As a sports fan there are days you remember and days you try to forget. I am told, the days you remember like they were yesterday, are when your team wins a grand final. I haven’t had this day yet…
The days you forget are when you team loses that grand final or gets embroiled in a scandal. I’ve had that. But the day I met Herb Elliott is one of the greatest days of my life. It stands out as a highlight in my career as well.
The man is a legend. Unbeaten in four years over 1500m and the mile, Olympic Gold, World Record. His time to win in 1960 was so quick, it would have won gold in seven Olympics since then, including Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta.
Working on behalf of Athletics NSW to promote their Olympic Qualifiers, the Sydney Track Classic, I was told I was able to use Herb Elliott as a spokesman. The first time I rang him, I was incredibly nervous. I was talking to an Olympic champion!
I wanted to organise a story around his tips for runners of all levels. Who wouldn’t want tips from an Olympic Games gold medalist? His tips were based around mental toughness, lots of hard work and just running the fastest. No tricks or shortcuts and this Publicist had been beaten at his own game.
Meeting him a week later when I took him in to be interviewed by the Triple M Grill team was a moment I will never forgot. He walked into the foyer and I knew as soon as he walked in who he was. I had a complete lump in my chest as I was about to meet the man I had idolised as a 1500m runner, all my life. It took me a good few minutes to even get the courage to go up and introduce myself. I wasn’t star struck- I was simply in the presence of my hero.
When even the stars are starstruck
The Triple M Grill team are one of Sydney’s most successful breakfast shows. Matty Johns, MG and Gus Worland are celebrities, but even they seemed stunned, excited and a little nervous to be interviewing Herb. I finished that first meet and greet with Herb and burst in to tears of absolute joy. I couldn’t control it. I was simply deliriously happy.
I drove him to a Fox Sports interview a short time later. Apart from getting lost in streets I knew so well, because I was a little nervous, we just chatted away. The uniqueness of Herb is he is so humble, charismatic and genuinely hysterical.
Herb didn’t notice the stares he received as he walked into the Fox Sports studios, but I did. When he arrived on set for the TV show, the Back Page, he was greeted with an applause by the hosts. Again, I could tell the unparalleled nervousness, apprehension and pure excitement of the hosts, who were about to interview him. No-one wanted to be disrespectful to such an incredible man, who has kept out of the media spotlight for the best part of five decades.
Meeting your hero
When you meet your idol or hero you want them to be just how you imagined. I had this and more. Herb Elliott is honestly one of the most incredible people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He is kind, gentle, highly intelligent and has incredible people skills- he even pretended to laugh at a few of my jokes.
He praised my guts and get up and go, for working on my own and that is something I will always take the grave. I could barely believe it when Herb Elliott, was praising me! Apart from a stunning athletics career, this is the man who was CEO of Puma, North America.
This was a once in a lifetime experience and something I will never forget. This is why you work in Sports Marketing. I hope everyone has the chance to meet someone they have looked up to. And I hope their experience is as memorable as mine.