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Picture : Rouvaun Smit received a timely boost to his spirits when named winner of the Equus Media Award for broadcasting (Equus Awards).

Popular Cape Town-based commentator Rouvaun Smit has been going through a long recuperation process after fracturing his spine in a serious fall at home and his spirits were given a timely lift when he was named the winner of the Equus Media Award for Broadcasting.

His winning submission was his coverage of the L’Ormarins King’s Plate Race Day from a presenting and commentating perspective.

He said, “It came as a complete surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise. I was watching the awards by live stream and it was such a pleasant surprise and such a good cheer up, especially considering I wasn’t feeling too great on the day because my physio had really worked me that day.”
He said about his progress, “It’s going well. I’ve been religiously attending physio and OT (occupational therapy) twice a week. I was fortunate there was a student from Europe here and he had to put me through a certain amount of hours and so he was able to help me maintain my upper body strength because of being in a wheel chair. My physio was concentrating on my mid-section and getting the glutes and hips to all work together and he’s been trying to get me to sit up and to push myself up from a sitting position. My OT is working on the legs. It’s very good because we are now at the point where we are trying to get me into an upright position … and I tell you what it is not easy … yooa it is not easy!”
Rouvaun said it was hard to predict when he would be back in the commentary seat because they were still working through all of this therapy.
He said, “When racing returns from Hollywoodbets Durbanville to Hollywoodbets Kenilworth I am hoping to slowly, but surely work my way back in. It all depends on my progress at that point in time. I don’t want to push it because I don’t want any relapses. I would rather make sure I am almost 100% there. I could probably do it now in a wheelchair. But then they would have to set up a whole new system for me and I don’t want to inconvenience anybody in that regard. Until the first time I can and am able to, that’s when I will go. I’m hoping it is in the next two or three months. I think in the racing game we could possibly get there.”
Rouvan goes back a long way in the sport.  
He said, “It actually just stems back to my childhood days when I was growing up in a home with my grandfather, who was very keen on horse racing. And then from there, I think the interest and the knowledge of racing started building. From a young age I was living in a house where every Saturday afternoon the old man would either watch it on TV, when he could, or listen to it on the radio. Then later I would go to the racecourse and stand on the top balcony of the car park and watch the races from up there. All these little things sparked  the interest.”
He continued, “In my senior year of high school, the book shop I worked in had a manual Tote just to assist with having a Tote facility in Mitchell’s Plain.”
When the Tote became computerized a number of the bookstore staff moved over to work full time for the Tote and Rouvaun was one of them.
He added, “From there everything just happened because three years later they were looking for somebody to work in dissemination. And three years thereafter, they were looking for another commentator. So it all just happened very quickly.”
Rouvaun’s DJ work helped a lot with his commentating.
He said, “I started working on the radio in 1989 and I started commentating in 1994. While I was at the SABC, from 1989 to 1994, they put you through a lot of in-house training. They also sent you to external people that could assist with voice quality and assist with being able to think on your feet. Having learnt all those little tricks while I was with the SABC, it did help a hell of a lot when I started to learn to commentate because then it wasn’t as difficult. I think I got it much quicker than anybody else at the time.”
Most commentators sound surprisingly different when you speak to them face to face, Rouvaun included, and he pointed out that this is due to the microphone enhancing the quality of the voice through modern technology techniques such as turning up the base or treble or whatever they want to do.
However, he said it was important to present and commentate in as natural an accent as possible.
He said, “Once you’re as natural as possible everything just flows.”
He continued, “Commentating is a very rare talent to have because there ain’t many that can do it. You either can or you can’t do it. It’s as simple as that. Once you master the art, the world becomes your oyster. Opportunities arise elsewhere. You meet other commentators. Then you visit different racing jurisdictions. You may want to experience what it is like to call there. I’ve had the pleasure of commentating in Mauritius, commentating in Dubai and I was part of a Commentating Exchange Program with Investec, who were sponsoring the Derby in England at the time. So between Richard Hoyles and I, we got flipped here and there in terms of the exchange. That was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to go to Epsom. In the first year I called the Coronation Cup and in the second year I called the Diomed and the Queen Elizabeth. That was something else to be able to do that. It was probably the highlight of my commentating career.”
He added, “Although I did call in Dubai shortly after Meydan opened. I was the first international commentator that Terry Spargo gave an opportunity to call to. I called the Mahab Al Shimal on Super Saturday. That was nice. It was different in that you’re really high up in the grandstand. When you pull away from the binoculars it is a rude awakening because you go from seeing the horses almost at half life size in front of you with the binoculars to seeing them look like ants underneath you. I don’t know how Alistair managed it. But you do have a big screen in the middle that you can also refer to which gives you some idea of who’s who and where they are in the race.”
He continued, “Talking of commentary boxes, on Derby day at Epsom, when you look straight down on the grandstand side of the course you don’t see grass at all, it is just a sea of people all the way down to Tattenham Corner. It is the most unbelievable race meeting you would ever be able to attend.  The sheer size of the crowd that comes and the infield, how that gets transformed. What they call common ground, people just come and they flock in. They just create such an atmosphere.”
Rouvaun gave some enlightening insight into commentating and particularly on the most amazing point to outsiders i.e. how are they able to spot the horse or horses that come flying out of the pack and in the instant of time available still manage to get their name or names right?
He said a bird’s eye view is the best view to have of any race and it enables one to spot the ones who are making threatening runs much quicker.
He said he would usually reserve mention of them until a little after first spotting them in order to create a greater effect.
However, there are occasions when a late run does come out of the blue and he revealed, “In normal life they tell you to think before you speak … whereas in commentating you must speak before you think. You speak with your lips and your brain sort of processes it afterwards. There is no time to think. If you see a horse in those colors you must know that that is the horse’s name. You have to trust your judgement. If you are going to second guess yourself there is going to be silence. Even if you get it wrong, unfortunately you’ve got to just take the punches that come along with it. The most fascinating thing about commentating is you can get it 99.9% right, but the 0.1% you get it wrong you never live it down. You will forever get ragged about it. It’s the nature of the game, these things happen and you take the good with the bad. We’re all human, we all make mistakes.” 
Rouvaun’s most famous mistake was in the pre-race parade for the Met in 2019 when  announcing the horses and jockeys he became tongue tied on the intended words, “Made To Conquer, S’Manga Khumalo” and it came out as “Made To Conquer, S’Manga Khuconquer.”
Rouvaun said, “S’Manga reminds me of that everytime I see him! But sometimes there’s more good in it than bad. It adds a bit of character to the sport because sometimes people can be so serious about it that it’s not real. I just find we need to be a little bit less serious, be a little bit more light-hearted about things. Just take it in our stride as we go about it. You know, racing itself will be so much better.”
That mistake was certainly not taken seriously and was celebrated only because it sounded so funny and not as a criticism of Rouvaun.
A big majority of the racing community are looking forward to having the bubbly Capetonian back in the commentary box.