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A new SA Cricket book by Old Rhodians

Date Released: Thu, 1 November 2012 10:59 +0200

KEVIN MCCALLUM will tell you that he got lucky. He was offered a plane ticket and a chance to cover the Paralympic Games in Sydney 2000 and took it. He'd never travelled abroad to cover a big sporting event.

Having sat behind a desk as sports editor of The Sunday Independent and Saturday Star, McCallum knew how sports events had been covered in the past, and he had his own ideas of how they should be covered. He took a step to the side, watched the Paralympic Games from a different angle.

He wrote about the people and the sport, striking a balance between describing their personal stories of overcoming their disabilities and pure sporting excellence. He wrote with both reverence and irreverence, repeated disabled jokes told to him by the Paralympians and introduced us to a new group of South African sporting superstars.

When McCallum got back from the Sydney Paralympics, he was asked to give up his job as sports editor and become the chief sports writer for The Star. As he put it, his new job was to watch sport, travel the world and drink beer. And he has done so with aplomb for the last 12 years.

His Friday column in The Star has run since December 2000 and is possibly the longest-running sports column in South Africa after Injury Times, the sports gossip column he edits for The Sunday Independent. In his dozen years as chief sports writer, McCallum has covered three Rugby World Cups, two Cricket World Cups, two football World Cups, Springbok tours abroad, two Commonwealth Games, three Olympics, four Paralympics, the Tour de France, the Tri-Nations, Super 12-1415, 2-1415, Currie Cup, the Proteas, domestic cricket, athletics, PSL, Bafana Bafana, hockey, cycling and, well, anything that strikes his fancy.

He does not keep records of Tests watched nor countries visited, but reckons he may have travelled to 20 different countries in the last dozen years. Among his highlights of the last 12 years were the 2007 Rugby World Cup, watching Oscar Pistorius at the London Olympics and Paralympics, Chad le Clos's victory over Michael Phelps, the drama of the Uruguay-Ghana quarterfmal at the 2010 World Cup and the Sydney Paralympics. He claims not to have a favourite sport... except, perhaps, for cycling, in which he is an active participant.

This year, he completed the gruelling Absa Cape Epic, the Tour de France of mountain bike races. He was named the SAB Sports Columnist and Feature Writer of the Year in 2001 and 2002, and won the overall SAB Sports Writer of the Year award in 2002. He was nominated for the Sasol Springbok Writer of the Year twice and, much to his surprise, was also up for the swimming writer of the year after the 2004 Olympics. McCallum has also written three books.

The first, In Search of South Africa's Perfect Woman, he claim, is a cult book and cost him more to write than he made from it. It was eventually pulped by the publishers. He wrote two best-selling sports books with David O'Sullivan of Talk Radio 702: "The Penguin Book of South African Sports Trivia", and the "Extraordinary Book of South African Cricket".

The two are planning to write another book together soon. A Rhodes University graduate, McCallum has been at The Star for almost 18 years, having started as a sub editor on the Regional desk. He moved up through the ranks to become deputy day chief sub editor of The Star and then sports editor of The Sunday Independent. And then, in November 2000, he got lucky.

Caption: ONE OF THREE: David O'Sullivan (left) and Kevin McCallum flank publisher Alison Lowrie at the launch of their book on South African cricket.

Source: STAR, Supplement A