TV1 sports presenter and former Silver Fern Jenny-May Clarkson is an ambassador for the World Masters Games opening in Auckland and the Waikato this weekend and is competing in the triathlon with her husband Dean despite her fear of open water.

1. What was your childhood like, growing in the King Country town of Piopio?

Mum and Dad ran the local takeaway bar. Dad's in his 80s now and still drives the school bus. Mum's in her mid-70s and still picks blueberries and does lots of voluntary work. I don't know anyone who works harder than Mum. She loves helping people. I'm the youngest of six kids. My older brother Charles died of meningitis at 10. I can vividly remember the moment he passed. He woke up in mum and dad's bed screaming in pain and just died. Now that I've got my own children I can't even fathom what Mum and Dad went through. One of my sons is named after Charles although we call them by their Maori names, Te Manahau and Atawhai.

2. You only speak te reo to your 1-year old twins at home. Did you grow up speaking Maori?

No. We lived just below the marae and as kids were always up there running around and getting told to go and do the dishes. I knew my Maori culture but felt on the outer because I didn't have the language. I had this deep sense of shame. So I went back and learnt in my mid-30s. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears because as an adult you feel dumb and vulnerable but it was life changing. I've worn the Silver Fern, I've travelled the world but nothing else beats it. I want my boys to be able to walk in both worlds.


3. When did you decide you wanted to become a police officer?

Ironically it was when I got in trouble with the police at age 13. I stole some stuff from the shop next door. My parents were beside themselves. We had to go to a Family Group Conference. It was a good thing I got caught because if I hadn't, who knows? I was such a little shit. It was through that experience that I realized I wanted to help people.

4. What were the best and worst parts of the nine years you spent policing in Hamilton?

My favorite part was working in communications taking 111 calls and directing cars to different incidents. I enjoy the pressure of making decisions in the moment. The hardest part is the deaths. Saying to a parent, "I'm going to take care of your baby" knowing I'm going to put it on a cold slab for a post mortem. Seeing the pain on parents' faces when you tell them their 16-year-old is not coming home tonight. The first death I attended was a boy who had a head-on travelling home from his course. He was breathing when we arrived but he died upside down in the car. Every time I go past that spot my memory goes back.

5. You captained the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic netball team for many years and gained 26 caps for the Silver Ferns. Why did you quit netball?

I took six months leave from the police to pursue my dream to make the World Champs because I'd missed out in 1999. So for me 2003 was everything. But I wanted it too badly, I over-trained and by the time I got the trials I was completely gone. At least I won't die wondering.

6. How did you make your break in broadcasting?

It was a chance meeting. I was doing some assignments for my Sports and Leisure degree at a café when Classic Hits host Ronnie Phillips walked up and asked if I'd be interested in doing radio. I thought I'd give it a go. I was pretty terrible at first but I was lucky to have good people willing to invest time and effort in me.


7. After two years co-hosting Classic Hits Waikato you shifted to TV sports presenting. How did you find the transition?

I wasn't widely accepted at TVNZ. I was a former netballer who'd waltzed in with no media training but lots of people were good to me like Wayne Hay, Martin Tasker and Toni Street. It was a real struggle for six months but I absolutely love it now - the intensity and the fact that anything can happen live. I'll stay as long as they'll have me.

8. What was the toughest time of your TV career and how did you get through it?

Three months into the job I took a brutal bashing for some dumb interviews I did at the Commonwealth Games. But just because somebody says I'm shit doesn't mean I listen to it. Netball taught me not to get stuck in the moment. You can find yourself rocking in a corner going, "I can't believe I did that. The whole world knows." But in reality everyone's moved on. I've learnt that I've just got to go through that process to come out the other end. Whatever emotions come, just roll with it. If I stuff up on air I'll spend the whole drive home going, "Everyone thinks you're an idiot." I swear and call myself names. There's no point trying to block it out because it will just come back and bite you later on.

9. You married your husband Dean Clarkson at age 40 after a whirlwind romance. Did you know instantly that he was 'the one'?

Yes. I walked into the bar, took one look and knew straight away. He was the same. It was an instant connection. We sat talking and he told me about his two beautiful daughters. I liked the way he could be so open and honest, even talking about his struggle with depression. It's so hard to find a man that will communicate. He proposed 10 days later and three months after that we were pregnant with twins.

10. You co-host TV1's show Whanau Living with your friend Stacey Morrison. Do the stories often follow what's happening in your own home?

Yes. I'm about keeping things real so if I'm struggling with things in my life, you can guarantee there are others who are too.

11. You and Dean have been training to compete together in the triathlon section of the World Masters Games. In retrospect would you do that again with two children under 1?

Maybe if the children slept. They wake up a couple of times a night so it's pretty hard to function. Training has taken a back seat for us but we're comfortable with that. Just participating in such a massive event - 28,000 competitors from 100 countries in 28 sports - is pretty special to be honest. I'm MCing the opening ceremony too.

12. You've chosen to do the ocean swimming section of the triathlon because of your fear of open water. Has facing your fear helped?

No, it hasn't cured it at all. I constantly hear the Jaws tune in my head and there are times when I go into a panic. Then it's just focusing on putting one arm in front of the other. Mum used to say, "Just give it your best" and that's something I still say to the athletes I coach. "I just need your best right now - whatever that looks and feels like."