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