Dubai: For some athletes finding a purposeful and fulfilling life when their initial career comes to an end can be a daunting prospect.
It is not uncommon to succumb to a bout of depression while they seek the next big thrill or at the least a future doing something worthwhile. The 32 year old Aly Vance has made the transition in remarkable fashion. The sport-mad teenager has turned her obsession into a long-term career as a sports journalist and broadcaster. She is working her way through the ranks in a steady and purposeful fashion, lighting up the TV shows she presents with her strong, though neutral, sounding voice and the kind of unaffected elegance, which hides an in-depth knowledge and love of all sport. There are definite similarities between Aly Vance and Clare Balding, the BBC networks lead presenter. Both ladies are hugely passionate about all sports but have a special place in their hearts for equestrianism, especially horse racing.
“I had always harboured a fierce ambition to go to the Olympics — and last year I did — as a Broadcaster!” says the glamorous face of CNN Internationals monthly horse racing programme The Winning Post. Aly is a young and attractive lady, who spent the first part of her life as a very successful athlete herself, representing Great Britain in Junior Modern Pentathlon. In some ways her choice of event somewhat reflects her character, the grit and determination needed for the swimming and cross-country running combined with the delicate precision required for fencing and shooting. The show jumping section came naturally through her innate love of equestrianism.
A sport mad teenager, who spent her life either training in the gym and swimming pool or at the shooting range and fencing practice and in the spare time left over she would be found riding her beloved horses. A spell in front of the camera at aged 18 when a film crew shadowed her for a few days set alight a small flame within her, which was to be rekindled a few years later when she decided to move from the competitor’s stand to the media rostrum. Aly put her brain instead of her muscles to work and gained a Post Graduate Masters Degree in Journalism at Cardiff University.
In a very short time she has worked her way up from an assortment of jobs behind the scenes such as a researcher at BBC Wales to her current role with CNN. With her predecessor Francesca Cumani taking her dulcet tones and good looks to England for ITV’s newly formed team of racing presenters, a door opened and a golden opportunity became available for a similar type of presenter and Aly fits the role perfectly. Tall and elegant with a voice that is easy to listen to she comes across as well informed and enthusiastic about all kinds of sport. Being a product of Wales, naturally rugby features high on her list of favourite sports. She says “ I love a day at the cricket, possibly more for the social side than the scoreline! And, of course, horse racing comes top of the list, for its beautiful animals, glorious venues and the lovely people who take part, be it as owners, trainers or jockeys.
It is horse racing that allows Aly to bring her glamorous side out to its fullest. She is often the recipient of beautiful classic outfits on loan from young designers as befits the occasion, and for Aly the occasion varies greatly. One day she could be in the sunshine and heat of South Africa and another the snow covered lake and mountains of St. Moritz.
Aly says “I love designers like, Suzannah, Katherine Hooker and Catherine Walker, who make the classic, timeless chique styles that work so well for a day at the races. Tori Burch is another who I love with her more relaxed style for cricket or rugby occasions.”
But I guess she likes nothing more than the wet grass and muddy pathways of her beloved Welsh homeland on a trip to Chepstow racecourse where, of course, the great British tweed designers are to the fore.
“I am like all ladies and love the opportunity to dress up, which racing especially gives me and its great to complete an outfit with a superb piece of millinery, so I am on lookout for a designer here in Dubai to finish off my World Cup night ensemble.”
As the age old saying goes “if you want to get ahead get a hat”. Aly Vance is going to be getting lots of hats!
— The author is a former trainer from the UK and the mother of leading international jockeys James and Sophie Doyle.