In One Year, Brett Hawke Podcast Has Surged Off the Blocks

Brett Hawke

In One Year, Brett Hawke Podcast Has Surged Off the Blocks

Here’s the deal. Brett Hawke could sit down and discuss his career with anyone for hours. As a two-time Olympian for Australia and multi-time NCAA champion at Auburn University, finding tales to share is not difficult for Hawke. Stories from the Sydney and Athens Olympics, in which he participated, could fill time. So could assessments of his experiences at the World Championships or Commonwealth Games, and his tenures as a coach.

An epiphany several years back, though, has placed Hawke – armed with questions – behind a microphone. And now, he provides a platform for others to share their pasts and presents, while supplying fans of the sport entertaining content.

The Inside with Brett Hawke Podcast, featuring more than 100 episodes, has become the seven-time international medalist’s baby. On a routine basis, Hawke is churning out episodes that feature many of the biggest names in swimming, from today and yesteryear. Ian Thorpe. Alexander Popov. Bob Bowman. David Marsh. All have appeared on Hawke’s podcast, clearly defining the time with Hawke as must-listen moments.

“I’ve been having high-level conversations with people in the sport for years, and I thought others would want to hear these conversations as well,” Hawke said in a recent interview with Swimming World. “That was the inspiration, and there was nothing like it out there. I remember specifically speaking with Lenny Krayzelburg and hearing his story how he got (to the United States) and wanting to share this story with others.”

So, Hawke set down a new path. In February of last year, he welcomed Jack Roach, best known as USA Swimming’s longtime National Junior Team coach, as the first guest on Inside with Brett Hawke. The host has been sprinting along ever since.

Hawke

The early days, not surprisingly, featured a few bumps. Hawke was nervous about the endeavor, particularly unveiling a product that was unpolished or, in his words, “junk.” That Hawke harbored some apprehension makes sense. Olympians compete at the peak level of their sport, and the potential of doing something that was less-than-stellar was not acceptable. Eventually, Hawke turned back his nerves and left the proverbial starting block.

Following the early struggles, Hawke started to treat this new career in the same way he approached his competitive days in the pool. Despite hating the sound of his own voice, he took time to watch his tapings, just as he would review video of a 50-meter sprint to pick out areas to improve. Over time, Hawke became more comfortable, sharpened his questions and even enhanced the technical elements of the podcast, such as lighting and sound.

Meanwhile, the podcast’s audience grew.

“I had no idea that it would be this well-received, and it continues to grow,” Hawke said. “Having Michael Klim on was the turning point. That set off a run of Olympic champions. One led to another organically. People enjoy hearing these stories and their thoughts. I feel like we’re making an impact.”

In addition to conducting interviews with Olympic champions like Thorpe, Popov and Krayzelburg, other gold medalists who have joined Hawke include Grant Hackett, Gary Hall Jr., Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Susie O’Neill, Kieren Perkins and Joseph Schooling. To say he has welcomed a Who’s-Who of swimming greats would be an understatement. During his interview, Thorpe made a statement that triggered considerable reaction from the swimming world: Thorpe noted that he thought today’s competitors were not aggressive enough in the 200 freestyle, saying they were racing it wrong.

In the almost one year in which the podcast has been active, IWBH has drawn nearly a half million visitors from 99 countries. While YouTube is the vehicle for many followers, more than half have checked out the podcast through other platforms. The first of two episodes featuring Popov, the sprint legend, is the most-watched episode, while Bowman discussing what he said to Michael Phelps before the final of the 100-meter butterfly at the 2008 Olympics is the most-listened-to segment. Hawke has found that an hour-long interview is the “sweet spot,” but interviews have stretched beyond, or gone shorter.

Certain moments have left their mark on Hawke, including the time when Milorad Cavic declared he won the 100 fly against Phelps in Beijing. For his part, Hawke said he was “stopped in his tracks” and couldn’t wait to post the interview. Hawke also cherishes the two visits from Popov, who is widely revered as the greatest sprinter in history.

“Popov is a legend and both times, I got to talk to him from his sauna in Russia,” he said. “It was such an iconic moment to be able to do that. People see (Popov) like Drago (from Rocky IV), but I know him differently and there are more layers to the man. He’s charismatic. He was an amazing guest.”

Looking to the future, Hawke is eager to see additional growth in this pursuit, with the possibility of developing a studio with multiple cameras and enhanced lighting. Certainly, Hawke has been successful in his first year.

“I took a step back at the end of (2020) and evaluated everything, almost like a swim season,” Hawke said. “I just know I want to get better.”