Matt Shirvington: Former Olympian co-hosts Ultimate Tag with Abbey Gelmi

Why 'Shirvo' cried during Ultimate Tag

Co-hosting with Abbey Gelmi on Ultimate Tag is a gig Matt 'Shirvo' Shirvington was primed for after working alongside American comedic actor Rob Riggle on Holey Moley.

His Holey Moley commentary theory was "hang out a thread and let him run with it", Shirvington says. "He [Riggle] did all the heavy lifting."

Ultimate Tag is also a family show and when he was offered the opportunity to be involved with the fastest show on TV he jumped at the chance.

For those not familiar with parkour it is a training discipline using movement developed from military obstacle course training.

Shirvington says there was a lot of consultation between parkour specialists and safety experts for the design of the course in Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney's Olympic Park, to maximise the talent of the 22 pro taggers.

"We shot in Sydney during minimal community transmission [of the virus] so it [conditions] was more relaxed at the time. There was strict entry protocol, and everyone was doing the right thing," the 42-year-old says.

"The best way to describe it is as if you brought an action movie to life."

But there is an emotional undertow from the back stories of the players.

"I actually cried a couple of times, some of the stories are really profound. Some have had physical challenges, injury, accidents, or emotional situations, and they have come to this as a way to re-invent themselves and challenge themselves."

There are six heats, three semi finals and a grand final and Shirvington believes audiences will be cheering for the pro taggers and players.

"There is a lot of theatre involved with the pro taggers, and it's amazing to see the reactions of the players when they come up against them.

"Everyone has a different approach to the task and it's interesting to see the strategy.

There is a warm-up area, but the players don't get to see the course before their turn. Some adapt quickly, some use every corner of the obstacle course and others hesitate and are lost.

They range in age from 17 to mid-40s, and Shirvington says he believes some will wear the green and gold for Australia in the future.

The pro taggers are elite level athletes, parkour champions, body builders, personal trainers, a boxer, gymnast, pole vaulter and stunt performers.

The last standing male and female player will take home a life-changing $100,000 prize money as well as the title of Australia's first Ultimate Tag Champion.

"It was great to see the way they all embraced it.

"I'm not too bad on my feet but I could probably hold my own for about the first five minutes. I was quite happy to stand on the sidelines," the family man admits.

"I admire them having a go. It's very daunting walking into the arena with an elite athlete chasing you down, not knowing what to expect until you get there. It really blew me away.

"I think the Australian version [of the show] has really nailed it.

"The unique thing about Australia is we cheer the underdog. This show ticks all the boxes - drama, action and emotion.

"We might overdo the screaming and support for our favorite players, but the harder you work the more satisfaction you get. Everyone involved with the show was working their butts off and I am so, so proud of it.

"I wish I could have had a go but every time I got up on one of the obstacles I would have the director in my ear saying 'get down from there'."

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Shirvington is eagerly waiting to hear what his role will be in Channel 7's coverage of the postponed 2020 Olympics.

"It's been so challenging for everybody. I know what it's like to build to an Olympic cycle."

Most athletes run on an oily rag and with the postponement they have had to delay all their commitments, he says.

Shirvington has spoken with John Coates (president of the Australian Olympic Committee) who was adamant the Olympics will go ahead in July.

And as for the recent confirmation Brisbane would be the host city for the 2032 Olympics - "I couldn't be happier for Brisbane," he says.

"It will be the biggest shot in the arm for Olympic sport in Australia. I am on the board at the NSW Institute of Sport and we are loving the news."

He does feel for the current crop of Olympians who will now be wondering if they can hold on for 11 more years.

"I'm guessing kids in years 6 to 10 at school now are the most likely to compete then.

"What a great launch pad for Australia globally. It's an automatic marketing tool.

"We have navigated COVID so well, and people love to come here and feel safe.

"After all, we did host the 'best Games ever', " he says.

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