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The TV star was axed from the popular sports quiz after 24 years, as part of the corporation’s plan to appeal to younger audiences and diversify the show’s cast. The 64-year-old was given the chop alongside team captains Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson last week. Her replacement is yet to be announced but former England defender Alex Scott is tipped to take over – a claim that the BBC dubbed as “speculation”. Barker, who is the longest reigning host of ‘A Question of Sport’, faced threats to her job in the past and in a confession revealed her concerns about her ability to front the show.
Prior to her presenting duties on the programme, which first aired in 1970, Barker was an avid fan and watched the show with her parents during her younger years.
The tennis legend, who retired after she won 15 singles and 12 doubles titles, had also been a guest on the TV hit and professed she was “absolutely terrified” before her appearance.
She attributed the success of ‘A Question of Sport’ to retaining some of the rounds from its early years – a formula that could come under threat during the BBC’s plan to shake-up the show.
Ultimately, she felt the loyal viewership was maintained due to it being “a good honest sports quiz” with a bit of entertainment thrown in for good measure.
She told What’s On TV in December: “Of course we have a lot of fun with it and Phil and Matt aren’t afraid of making fools of themselves.”
Despite becoming a household name on the BBC, Barker explained that she “never really decided to go into broadcasting”.
She was invited to join the team that was responsible for Wimbledon coverage in 1993 and added: “The rest is history.”
While she retired from tennis, the star maintained her exercise regime in a bid to remain “fit and focussed”.
Since becoming a presenter, she admitted to taking extra care of her mental fitness too during a 2010 interview with the Manchester Evening News.
She said: “So much of my job involves thinking on my feet and interpreting sporting statistics.
“I’ve become increasingly aware of the need to look after my mental ability and can’t always rely on food to provide me with all the nutrients I need.”
Barker revealed that she had taken fish oil supplements “for quite some time” – which were intended to “specifically help boost my concentration and keep my memory sharp”.
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She said: “For me, it’s a question of self preservation – while I can’t fight time I can help myself stay fit and focused through good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.”
Barker revealed that the biggest challenge from her TV and sports career had always been being “ready for any situation”.
She added: “If you are fully prepared at a live event then nothing will faze you.
“Sport often throws up surprises on or off the court, course or pitch and you have to be able to react fast and cope with any pressures.”
Despite holding ‘A Question of Sport’ close to her heart, Barker admitted that she was never able to replicate the “adrenaline rush” from playing tennis.
She added: “I don’t think anything else could ever come that close.”
‘A Question of Sport’ airs tonight at 8pm on BBC One.
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