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BBC Breakfast Presenter Dan Walker Talks To Us About The Horrible Things On Social Media

BBC Breakfast presenter, Football Focus and NFL Show host Dan Walker has endured his fair share of physical and mental challenges over the years.

The keen sportsman and broadcaster has dislocated his right knee five times, broken his ankle, snapped his Achilles on a five-a-side pitch, and spent three days on an isolation ward because the doctors thought he had a rare form of meningitis (it turned out not to be).

You say you don’t like hospitals – is that because of the memories of what happened to your daughter Susie in 2008, when she was rushed to hospital aged nine-months after suffering intussusception (where the bowel collapses in on itself and causes a blockage)?

“I was covering a match in Blackburn when it happened. When my wife rang to say Susie was being blue-lighted to the emergency children’s unit at Chelsea and Westminster, I grabbed my things and went to the car park, only to find my car had been hemmed in.

“I’ve never been a ranter but I remember standing in the car park thinking, ‘How can this be happening? How can I be so far away from my wife and family when all this was kicking off?’ Every part of my body was screaming, ‘I need to go!’

“Thankfully I got there and the doctors did an amazing job (to reinflate the bowel). I’m very thankful to the doctor who went in the ambulance with Sarah, and the doctors who treated Susie and knew what they needed to be doing.”

Given the number of tragic stories you’ve covered over the years, have you ever had counselling?

No, never. My faith really keeps me grounded and provides the balance in my life. My wife and I have a really good relationship and talk to each other a lot about things, and I also have a very strong faith and a grounding, which provides a balance and a sense of priorities in life.

“I have turned down jobs that required me to work on a Sunday. I made that decision a long time ago and it’s a really positive thing for me and my family. It reminds me of my priorities in life.”

How have others in your profession reacted to your faith?

“Sometimes you are mocked, but that’s something I accept. I don’t mind people taking the mickey out of me, I’m not too precious about it. Some people don’t understand it, which is fine, other people want to talk to me about it, which is fine.

“It’s a really important part of who I am. It informs the person that I am, the journalist that I am, the broadcaster that I am, and the father and husband that I am.

“From my own personal experience, I like to think that it helps with perspective and understanding and empathy. I think it grounds you in lots of different aspects of life.”

How do you view the criticism you’ve faced from breakfast TV rival Piers Morgan, who you’ve been sparring with on Twitter for some time?

“Piers is brilliant at his job. I’ve known him for quite a few years and we get on well. I went to his 50th birthday party about 40 years ago! We’ve played golf a few times. He’s a big pantomime villain and I think that underneath all that froth, there’s a nice bloke fighting to get out.

“It’s really important with social media to get a perspective. I know I’m valued by God, so I don’t need to be validated by what people think of me. That helps me not to be affected by some of the truly horrible things people say to you on social media.”

Are you trolled a lot?

“Yeah, but I’ve the skin of a rhino so I don’t really mind about that.”

How do you cope with stress?

“Only one thing stresses me out – losing my keys. I’m not a stressed person, but I lost my keys about six months ago and spent two hours running round the house like a lunatic trying to find them. They were by the door.

“Exercise helps with stress, as does my life perspective. And I do like hitting golf balls.”

How do you keep fit these days?

“Every injury I’ve ever picked up is sport-related. I played football every Tuesday night until I snapped my Achilles about three years ago. I play golf with mates. It’s really important to switch your brain off at times, and that’s why I love golf so much. It’s probably the one time I put my phone away. I love the quietness of it.”

Do you have lasting aches and pains?

“I just have tall person bad back syndrome and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I’m 6ft 6ins and it’s hard to stand up straight all the time. I take good care of myself but in the last year, I’ve had to start doing yoga. I do this six-minute hip activation two or three times a week. I’ve got very tight bum cheeks, so I do the yoga before exercise to loosen up the hip flexors. I think it helps.”

Are you careful about what you eat?

“One of the reasons I exercise is because I love cake and I love curry. If I don’t exercise, then my cake and curry needs will force me to get new suits. I love food. It’s one of life’s great pleasures. I had an unbelievable iced bun yesterday. It was magnificent.”

Book Jacket of Remarkable People by Dan Walker
(Headline/PA)

Remarkable People: Extraordinary Stories Of Everyday Lives by Dan Walker is published by Headline, priced £20. Available now.

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