False Start

Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'm sure I'd be better at this game if they raised the table by about 18 inches.

Table Tennis – Men’s Singles – Peers Sports Centre, 29th September 2004, 8:30PM

The table is much smaller than I remembered, especially when it is set up (as it was) in the middle of a badminton court. It’s not nearly big enough to play tennis on. We warmed up for five minutes. I wonder if maybe the top players prefer to warm up with someone other than their opponent. I found myself beginning to spot patterns in John’s play after only a few rallies. Jan-Ove Waldner described the game in a recent interview as being like chess, but faster. I could see what he meant.

In the end, fast doesn’t even begin to describe it. We started playing at 8:36PM. By 8:50PM, John was dancing his victory dance for the camera having won a five set thriller. Less than fifteen minutes. I wonder how that compares to the average match time for the experts. If anything, they should be a bit quicker as I’m sure they don’t have to go running across two adjacent badminton courts to retrieve the ball, apologising to the badminton players all the while, every time they miss the table completely.

Even under the old scoring format, table tennis was a game of momentum; a few points lost or won in a row could form a vicious or virtuous circle leading to defeat or victory. Now, with each game being played to 11 (rather than 21), there is even less time to mount a recovery if momentum starts to swing away from you.

In theory, this shouldn’t really be the case – not at our level of play anyway. Serving in our game is no real advantage – even if we were good enough to disguise what kind of spin we were putting on the ball, there would be no need to do so as neither of us are good enough to have read the undisguised spin in the first place. As such, each and every point is pretty much up for grabs. Being 10-0 to the good or 0-10 behind shouldn’t make a bit of difference to the point or how you play it, but it does.

The mind plays a massive role in what’s going on. When you’re on a roll and winning points hand over fist, you almost chant out the score like a mantra as it ticks along in your favour. When your opponent is on a roll, you want to do all you can to disrupt the rhythm of what he’s doing. When you gain the cushion of a few points you feel free to play more committed shots, but when you are trailing by a few points, you get tentative. Tentative doesn’t work in table tennis.

This is how stupid you look when you get tentative.

However, as it turns out, our five set thriller (which John won 5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-13, 13-11) counts as nothing more than a warm up. At the insistence of my boss (thanks Rob) I checked my facts this morning to discover that the BBC’s guide for beginners got it wrong. Olympic table tennis matches are the best of seven sets, not five. I blame whoever wrote the guide on the BBC website, but I also blame my opponent. Less than an hour before we played last night, he was showing me photographs of himself sitting in Athens a month ago watching the Olympic table tennis semi-finals. You’d think he might have noticed that the matches were decided over seven sets.

Of course, I’m joking and the blame lies squarely at my own feet – as the organiser of this ridiculous escapade, the buck stops with me. I’m just glad I made this mistake about an event that will only take 20 minutes to replay and not one that took all day to complete and months of training beforehand. Imagine that, the day after running the marathon, “What do you mean they’ve changed it to 28 miles?”

Result of Table Tennis – Men’s Singles

Null and void. To be replayed next week (probably on the same night as the doubles).

Injury Time

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Last night, I played badminton again (doubles, with the same personnel as last week), not to fulfil anything from the Olympic list, just for fun and to increase my overall level of fitness. At one point I lunged to pick up a drop shot and my left kneecap hit the floor slightly harder than I would consider ideal. It hurt a bit at the time, but quickly wore off as I played on. This morning, it’s a bit stiff and a bit bruised.

Last week, my right wrist, elbow and bicep ached a bit for a few days after we’d played. This morning, they’re all sore again. The bicep is sore in a good way – sore in a way that suggests that my arm is building muscle mass – but the elbow and the wrist are sore in a niggling “I’ll snap if you push me too hard” way that is slightly unnerving.

I had to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago about something else entirely, but I told him of my Olympic plans while I was there. He visibly winced. I was surprised by his reaction, which I interpreted at first as an indication that he didn’t think I was up to it physically. I'm no Lance Armstrong, granted, but I'm not exactly hugely out of shape.

It turned out that his concern was based more on my propensity to get injured than on my propensity to eat too much junk and not exercise. He cautioned me, quite gravely, that I ought to warm up very thoroughly before every event. He reminded me that even the best athletes in each of the sports get injured regularly and that, as a novice in most of them, I’d be even more at risk.

It struck me then that my timeframe for getting this done is probably tighter than I tend to imagine. I think of myself as being on schedule at the moment. This is day 32. After tonight, I will have completed 3 events – just inside my required rate of one every 11¼ days. But that rate makes no allowance for time I may have to spend recovering from any injuries I suffer – and, given my track record, it’s probably safe to assume that I’ll do something to myself at least once a year between now and 2008.

So I’ve revised my schedule a bit. My new goal is to complete one event per week. This is week 5 of 206. Once I’ve thrashed John at table tennis tonight, I will have 201 weeks left in which to complete 125 events. If I manage one a week, that would give me 76 weeks (or just over a year and a half) of injury time – almost as long as Manchester United get to score an equaliser at the end of a home game.

Table Tennis - Men's Singles Preview

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Week 5 (of 206) and I’m switching sports to table tennis in the third leg of what I’m now thinking of as my leisure centre section. Tomorrow night I will face the mighty John Adams in the palatial surroundings of the Peers Sports Centre. As with badminton, I have played a bit of table tennis over the last couple of winters, although I have yet to try out the new scoring/serving system.

Under the old rules, each set was played on a first to 21 points basis, with the serve changing ends after every five points. The new rules feature a shorter set format (first to 11) and the serve now changes ends after every two points. Matches are decided over five sets. If you want more details of the technicalities, check out the BBC’s beginner’s guide to table tennis.

Table tennis was never a demonstration sport in the Olympics. It made its debut as a full medal sport in Seoul in 1988. As I was with badminton, I’m surprised at how relatively recently it was included in the Olympic programme. The current men’s singles Olympic champion is Seung Min Ryu of Korea. He became only the third non-Chinese player to win a medal in the men’s (singles or doubles) events in the game’s Olympic history.

One of the others, Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden, the men’s singles champion in 1992, beaten finalist in 2000 and a semi-finalist in Athens, is a legend of the game. He can wander the streets in Sweden without causing much of a commotion, but he can’t leave his hotel without getting mobbed when he goes to play in China. He is expected to retire after the world championships in Shanghai next year.

Table tennis is one of those games for which a lot of people I know have volunteered their services as an opponent. It seems to inspire a similar wistful look in everyone; a look that suggests memories of playing on holiday, and maybe even winning the campsite competition. Lots of people fancy themselves as being “handy enough” at table tennis, but the truth is that a professional could very quickly make even a decent part-timer look like a total fool.

The general perception is that a high level of fitness isn’t required to play this game. While that may be true, the men and women who play it well are among the fittest athletes on the planet. Neither John nor I quite sneak into that elite class at the moment, but we are fairly evenly matched so we should have a good game.

In other Olympic news – I’d like to offer enormous congratulations to Sascha Kindred, who has been adding to his medal haul in the pool in the Paralympics. He won gold in both the 200m individual medley SM6 and the 100m breaststroke SB7 (setting a new Paralympic record in the latter). He is the world record holder in both events and was defending the titles he won in Sydney four years ago. He also put in a stunning final leg to help Great Britain grab a bronze in the 4 x 50m freestyle (20 points) relay.

I’ve never met him, but his twin brother (Timo) is a good friend and a keen sportsman who will no doubt be featuring in many of the events I have to complete over the next four years.

Double Trouble

Friday, September 24, 2004

Gareth looks on as I take John and Will to task, virtually single handedly.

Badminton – Men’s Doubles – Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre, 23rd September 2004, 7:00PM

I’ve always thought that I prefer individual sports to team events. I was born and raised as a golfer – a sport where being on your own tends to be the rule rather than the biennial exception. I played team sports at school (hockey, rugby, cricket) and I enjoyed them, but I could never understand the people who trained really hard to try and get good at them. What was the point? You could bring yourself to a state of near-perfection to then have all your efforts rendered meaningless when the weakest player dropped the ball in the last minute to cost you the match.

Ask people to name the greatest sports people of all time and they give you boxers, athletes, tennis players, cyclists, swimmers – inevitably Pelé and Best get a mention, but only because they were known as exceptional individuals, rather than good team players. The message I always garnered from that was that to be great, you had to be on your own.

Doubles represents a special kind of team challenge. Blame for failure cannot be easily swallowed up by an entire team – if it wasn’t your partner’s fault, it was yours. There is an unwritten law in doubles of any description that most people adhere to: don’t apologise. The assumption is that you’re trying as hard as you can, and that you’re sorry for any mistakes you make, so no need to spend the whole match saying so.

Last night, Gareth and I took on John and Will in the second event of my Olympic challenge, the badminton men’s doubles. For the first time in many years, I enjoyed playing as part of team. Perhaps it was because I know Gareth well enough to know that he wanted to beat our opposition probably about as much as I did (not through any ill feeling, just because we both hate to lose).

BB King once said in an interview that a big part of living a happy life was not only to help other people, but also to let other people help you. Doubles is a bit like that sometimes – it feels good to play well, but it can also feel good when your partner steps in and supports you when you make a monkey of it all. It also feels good that in the end the result belongs to both of you, no matter who played well and who didn’t.

Doubles in badminton is also fun because you don’t end up feeling like you might die by the end of each game like you do in singles, even though the sports hall was somewhat hotter than would be considered ideal last night.

In the end, perhaps sport is more about sharing than it is about being alone. Perhaps the magic lies in two or more people suddenly working together as though controlled by a single mind. I wouldn’t say that Gareth and I are quite at that level just yet, but we had our moments, and we did manage to sneak a win.

Result of Badminton – Men’s Doubles
Gareth Forber (GBR) & John McClure (GBR)
Will Clapton (GBR) & John Adams (GBR)
15-9, 12-15, 15-2

Alternative Olympic Disciplines

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It occurs that there are a few unofficial Olympic disciplines I perhaps ought to try in the next four years if I am to truly enter into the spirit of experiencing the full Olympic spectrum.

1. Getting the Olympic rings tattooed on my upper arm
These days, it seems, you aren’t fully part of your country’s Olympic team until you have had yourself branded in this fashion. I first noticed it going on in Sydney in 2000, but I’ve since seen the odd multiple Olympian bearing the marks of all the games in which they have taken part.

2. Being interviewed by an inarticulate former athlete about how I’m feeling
This interview must take place at least a week before I compete in the event to which it relates and must contain endless platitudes and baseless speculation about my chances of getting a gold medal.

3. Providing a sample for a drugs test
From what I’ve read, the process itself is a lot more complicated than the rules of some of the sports. Also, I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can “perform” in front of such a closely watching audience.

4. Providing a ridiculous excuse for missing a drugs test
History is full of many excuses from which to choose (although it offers few that actually worked). The real challenge would be to come up with something truly original. The dog ate my test tube… and my sample ran in the rain on the way to the testing facility… after I fell off my motor scooter… that was being driven by the dog.

5. Performing a lap of honour
No longer a woolly tradition designed to acknowledge the support of the crowd, the lap of honour is in danger of becoming an event in its own right. Points will be awarded for the number of flags carried, babies kissed and photographs posed for, with the total being multiplied by the overall time achieved (the longer the better, obviously). Special bonus points can be gleaned for congratulating other athletes who are receiving medals on the podium as you pass.

6. Lodging a protest at the end of the event and gaining a better medal as a result
In Athens, the lawyers had as much to do with the outcome of some events as the athletes. It must be bizarre to receive one’s gold medal in the post along with a stamped, addressed envelope and a note beseeching you to forward the silver to the current holder of the bronze. It’s like one of those chain letters that never works.

7. Shedding a tear at a medal ceremony
I suspect few people remember the final race of the coxed pair in 1992 when Gary Herbert coxed the Searle brothers to victory in Barcelona, but more will remember his reaction at the medal ceremony. Bless him.

Badminton - Men's Doubles Preview

A week since my first outing, tomorrow night sees my second assault on the mountain of Olympic events to be completed before Beijing 2008. I’m playing badminton again – doubles this time – at the same venue; the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre.

Last week, I let Gareth beat me in the singles. This week, we will join forces to take on John Adams and Will Clapton, two colleagues from work. Gareth is left-handed. In theory, that should make it harder to play doubles with him as our forehands attack the same area of the court, but in practice, we played quite well the odd time we were paired together last winter.

John plays badminton like he plays most sports I’ve seen him tackle – with an unbounded enthusiasm and quiet determination that tends to negate any lack of technical ability. He’s the sort of player (of any game) that you’d back yourself to beat and then get stung by. He’s like the Terminator; he absolutely will not stop until you are dead.

Will is an unknown sporting quantity. When he joined the company a few months ago, I snuck a look at his CV, wherein it is proudly stated that Mr Clapton once played junior county badminton. Since accepting the invite to play tomorrow, he has barely missed a chance to point out that he hasn’t played for some time and that he’s not as good as he used to be. Time will tell.

I’m hoping that (in theory) only having to cover half the court in doubles means that I won’t feel quite so sore this Friday and Saturday as I did last week – although, if the truth be known, I can bypass my greatest source of pain from the last game simply by wearing a different shirt – one without a nipple-rubbing emblem on the chest.

Let the Games Begin!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Poised... ready to strike.

Badminton - Men's Singles - Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre, 16th September 2004, 8:00PM

Watching the badminton at the last Olympics, I was surprised to learn that the players get five minutes to rest between games. That seemed like far too long to me; surely one would be in danger of tightening up a bit? Besides, it’s not that hard going, is it?

Last night, having just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the first game (15-13), I was in dire need of more than just a five-minute sit-down. A quick blood transfusion would have gone down a treat for example. I didn’t measure it terribly scientifically, but, at a rough estimate, my heart was beating twice as fast as it usually does when I’m sitting watching badminton on TV. It was also beating somewhat more vigorously than usual too; so much so in fact that I could hear it.

The sweat was pouring out of me at a frankly disgusting rate and from places I didn’t even know I had pores. In my wisdom, I’d opted for a long-sleeved shirt. If I had brought a pair of scissors, I would have cut the sleeves off without a second thought.

I was so tired because I move so fast.

My opponent, Gareth, twitched about and asked if I was ready to begin the second game. I could barely catch my breath for long enough to tell him that I was entitled to five minutes between games. “That’s far too long, you’ll stiffen up.” He could clearly sense my distress and was eager to take advantage of it (he’s good that way).

I set up the video camera under the middle of the net to record the odd moment of glory (or the odd blooper) for posterity. During the early stages of the first game I was very chirpy and played the fool for the camera now and then – by the midway point of game two, I had become somewhat subdued. Sweat kept dripping into my eyes and stinging them, to the point where I could hardly see the camera anymore, let alone play to it.

I realised quite soon that my only chance of winning the match was to win the second game, as I wasn’t going to have much left for a third. I also realised that, from 6-13 down, that was going to be tricky. I gave up. Gareth won 15-6. One game each.

We rested for even less time between the second and final game (Gareth scented blood). What time we did spend changing ends was filled with jokes about how I was going to fare when it came to the rowing if I was in this bad a state after two games of badminton. Needless to say, I found that hilarious.

The footwork has gone as I resort to just standing in the middle of the court and reaching.

The key moment of the match came in the final game. At 3-8 down and struggling mightily, I got the serve back. My competitive juices flowed once more and I steeled myself to go on the attack and reclaim the match. Then a little voice popped into my head with a word on the bigger scheme of things. “This is the first event of 128. You don’t need to win for it to count, you just need to not die.”

And that was the end of me. I tried to dismiss the notion that winning wasn’t important for as long as I could, but in the end, the desire to not have a heart-attack was stronger than the desire to beat a friend in a game of badminton. I capitulated like Jimmy White in a Crucible final and lost 15-8 in the final game. Then I more or less collapsed on the floor.

I read in an article somewhere yesterday that a badminton player can cover around 6km during the course of a match. The article mentioned surprisingly little about ending the match feeling as though you’d been forced to go twelve rounds with Lennox Lewis... in a sauna... whilst wearing an overcoat.

Badminton singles is a tough game, and I’m in worse physical shape than I thought I was. Somehow I’d expected that all this sitting around watching and thinking about sport would have gotten me reasonably fit by now. On the upside, I'm nowhere near as sore and stiff today as I thought I would be. At least I survived. Only another 127 events to go.

Result of Badminton - Men’s Singles
Gareth Forber (GBR) beat John McClure (GBR) 13-15, 15-6, 15-8

Badminton - Men's Singles Preview

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Let the games begin! Tonight, at eight o’clock, the quest begins in earnest with the badminton men’s singles due to take part at the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre – a humbler beginning is hard to imagine.

Yesterday, I bought some brand new shuttlecocks – that was an education in itself. I had thought the decision as to what type to buy was pretty much limited to nylon or goose-feather, with the former aimed at the recreational player and the latter at the aspiring superstar. Of course I had chosen the goose-feather ones before even venturing out to the shop.

However, when I got there, I was faced with a choice of five different “grades” of goose-feather. In the end, I felt sorry for the poor old geese deemed rubbish enough to provide only the lowest grade of shuttlecock feather and plumped for the cheapest ones. I had no idea it was such a complex issue.

While I was in the shop, I picked up a new grip for my racket too. It doesn’t really need one, but somehow the packaging convinced me that my game would be improved almost beyond recognition by an additional 2mm of faux-leather between the existing grip and my hand. We shall see.

Badminton was a demonstration sport in 1972, an exhibition sport in 1988, and was granted full Olympic status in 1992 in Barcelona (is it just me, or is it impossible to say that word without hearing Freddie Mercury in your head?). The rules were first laid out in 1877 by the Bath Badminton Club, and the first All England Championships were held in 1899. The International Badminton Federation was founded in 1934.

Historically at the Olympics, the Indonesians, Koreans and Chinese have dominated the medal tables. Great Britain has only ever won two medals – both in the mixed doubles - Simon Archer and Jo Goode took bronze in Sydney in 2000, and (of course) Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms took silver in Athens in 2004.

The current men’s singles champion is Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia. He beat Shon Seung of Korea 15-8, 15-7 in the final in Athens. The top placed Briton was Richard Vaughn, who made it to the last 16.

My opponent this evening is my good friend, Gareth Forber. We played a fair bit of badminton against each other last winter, and we’re quite evenly matched, so I’m hoping tonight will make for a suitably exciting start to this ridiculous undertaking. And I’m hoping I win. Because I’m a bit like that (apparently).

In other news, I got my first official pledge of sponsorship. It had a strangely unsettling effect on me to have my sponsor form returned by e-mail with a pledge on it – I think it was the point at which I realised that now I have to actually follow through and do this. For the first time, excitement stepped aside for a moment to let trepidation sit down. Still, the running total has begun and stands today at £50. Thank you, Mark!

Where to begin?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The problem with such a large undertaking is that there seems to be no end to the number of different ways in which I could approach it. So spoilt am I for choice that there is a chance I could sit here forever trying to decide how best to begin and never actually do anything. Deadlines are what I need; otherwise the size of the task could get seriously unmanageable. I have no doubt that C Northcote Parkinson's famous assertion will hold true and that the work to be done will expand to fill the time allotted to it, but I need to get a move on all the same. My first deadline is the end of this piece - by then, I will have decided which event to tackle first.

I probably flatter myself to think that there are several events on the list for which I am already adequately skilled and adequately physically fit – perhaps a more accurate way to look at the situation is that there are several events on the list at which no amount of extra training, practice or physical conditioning will make me any better than I am now. I may not be fit enough or skilled enough to play international football (despite only being Northern Irish), but I can kick a ball and run around for 90 minutes.

Some events cry out immediately and obviously for a certain degree of physical conditioning – I can run along a road, but that doesn’t mean I could go out and do it for a little over 26 miles tomorrow morning. In all honesty, the 5,000 metres might present a fitness problem at the moment. Alright, so would the 1,500. And the 800 might be a bit tighter than I’d like to admit.

Other events require skills I do not yet have – the favourite question arises again; how does one learn to pole vault without breaking one’s neck in the process? For these events, I will need to find help in terms of instruction and (on occasion) in terms of finding and gaining access to the necessary equipment.

There are still other events that require both new skills and a much higher level of fitness than the one I currently lie about enjoying. I’m writing this from an apartment in the Canary Islands where I am on holiday at the moment. On our first day here, I made a rather alarming discovery when I leapt into the swimming pool. I am nowhere near as good a swimmer as I tend to give myself credit for.

I have become (if I was ever anything else) a recreational swimmer of the worst kind – I propel myself through the water using a strange combination of all four strokes, and only ever as far as is required to reach whatever inflatable item I have just failed to catch. It’s a sort of five metre individual medley combined with a brief moment of water polo before I forget to kick my legs and end up getting water up my nose. In short, when it comes to the swimming events, I am going to need some lessons as well as some fitness training.

Some events I perceive as having other accessibility barriers in addition to a lack of talent or physical prowess on my part, barriers that I expect may get lower the further into this quest I find myself. For instance, I suspect that it may be easier to convince someone to lend me a sufficiently talented horse (and teach me how to ride it) if this whole venture has already gained some momentum or the attention of the media.

Likewise, I anticipate a degree of trouble getting into sailing from a standing start. Both of these sports like to argue that their respective barriers to entry are not nearly as insurmountable as most people consider them to be – I hope to give them the chance to prove that.

There comes a time for talking and writing to stop and action to begin. That time is now. Well no, that time is next week really, but the decision about where to start has been made. I will make my first assault on the badminton events, of which there are three – singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I played badminton through most of last winter and in decent enough company that I now have at least a working knowledge of the rules. And I know how to get to the leisure centre.

One other important piece of news (in fact, really the most important piece of news) - having approached them to see if they minded me fundraising in this manner on their behalf, I’m delighted to report that the Sobell House Hospice Charity have given me the thumbs up. In time, I’ll no doubt write in greater detail about why I want to raise money for them, but in the meantime, if you want to learn more about what they do, you can click on their name above to see their website.

The List

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Any athlete worth his salt has clearly defined objectives. We see this time and again as the winner announces that he has done what he “came to do” and the losers make feeble noises about having vaguely “done their best.”

The list below provides a clear definition of my objectives. I want to compete in all of the events contained in it. If you want to see what the IOC has to say on the subject, check out its list of sports on the Olympic programme. A few things that appear on the IOC’s list are excluded from mine.

I have divided the team sports into three categories.

The first category contains team events that have no equivalent individual event. The second contains team events that do have an equivalent individual event, but for which there is a significant difference between the two. The third category contains team events in which the team score or result is achieved simply by adding together the individual scores or results from the individual team members.

Confused yet? I will elaborate.

Category one contains events for which being part of a team is strictly necessary in order to participate in the sport – for instance, there is no such thing as individual football (or solo soccer, as the Americans would no doubt chose to call it); to play with a basketball is not the same as to play basketball, and to throw a ball across a field is not to have experienced a game of baseball.

Category two contains disciplines where the equivalent individual event is very similar to the team version, but there is enough of a difference between the two to merit the inclusion of both on my list – in the 400m, the athlete runs one lap of the track. In the 4 x 400m relay, four athletes run one lap of the track each in turn, but in between, there is the added skill involved of passing and receiving a baton.

Category three contains those team events where the team version is physically the same as the individual version in almost every respect – the only difference being that, in the team version, your score or result is contributing to a team total instead of standing alone. Essentially, these team events are duplications of their respective individual events, and as such they are coming off my list. The casualties are:

Archery (team event)
Equestrian (all three team events)
Fencing (all three team events)
Gymnastics (team event)

If the men’s rowing eight consisted of eight men sitting at individual rowing machines and then combining their times to produce a team score, then all the team rowing events would be in that list too. Conversely, if the team event in the equestrian show jumping consisted of William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnel and Leslie Law all mounting the same horse at the same time before trying to coerce the poor creature to jump over a scale model of the Great Wall of China, then the equestrian team events would come off the list (and probably go straight onto another list compiled by some animal rights activists).

I started with 136 events. Removing these team disciplines reduces the list to a mere 128 events. Less than a week into this four-year adventure and I’ve already dealt with 8 events. At this rate, I’ll be finished by Christmas.

I had trouble deciding where the line between team and individual lay in cycling - Lance Armstrong’s a hell of a guy, but he wouldn’t have won all the “individual” honours he has without the help of his US Postal Service team. For now, I have left all the cycling events in the list, but perhaps, when I come to do them, some kind-hearted cycling expert might take pity on me and let me off one or two of them to avoid repetition.

Some individual events also have team versions that require collaboration with a partner, but I am satisfied that there is enough of a difference between the skill involved in playing, for example, singles tennis and doubles tennis to merit the inclusion of both.

Other events require a partner but have no individual equivalent – the individual single oar rowing or the horseless dressage, for example, simply wouldn’t work.

Certain events divide their competitors according to weight. For these disciplines, I will only be participating in the category for which I am eligible at the time, rather than starving or binge eating as appropriate in a futile attempt to make the weight in every available category.

Some of the events I have done before; some I’ve never even seen on TV. Some I could do on the beach in my underwear; some require so much specialist equipment that it can be hard to know whether the winner was the best rider or just had the best bike. Some I’m looking forward to; some I’m absolutely dreading. Here they are:

10m Platform
3m Springboard
Synchronised 10m Platform
Synchronised 3m Springboard

50m Freestyle
100m Backstroke
100m Breaststroke
100m Butterfly
100m Freestyle
200m Backstroke
200m Breaststroke
200m Butterfly
200m Freestyle
200m Individual Medley
400m Freestyle
400m Individual Medley
1500m Freestyle
4 X 100m Freestyle
4 X 100m Medley
4 X 200m Freestyle

70m individual

110m hurdles
400m hurdles
3,000m steeplechase
20 km walk
50 km walk
4 X 100m
4 X 400m
shot put
high jump
pole vault
long jump
triple jump

mixed doubles

Flatwater C-1 500m
Flatwater C-1 1000m
Flatwater C-2 500m
Flatwater C-2 1000m
Flatwater K-1 500m
Flatwater K-1 1000m
Flatwater K-2 500m
Flatwater K-2 1000m
Flatwater K-4 1000m
Slalom C-1
Slalom C-2
Slalom K-1

Combat Sports
Boxing (75-81kg)
Judo (73-81kg)
Taekwondo (68-80kg)
Freestyle wrestling (74-84kg)
Greco-Roman wrestling (74-84kg)

Cycling (Road)
Individual Road Race
Individual Time Trial

Cycling (Velodrome)
1km time trial
individual pursuit
team pursuit
olympic sprint
points race

Cycling (mountain bike)

Show Jumping


horizontal bar
parallel bars
pommel horse
individual all-round

Modern Pentathlon


single sculls
double sculls
quadruple sculls
eight with coxswain

board (mistral)
double-handed dinghy (470)
high-performance dinghy (49er)
multihull open (Tornado)
single-handed dinghy (Finn)
single-handed dinghy open (Laser)

10m air pistol
10m air rifle
25m rapid fire pistol
50m pistol
50m rifle prone
50m rifle three positions
10m running target
double trap

Table Tennis




Team Events
Water polo