It’s been nearly six years since gsport last featured popular radio and television sports personality Cindy Poluta.
Now, Cindy is a mother to two beautiful girls, which takes up much of her time, and she is the morning sports anchor for both Talk Radio 702 and 94.7 Highveld Stereo.
Cindy, who admires working mom and international tennis star Kim Clijsters, says balancing work life and motherhood is a challenge. “Both are full time.”
Cindy recalls how, over a decade ago, while manning the phones at the Talk Radio 702 traffic desk, then Talk Radio 702 sports editor Dave Jack planted the idea of her becoming a sports presenter. In 2003, she convinced 94.7 Highveld Stereo station manager Ravi Naidoo to let her launch weekend sports news on the station, and it all unfolded from there.
Cindy also looks back with pride at her five years with pay channel SuperSport where she worked as a live sports presenter. “I had so much fun there and it was such an honour.”
She lists Penny Heyns’ and Bridgitte Hartley’s Olympic achievements, as well as Natalie du Toit’s Paralympic honours as major women’s sports highlights.
Check out the full interview with Cindy below and find out how she has managed to carve a niche for herself in the male-dominated field of sports media.
Cindy, you are a familiar face and voice in sports broadcasting, when did this journey begin?
To be honest, I’m not really sure how it all began. I guess having two older brothers who are sports fanatics paved the way for me. I was very sporty at school, I did netball, hockey, softball, athletics and even cricket scoring. I have just always had a passion for sport. Leaving school I had no idea I wanted to do anything “sport related” – in fact I had no clue what to do at all. So sports presenting was a happy accident.
I got a job at Talk Radio 702 in my first year out of school, literally answering phones at the traffic desk. It was only two years later that Dave Jack (sports anchor at the time) told me I had a great voice and a good knowledge for sport, and the seed was planted.
Tell us about your first job in sports media.
My first job in sports media was at 94.7 Highveld Stereo – wow, I’ve gone full circle. Anyway, there was no weekend sport on the radio station at the time. I persuaded the station manager, Ravi Naidoo, that I should be doing that job. In 2003 I presented my first sport bulletin. I took me two months to get over the nerves.
What are your current projects?
Currently I’m a sports anchor in the mornings for both Talk Radio 702 and 947 Highveld Stereo. I’m also a mom which takes up the rest of my day. But I do have one or two more projects in the pipelines, and both have nothing to do with sport.
How many children do you have?
I have two beautiful girls.
What have been your career highlights?
Do we have all day? I guess every time I meet a sports person it’s a highlight. Though professional, I still get excited to meet the Springboks, Proteas, Bafana Bafana etc. Regardless of who it is.
I loved my five years at SuperSport, what an adrenalin rush presenting on live TV! I had so much fun there, and it was such an honour.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
The obvious challenge is being a female on what is seen as a man’s playing field. I think as women we put extra pressure on ourselves to prove to everyone that we know what we are talking about.
I think the perception in broadcasting is that because someone has “played the game” they know more about the sport. I agree, but at the same time, that’s not to say that someone else could have just as much insight and knowledge into a sport.
I guess the other challenge is balancing work life and motherhood. Both are full time.
In South Africa? No. I think we are still fighting to prove ourselves everyday. I would say those with open minds have embraced women in sport media. But I still feel that everyday is a battle.
Take rugby for example, I look at the Australia and New Zealand presenters and anchors and their networks use women all the time. Back home, I have yet to see a female presenting a big rugby game. And by presenting I mean actually anchoring or giving her expert opinion. At present, women are used to do the “fun, fluffy stuff” and I think that’s degrading.
However, I know that on the football side there is a strong push to have women presenting more PSL games. But still I feel it could be more.
It almost feels as though women are left to so the “smaller sports” like athletics, tennis, hockey, swimming etc.
Who are your favourite sportswomen?
Tough one. I would have to say Kim Clijsters, because she’s a working mom like me. She went into retirement after having her baby, and came back to win a Grand Slam title. I admire her!
How can we raise the profile of women in sport?
I think getting bigger sponsors on board. We saw recently with Investec sponsoring the SA Women ‘s hockey team, there seemed to be a growing interest in the players and results.
It’s also about TV coverage. Women’s sport is never shown live. Live coverage means instant exposure.
What has been the single biggest women’s sports highlight for SA?
I would have to say Penny Heyns gold medals. Natalie du Toit at the Paralympics, and Bridgette Hartley in London.