ABC farewells retiring sports broadcaster 'Tireless' Tim Gavel

For 30 years Tim Gavel has been the voice of sport in Canberra.

This week he'll switch on the microphone one last time to deliver sports news for the ABC and host his weekly radio program Local Grandstand.

As a broadcaster, Gavel has commentated just about every sporting code and delivered results and analysis to a passionate audience.

The 56-year-old has covered seven Olympic Games, seven Commonwealth Games, the 2000 Sydney Paralympics and countless other competitions, from grass-roots level to world championships.

"Commentating at those championships is like an out-of-body experience," he said.

"You listen back and think, was that really me — whether it was Ken Wallace winning the K1 1,000 metres in Beijing or Kim Brennan winning gold at the Rio Olympics."

Photo The voices of Tim Gavel and Bronwyn Fagan have become signature sounds of local radio in Canberra.

Saturday local grandstand ABC News: Nick Haggarty
Running on adrenaline

For Gavel, there have been moments where he's "virtually exploded at the finish line" sharing great moments with athletes and with a national audience hanging on to every word.

"The biggest adrenaline rush I think I've had is when Chloe Esposito won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016," he said.

Gavel had just finished a night shift commentating the events in Rio from a small TV monitor in the back of a van at Channel Seven in Sydney.

"It was seven in the morning and I had to call the Bledisloe Cup the following night in Sydney, so my focus had switched to preparing for the rugby union that night."

Responding to a spur-of-the-moment request, Gavel agreed to give an update on Esposito who was competing in the modern pentathlon.

The radio coverage that followed became one of ABC Grandstand's greatest Olympic highlights.

"By the time they crossed to me, Chloe had moved into second place and then first," he said.

"I had very little knowledge of Chloe Esposito or modern pentathlon, I didn't know much about it whatsoever.

"I thought, I'm going to have to talk about something I know nothing about for 45 minutes to a national audience.

"It was totally unexpected and something I'll never forget."

Photo Tim Gavel and then Raiders coach David Furner at the 2011 Saturday Gardening Spruce Up.

Tim Gavel 666 ABC Canberra: Eleri Harris
'Tireless Tim'

Gavel grew up on a farm in country New South Wales and said a hard-work ethic was in his blood.

"My father was a hard worker, my whole family was hard-working," he said.

"I thought the only way I was going to plough through [broadcasting] was to do what I've done everywhere else in life, that was to work twice as hard as anybody else."

And that's exactly what he continued to do, arriving at work before dawn for morning news bulletins, then often hosting multiple community events throughout the day.

The name "Tireless Tim" was bestowed upon Gavel at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and stayed with him ever since.

"I thought, I'm here and I'm really not sure what I'm supposed to be doing, so I just worked through the night as hard as I'd ever worked in my life," he said.

"I've worked to satisfy the job. I don't even know what my roster is."

An enormous contribution

Away from the studio, Gavel is a devoted father of three and community volunteer.

As patron at Canberra's Early Morning Centre, he delivers bread three mornings each week to the homeless and disadvantaged.

He's also an ambassador for Every Chance to Play, which provides funds to families unable to pay for registration fees for junior sport.

And then there's his work with the Special Olympics and Youth Care Canberra, Ronald McDonald House, the Physical Activity Foundation, the School Sport ACT Council and the ACT Olympic Council fundraising committee.

It's an enormous contribution that somehow Gavel does not consider all that remarkable.

"I've just made sure that I haven't overloaded myself and I'm able to do justice to each of those."

Photo Tim Gavel was there when the Raiders won their first premiership and has commentated almost 500 games since.

Tim Gavel watches a raiders match through binoculars. ABC News: Nick Haggarty

In 2008 he was named ACT Local Hero and in 2014 his services to the community and as a broadcaster earned him an Order of Australia (OAM).

"It wouldn't be possible without the support of my wife," he said.

"Because she is very much there and omnipresent for the kids and the family."

And while Gavel is looking forward to some down time, his volunteer work will continue and he'll likely make time in the future to "dabble in sports broadcasting".

"I'm looking forward to a little bit more time to switch off," he said.

"I'll look forward to having a few weekends; I just want to get fit again and get a bit of new perspective on life."

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT Your poo is (mostly) alive. Here's what's in it