How Smashing!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Robertson & Emms? Silver medal? Yeah, but did they look this stylish?

Saturday’s badminton mixed doubles produced a match every bit as thrilling (if not quite as technically impressive) as the recent Olympic final – and, as with the result in Athens, the better team came off second best.

When we arrived, a problem that Gareth and I have encountered at the Peers Sports Centre before was in evidence once again – in the morning, the sun tends to flood the main hall with a bright, hard light that makes playing badminton particularly tricky for whichever team has the misfortune to end up playing facing the windows.

Katie and I lost the toss. I waited for Gareth to hand us the serve and scamper to the non-sun-facing end, but he threw me a curve ball by choosing to keep the serve, leaving Katie and I free to scamper where we liked. And scamper we did. I have to confess, I felt rather smug as we started – although in the end each game of the three game thriller was won by the team facing the sun.

Gareth and Jo face the sun, but win anyway.

The first game had all the ingredients of a classic encounter – rapid rallies, stunning smashes, deftly deceptive drop shots and me hitting my wife in the face with the shuttlecock. Luckily for her (and me) I was hitting a backhand and I was only trying to hit it back to Jo after a point had finished. I broke my own apologising rule. It was the beginning of the end. Gareth and Jo took the game, 15-11.

Despite her superior talent, Katie (modest as ever) lets me try a smash.

In the second game, as Katie got into her stride and took a controlling hold of things, we fared much better. There were some exciting rallies, which Emms and Robertson themselves would have been proud of, as the game rushed to a nail biting conclusion. Hutton and Forber made a last minute comeback, but in the end, we held on to win 15-13 and take the match into a final set.

We carried our momentum on as we rushed to an early lead in the final game. Again, I slipped into smugness. We were several points up and had the light at our backs. Jo’s serve had turned into smashing practice, and Gareth seemed to be lacking my killer instinct (i.e. wasn’t being as much of an idiot as I was). My smugness rapidly began to evaporate as the opposition mounted a comeback.

At 12-12 in the final game a long period ensued during which the serve changed hands at least a dozen times without any actual points getting racked up. The focus shifted from winning to not losing. It was tense. Well no, I was tense. The others seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Gareth resorts to his favourite drop shot as Katie and Jo admire his form.

The end, when it finally came, was embarrassing – not so much because I put an easy smash into the net to give Gareth and Jo the match, but more because I then thrashed the net with my racket, exhibiting perhaps a tad more vehemence than was called for. More work required on the “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” philosophy I think.

Big thanks to my partner (in life and mixed doubles) for playing so well and putting up with my tantrums when I don’t win (in both arenas). Thanks also to Gareth and Jo for teaching us a lesson, and especially to Timo for filming the whole thing so adeptly.

Having now finished the badminton and the table tennis, there is really only the tennis left that I can play without some specialist help. While I set about contacting sports associations and governing bodies seeking that help and advice about having a go at their sports, I intend to do something I believe athletes refer to as “training”. It’s a new concept for me – running when there isn’t a race or a threat seems very odd – but we’ll see how it goes.

Result of Badminton – Mixed Doubles
Gareth Forber (GBR) & Jo Hutton (GBR)
John McClure (GBR) and Katie McClure (GBR)
15-11, 13-15, 15-13


NoRockets said...

*chases you with a big stick to give you reason to MOVE*

John said...

It might need that, you know.
Three days into my "training" and thus far all I'm getting better at is sitting on my ass.