Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rachel Wyse: Queen of sport

Rachel Wyse
Rachel Wyse
Rachel as Miss Kildare.
Rachel used to present 'Accelerate' on TV3.
Rachel spent every spare minute after school at a country stables in Co Meath.
Rachel used to be focused on horses and thought it would be a career.
Laura Butler

Laura Butler

She is the new IT girl of sports television and is already being hailed as the next Gabby Logan. Laura Butler meets 27-year-old Dubliner Rachel Wyse

Rachel Wyse has turned her passion for sport into a lucrative career over the past five years. Starting her career at Dublin's City Channel, working in an office of just six people, Rachel has now just signed a second two-year contract with Sky.

Despite being thrust into the limelight, the presenter feels that she's slotted well into life at one of the busiest newsrooms in the industry, and hasn't let the pressures get to her.

"When you start a new job, you want to be challenged and naturally there is a sense of fear," says Rachel.

"Simple things, such as being able to get through an entire shift of four or five hours on live TV, with breaking news coming through -- where you have to ad-lib and with five people speaking in your ear throughout -- is a scary prospect."

Rachel certainly didn't follow the traditional route of an Irish model-turned-TV presenter.

Unlike her counterparts on the photocall scene, she steered firmly away from entertainment programmes and gossip columns.

As she puts it: "My heart never lay in that."

She began showjumping at the age of 10 -- she competed on the international team at European Showjumping Championships -- and that background has paved the way to her current professional life.

Rachel grew up in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and went to nearby secondary school St Andrews College. She was a hard-working student who left with what she describes as a "decent" Leaving Certificate, and went on to complete a degree in business studies.

But school didn't always help her career plans, as her determination to be a top equestrian grew.

"I was fully focused on the horses, and there was a long time when I thought it was going to be my career, so I saw school as an inconvenience at times," she says.

"My day would consist of getting up, going to school, doing my homework and then heading straight down to the horses. I spent pretty much every free minute at a country stables in Summerhill, Co Meath."

But there were plenty of sacrifices to be made.

She missed class parties, didn't spend summers travelling with school friends, and was never a debutante -- rites of passage for so many Irish teenagers.

"I did miss out on a lot. My closest friends would be those who I grew up with around the horses. They would have understood what the lifestyle was like. But I loved it -- that was my choice," she says.

She believes her commitment to the sport has provided her with an insight into what the athletes she interviews go through. "There was a huge level of dedication to what I was doing, so I do have a certain understanding with athletes and the amount of work they put in," she says.

"You can appreciate what they do. That is nice when I'm speaking to people because I genuinely can relate [to them]."

Yet Rachel, a middle child, hadn't originally planned on entering the world of journalism.

"My sister and brother are in business -- Gillian is a consultant and Ross is in finance -- so I was very much the ugly duckling in what I ended up doing," she says.

"TV was a pure fluke for me. I wanted a job where I'd have to do as little as possible so I could keep up the competitions and ride the horses."

When a friend told Rachel about City Channel, and the flexibility that a job there could offer, a new career path was born.

"As soon as I went in, I absolutely loved it," she says. "I began making coffee and doing odd jobs, then went on to producing and it all spanned from there."

Modelling took a back seat in 2008 as she progressed to anchor TG4's 'Showjumping Ireland Premier Series'.

That led her to TV3, where she hosted a car programme called 'Accelerate'.

In 2010, Wyse auditioned for Sky Sports News and got the gig.

In her two years there, Wyse has become used to the unorthodox demands of the TV station. Her day begins at 3am and she regularly works on weekends.

"It's definitely not a normal Monday to Friday, nine-to-five type of job. Sky is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," she explains.

"People think getting up at 3am on a Saturday or Sunday morning is awful, but it's not because I truly love what I do.

"Of course, it isn't that nice getting up in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, but it is part of the job and you get used to that very quickly," she adds.

Rachel admits that she finds it amusing that one of the first questions people ask her is whether the 11 female presenters on the team get along.

"There's genuinely no competition between any of us. It's not that type of environment and, as clichéd as it sounds, we all just enjoy working together and love sport."

Starting out as a model, Wyse knows a thing or two about looking good for the cameras.

But she admits that the notion of appearing on HD screens was daunting at first.

"That was an 'oh dear' moment. I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry," she says. "Of course you want to look your best and be the most prepared you can be, that's normal.

"Thankfully, we've a great team of hair and make-up artists to help us look good.

"Sky has stylists as well, and every season we go out to pick a new on-set wardrobe, which is lovely," she adds.

A 'girlie girl', Rachel describes her style as classic and simple. Whenever on screen, she opts for Reiss -- a long way from her style in her showjumping days.

"My interest in fashion has grown very gradually because I grew up in jodhpurs," she says.

"I like to be comfortable and understated on set. I never wear jewellery and I don't even have my ears pierced."

Surely it takes time and effort to maintain her figure for the cameras? Rachel has undeniably been blessed with good genes, and her passion for making homemade soup instead of homemade brownies would certainly help.

However, she admits to enjoying a 'cheat meal' of steak and chips with pepper sauce on occasion.

"I like to stay active, but I really hate the gym. I can't even remember the last time I stepped inside the on-site one at Sky," she says. "The thought of going in there and on a treadmill puts me off totally.

"I prefer to be outdoors when I'm off, usually walking in the park opposite my house."

Despite being used to sitting at her desk while the rest of the world is out and about having fun, she is looking forward to spending the festive season at home.

"This year is the first in three years that I'll get to go home to Blackrock for Christmas," she says.

"I worked Christmas in 2010 and it was lonely for me, because I was only settling in at that stage. I definitely missed home a lot.

"Last year, although I had a ball in the office, it was like a normal working day."

The hard-working presenter's schedule means this holiday will be more meaningful than usual.

"I only get home twice a year anyway, so this will be quite special because it's the first time that all five of us in the family will be in the same room for the occasion in a long, long while," she explains.

Rachel, who is currently single, insists that the joys of love, marriage and children are the last thing on her radar. I don't even think I could look after a puppy at the moment, let alone think about marriage or children," she says.

But even before TV , her commitment to sport has meant that boyfriends have been few and far between.

"I never had a boyfriend in school, I didn't go out much and there was no time for that," she says. To date, her most famous relationship has been with Olympic medallist Cian O'Connor. The pair were together for four years before splitting in 2007.

Although both have moved on, with O'Connor marrying Ruth Maybin in 2011, Wyse says "no one could've been happier" when she saw him step on to the Olympic podium to collect his bronze medal during the summer.

"I do stay in touch with Cian. He's married now and I'm delighted for him," she says.

"It was years ago now that we broke up and I was quite young. Times have changed and my life is very different from what it was when I was with him.

"But I have a massive amount of respect for him and I was genuinely thrilled to see him pick up a medal this year in London."

And it's not just partners Rachel doesn't have time for. She likes to do things on her own terms and doesn't want a team of agents and publicists talking for her.

"Maybe one day I will work with somebody, but I trust those around me for advice. That comes from my family and best friends, who always give me their honest opinion.

"For me, it's so important that I do things I believe in and feel strongly about, which is sport."

Worst sporting moment

Watching the Lance Armstrong doping affair unfold.

.. Best sporting moment

Seeing Katie Taylor win gold at London 2012: “Having worked with her — and seeing female boxing at the Olympics for the first time and Ireland winning gold... [it] was amazing.”

.. Favourite sports

Showjumping and tennis. She began showjumping competitively age of 10.

.. Should Trapattoni stay or go?

“After Ireland’s crushing defeat to Germany, we certainly needed that result against the Faroe Islands, but we have some much tougher games to come in the remaining stages.

.. Verdict on Leinster rugby this season

“I’m big Leinster fan. They have quality players and I want to see them lift that trophy again this season.”

.. Most embarrassing moment presenting Sky Sports News

“I’ve had more then a few... it’s live and you’re there four to five days a week, four to five hours a day, so there’s bound to be the odd slip up; it’s just how you deal with it — in most cases, with laughter.”

.. On Roy Keane’s actions at the 2002 World Cup in Saipan

“He had his reasons, which he's made public, but the team needed a player of his ability in it.”

Rachel Wyse's column starts today in the 'Irish Independent' sports section

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