. I think they will be! For most people it’ll be a totally new sport, full of movements that just don’t seem possible so I’m sure it’ll be a viewer favourite.

How much does your experience of competing help when you’re commentating?

I think it helps me to describe the less obvious details of what’s happening, for example what could be going on inside the climber’s head during a round of five-minute boulder rotation. There are things that are just subconscious to athletes but are interesting to anyone outside of the competition arena, and being able to share those with the viewers will provide another dimension to their understanding of the event.

Are you looking forward to commentating climbing at the Olympics with a huge audience?

For sure! I’ve always been a huge Olympics fan so to be able to be the voice or face someone associates with climbing’s first time there is an honour, even if it’s not in the way I had initially hoped it would be. Hopefully I’ll represent climbing and the athletes competing well! 

Thanks Molly, good luck and we can’t wait to see you on BBC Sport.

BMC ambassador and GB Climbing Team member Molly Thompson-Smith will be alongside Ed Leigh (BBC snowboard correspondent and commentator), Mike Langley (IFSC commentator, routesetter, climbing wall manager and event organiser) and reporter on the ground, Tim Warwood (TV presenter, commentator, snowboarder).

Molly is sponsored by GymShark, Petzl, Scarpa and Tenzing. Follow her at https://www.instagram.com/mollyts123

READ: How to watch climbing in the Olympics


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