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TV star Kimberlee Downs’ scary leap of faith

The new Sky Sport presenter reveals how a series of ‘terrifying’ changes have made her marriage stronger
Pictures: Robert Trathen

A new marriage, a new job with Sky Sport and an entirely new life! For sports broadcaster Kimberlee Downs, the past few months have been awash with change, but as she settles in for a coffee with Woman’s Day, the talented journalist is pleased to report she’s never been happier.

“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of a time!” she grins. “But change, growth and new challenges are all good, as far as I’m concerned.”

Now a year into her marriage with Newshub sports journalist Ollie Ritchie, Kim, 33, has also switched up her career, making the call to leave her job at TVNZ to move to rivals Sky Sport, where she’s now hosting, presenting and reporting on a plethora of sports.

It’s a dream come true for sports-mad Kim, but she admits she battled with making such a huge shift in her career. While your thirties are a welcome relief from the insecurity of your twenties, she says they do come with their own unique challenges.

“It’s an interesting time in life, isn’t it?” she muses. “I have a lot more faith and confidence in my abilities than I’ve ever had, which is great, but making the call to change jobs was still so terrifying for me.

“You have a lot more confidence at this age, but I still felt that my identity as a person, as a journalist, was tied up in my former job. It had been my home for 15 years – I started on the assignments desk when I was 18 – and leaving the comfort and security of what I was doing was scary.

“I felt like I was giving up a certain part of my identity and I second-guessed myself. But then I came to the realisation that I wasn’t giving it up. If anything, I’m now adding to it. More so than ever, I was ready to branch out and latch on to something new.”

A familiar face on our screens for more than a decade, Kim has covered everything from Rugby World Cups to Olympic Games. She also spent two years as TVNZ’s Australian correspondent, reporting on a range of stories, including the Thai cave rescue of 2018.

But now her focus is turned firmly towards her “new normal”. She’s embarking on a new chapter at Sky, where she is currently fronting the broadcaster’s Super Rugby coverage.

Kimberlee with colleague Joe Wheeler at the Sky Sport presentation desk on the side of a rugby field
Having a ball with fellow presenter Joey Wheeler.

“Working on live sport broadcasts are just amazing,” she smiles. “I had a taste of it and I knew I wanted to do it more. I’m having so, so much fun. I’m so happy. How much goes on behind the scenes for a broadcast has also blown my mind too!”

It’s a new challenge and one that was “daunting”, but the time was right to make the move. Kim adds, “I still loved the job I was doing. Would I have been happy staying there for longer? Absolutely. But would I have regretted not taking a chance? Yeah, I would. That spurred me on. I didn’t want to wonder what could have been.”

Kim says the timing felt right to finally take a leap and “give this new role a bash”. And husband Ollie, 30, has provided nothing but the utmost support. He’ll be joining Samantha Hayes, Jenna Lynch, and Laura Tupou on Stuff’s 6pm news bulletin when Newshub shuts its doors in July.

“It’s been a time full of change outside of our marriage. So actually, in many ways, it’s been very comforting to have our relationship be the strong, constant thing,” Kim explains. “That’s life, isn’t it? Everything changes around it. But sport for us is our shared passion – it’s what we love. Our wedding was just over a year ago, and we spent our first anniversary watching cricket at Hagley Oval. For us, that’s paradise!”

Recent events have reinforced how lucky she is to have Ollie.

And while the Kiwi media landscape remains in flux, Kim says recent events have only strengthened her and Ollie’s water-tight bond.

“We’ve both been going through a lot of change of late. But that’s just reinforced the knowledge that he’s the person who I want to be there for me and who I want to be there for too. A lot of this change has made us stronger.”

Kim also has the Olympics in Paris to look forward to in July. A pinnacle event for the self-confessed sports “nerd”.

She says, “It’s my third Summer Olympics, but my first one as part of an official rights holder. That means I’ll have amazing access to athletes right after they’ve finished competing, and the ability to get that raw emotion and feeling.

“It’s an opportunity I cannot wait for. It’s the thing I love to do the most – finding out what makes people tick and tell these important stories. I can’t tell you how excited I am!”

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