On such apparently insignificant moments do our lives change; if BBC Radio 5 Live commentator John Hunt’s wife, Carol, had not seen a miniscule box advert in the evening Harrow Observer for a trainee broadcaster at Ladbrokes, he might now be a senior detective in the Met or a modern day Sherlock Holmes.
Or, if he had been like most of the 55-year-old policemen I know, he would have taken early retirement and have his feet up in Majorca but in the next couple of weeks, apart from calling the swimmers, the BBC’s most versatile commentator will add diving to his impressively wide ranging list of sports.
The only similarity I can see between swimming – high octane and all action – and diving – more studied and analytical, less splashing – is a predilection for skimpy speedos but whether it is that or, yesterday, trotting from Saint Malo, it all comes alike to Hunt.
But at the time of the advert, in the late 1980s, he was four years into a carving out a semi-decent career in the police force, he was happy, life was good and commentating was not even a feint blip on his radar.
But on Carol’s casual suggestion that it might be for him because of his interest in horseracing, he went for it, took a pay cut, was in Snaresbrook Crown Court trying to put someone away on the Friday and starting for Ladbrokes on the Monday, a day before Royal Ascot. This is fun, he thought, getting paid to watch racing.
One thing led to another, they let him loose commentating on greyhounds, he learned the art of pacing himself which as important in a commentator as a competitor and got a lot of practice. Within three years he was on the racecourse roster and he was away.
Radio 5 Live came calling for him to call the horses in 2004, he branched out for them at London 2012 covering equestrianism and the modern pentathlon and in 2013 he became its swimming commentator.
Inadvertently and without knowing it, radio’s about-to-be voice of synchronised nose-clips had practice at screaming and shouting before he was ever allowed on the racetrack.
As a trainee PC he had been the one in the passenger seat commentating on car chases down the Kilburn Road on the police radio; it required composure, accuracy, remembering street names and number plates, and to be generally descriptive. “Just like the Stewards’ Cup but a different event,” he reflected.
Commentating has, of course, not been without its moments. In the South Korean winter Olympics he slipped out of the commentator’s box for a pee during the luge. While he was gone the President of Latvia, a massive luge fan, slipped in and his security detail stopped Hunt from returning.
Ran into the great @RyanLochte !! He's so cool he made me look a bit of a douche. Class act pic.twitter.com/KihqgsazzJ
— John Hunt (@HuntyCaller) August 14, 2016
In the last Olympics in Rio he stopped for a coffee on the way out of the pool. The person in the queue next to him was Ryan Lochte, after Michael Phelps the next biggest name in US swimming.
Hunt admits to being star struck. Lochte obliged to pose for a selfie with him and he put it out on Twitter boasting jokingly that he was ‘off out on the town with my new mate Ryan Lochte,’ thought nothing more of it and went to bed.
That night there was an ‘incident’ at a petrol station involving four US swimmers claiming they were mugged which, ultimately, resulted in a 10 month ban for Lochte.
When Hunt woke up his phone was melting with people, including his bosses, inquiring if he was part of the night out which, at the time, he had no idea about.
Though not ideal, for numerous reasons it will be easier albeit somewhat less glamorous commentating on these Olympics from Salford. As Hunt’s voice will be rising to a crescendo at the same time as the swimming – about 3.00 am GMT – it will be like being in the police all over again; back on nights.