Other Olympic Projects

Friday, March 31, 2006

On the off chance that you’ve been living in a box (cardboard or otherwise) for the last year, let me remind you that last July, London was selected as the host venue for the 2012 Olympic Games.

This was great news that brought delight and rapture to a lot of people, many of whom hadn’t realised they cared that much. The day after the announcement the London bombings dampened the celebrations somewhat, but in the weeks and months that followed, there was much chattering (mostly in pubs) around the land. Many wondered about volunteering to help marshal the games, others about how to get tickets – mostly, people just wanted to be there.

On the day of the announcement itself, Mr van de Poll posed the question that was being asked by many other nutters across Great Britain – “what event are we going to compete in?”

This week, an article on the BBC website brought the nation’s attention to Jonathan Phillips, the self-proclaimed 2012 Olympic Competitor. His aims are simply expressed (but I suspect will be harder to realise): “Find a sport, train hard, gain Olympic qualifying standard, convince a country to give me nationality and a place on their Olympic team, raise £1m for charity and be there at London 2012.”

Having a rummage around Jonathan’s site, Statue John found a reference to another Olympic nutter. Nick is the proud owner of 2012 Gold, a website he is using to track his progress. He’s determined to represent Great Britain at archery in 2012 (at Lords) and win a gold medal. The only thing stopping him is that at the start of his campaign he had no “prior competitive experience.”

I have e-mailed both of them in the hope that at some point during our respective quests, we can collaborate. In the meantime, I wish them luck!

I have since been hunting the web for more Olympic nutters. The closest thing I’ve found so far lends itself more to collaboration with the aforementioned Statue John - this sculpture in Sarasota bears the title “Olympic Wannabes”.

Up to this point, I've not been one for putting a load of links in the sidebar to other blogs that I like to read - this isn't a blog about me, it's a blog about what I'm doing - but I may have to start keeping a list of all the other people out there (and I'm sure there must be more of us) with Olympic projects.


Knee Update - had the stitches out this morning and am down to using one crutch/walking stick, so making good progress. The nurse who took the stitches out did suggest that maybe I ought to be doing rather more lying around with my leg elevated as it is still pretty swollen, but needless to say I pretty much ignored that.

This Post May Offend Younger Viewers

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Do I rock at deadlines or what?

Worse than being late, I will warn you now that this post is going to be gross. Not many people enjoy looking at pictures of my legs at the best of times; even less so when one of those legs is rather swollen and slightly stitched in places. Still more people find looking at pictures of surgical procedures distasteful, and the sight of what those procedures removed from the aforementioned swollen leg might be enough to inspire them to revisit their breakfast.

If you’re one of those people, stop reading now. Go and put the kettle on, make yourself a nice cup of tea and watch something harmless on the TV for half an hour until you forget I even mentioned it. If you’re not one of those people, I still apologise for what follows.

I went to the John Radcliffe Hospital on Tuesday morning at about seven-thirty. I was ushered into a room with three other day patients to give a nurse the same answers to a bunch of questions they’d already asked me (no… not that I know of… no… no… yes… about 5 or 6 a day… yes, I know I should… last night at about ten… no… no… no thank you).

Then the anaesthetist arrived and asked me them all again. She also gave me a couple of pills “to remove any excess acid from your stomach and to calm you down.” I wondered which part of me being asleep when she had arrived to talk to me might have indicated any need for the latter.

Shortly after she left, the surgeon and his minion arrived. Clearly asking questions was not their style; they didn’t need to ask me questions, they were here to tell me what was going to happen (again) and to see if I had any questions for them. I spent the explanation (delivered this time by the minion) looking at the surgeon, who spent the explanation looking at the minion, who spent the explanation looking through me at the imagined page from the text book he was clearly remembering it all from.

Having announced their intentions, they strode off looking pleased with themselves. It was hard not to liken their pre-surgery performance to a particularly cocky batter in a baseball game indicating before the pitch which side of the ground he is about to hit the ball out of. I hoped their talent matched their preamble.

I was wheeled off to theatre. The last thing I remember thinking before the anaesthetic took hold was that it had just gone nine o’clock exactly according to the clock I could see and wasn’t it strange how simply injecting me with something as small as that was going to make me pass out completely in the space of a few sec…

While I was under, here’s what Babe Ruth and his able assistant were seeing (I've made it as small as Blogger would let me - if you want a bigger version, click on the image).

I’d love to tell you what’s going on in those pictures, but I’d be lying if I claimed to have a clue. The next thing I had a clue about was a nurse (who was German and must have been pretty as I started trying to talk German to her before I remembered that I can’t) gently waking me up and asking me how I was feeling.

I don’t remember being wheeled back to the day ward – I presume I fell asleep – but that’s where I ended up. I drifted in and out of sleep for an hour or two. I ate a sandwich. I chatted with the other patients as far as that was possible; it must have looked like a narcolepsy ward as we all kept drifting off mid-sentence.

What I did manage to glean was that the others had serious problems compared to mine. One was in the later (but far from final) stages of recovering from “An Alan Smith, but worse” while another had just had the same surgery as me, but only so they can then decide how best to go about repairing his torn cruciate ligament.

As I lay there thinking about how lucky I am that my recovery time will be so much shorter than either of theirs, I also thought about how, when it comes time to play the Olympic football match, I will definitely be playing in goal.

The surgeon arrived shortly after the last day patient was returned to his spot in the room and talked us each through how it had gone and what happens next. Mine went swimmingly. They removed what they had to remove (the “vast majority of the medial meniscus”), left what they could, and expected me to be in good shape when I come back to see them again in six weeks.

At the moment (as you can see) I’m not in such great shape – at least not to look at – but I’m definitely improving each day and have finally laid off the painkillers that would have made an earlier blog entry even more impenetrably dull. I suspect that the first consultant’s guess that I could be doing a bit of light jogging after two weeks might turn out to be somewhat optimistic, but it won’t be too much more than that I hope.

For now though, I’m hobbling about (with crutches if I’m going further than the fridge) very slowly and filled with even more admiration for the athletes in the Commonwealth Games than I was before I couldn’t bend my leg.

If the sight of all that naked, swollen, nasty flesh has you feeling slightly sick, there are some pictures of my niece looking cute at her christening last week here to make you feel better if you’re into that sort of thing.

It's Only the Commonwealths

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Commonwealth Games – ‘diet Olympics’ to tide us over between the proper games – kicked off in Melbourne this week. There are several differences between these and the Olympic games: the countries that take part must be part of the Commonwealth, British competitors represent their home regions instead of Great Britain, some of the Olympic events aren’t included in the programme, and some events that don’t feature in the Olympics have pride of place in the Commonwealth games (rugby sevens, for example).

Without doubt, the athletes take these games very seriously – apart from anything else, the opportunity to compete in a games on this scale can only benefit athletes preparing for the Olympics in 2008 – but they’re just not the same.

It was summed up for me in a TV interview I saw with Chris Hoy a few nights ago. He said all the right things throughout the interview until the very end.

“You just hope that all your training will stand you in good stead. You hope to remain calm enough to get out there and perform like you know you can on the night. The last thing you want is to freeze up on the night when this is something you’ve been training for… for four years… effectively.”

That stray “effectively” gave him, and the importance of these games, away. He won the Olympic gold medal in the one kilometre time trial in the velodrome in Athens two years ago. Try as he might to convince us that he has been training for the Commonwealth title for four years, I’m fairly sure that three years ago, when he was getting up early and training his massive heart out all day, it was Athens 2004, not Melbourne 2006, he was thinking of when he was pushing through the pain barrier.

Further testament came after he eventually finished third in the 1km time trial. He was interviewed again, still slightly out of breath from his race. He gave it his all, he said. He couldn’t have asked for more, he said. He felt he did a good time for the conditions and was happy enough with his performance, he said. He didn’t say he wasn’t that bothered and that it was a good building block for the Olympics in two year’s time, but he might as well have done.

Jason Queally was similarly magnanimous having finished second. Himself a former Olympic gold medallist and world champion, he seemed remarkably full of smiles for a man who had just had to settle for his third Commonwealth silver in a row.

They both praised the winner and said they were happy for him. It was hard not to be.

Australian Ben Kersten, having ridden third from last and taken the lead in front of a home crowd, could only sit and watch as the former Olympic and world champion (Queally) and then the reigning Olympic champion (Hoy) tried to better his time. When neither could, Kersten was rendered prostrate on the ground in floods of joyful tears.

And therein lies my problem with the Commonwealth Games – they seemingly mean so much to some, while meaning much less to others. As delighted as I was to see the Australian’s reaction, there was still a bit of me whispering silently at the television “Calm down, mate; it’s only the Commonwealths.”

Having said all that, of course I’ve been glued to the TV since they started and will continue to be at every opportunity until they finish.

The Commonwealth Games always produce some wonderful stories and impressive feats - in beating England in the final to win the rugby sevens gold medal this morning, New Zealand maintained a remarkable unbeaten record in the history of that sport’s involvement in the games – and as cynical as I may sound about how important they are, for many young athletes (like Ben Kersten), this will be their first and biggest taste of a games of any sort.

They are special in their own way and, if they do nothing else, they highlight by way of contrast just how important the Olympics are.

For someone from Britain (or perhaps, in the spirit of the Commonwealth Games I should say ‘Northern Ireland’), another highlight is that when someone from the English team wins a gold medal, we don’t have to sit through that dreadful dirge of an anthem that entreats a God who has better things to do to save a woman who should be more than wealthy enough to be looking after herself.

Land of Hope and Glory is vastly superior, even if the ending sounds like it should segue into the theme from Star Wars.


My own athletic prowess has not improved any since last I wrote. I only have a few more days to wait before I finally get the surgery I need to fix my knee. A couple of weeks more taking it easy after that and then hopefully I'll be back to some kind of training in April.

On the plus side, I heard from one of the cyclists interviewed in Melbourne that he finds it extremely beneficial to his training to sleep for 12 hours a day. All this time I've been half an Olympic cyclist and I never knew it.

Bully's Special Prize

Monday, March 13, 2006

It has been a slow time for Olympic events of late - I'm injured, I'm lazy, I'm smoking again - all of which is not helpful when you're still 114 events short of your target. At least I have good friends though, one of whom (Mr van de Poll) very kindly bought me some sporting equipment for my birthday in an effort to get me motivated again. I think you'll agree, the man is inspired (see above).

Unfortunately, said sporting equipment hasn't done much to motivate me away from my injured, lazy, smoking ways. The requirement to be in the pub when I'm using my new personailsed darts is slightly hampering my return to the straight and narrow, but what's a guy to do? I can't very well go letting John think I don't really appreciate the thoughtfulness of his gift now can I?

The more observant among you will notice from the tear in the flight featured above that I have at least been throwing said darts with great athleticism.

Surgery is still scheduled for next Tuesday. It will be a corner and I will turn it. I will stop smoking just as soon as I can go running every time I feel the urge to light up, and I will be back making a fool of myself in the name of raising money for Sobell House and entertaining you lot before you know it.

100th Post!

After 18 months of the challenge, this is the hundreth post. To celebrate, have some video footage of me falling out of a boat. The footage was shot by Tim last April in Nottingham. This was a racing canoe and the narrowest thing ever to be put in the water. I think I did well to make it the 40 yards I did before this happened.


Did I say Friday?

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

- Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Lazy Bones

Friday, March 03, 2006

Every day when I get into work, just to ease myself into the day, I go online and surf to several of my favourite websites. Most days, there is something new there for me to look at – whether it’s a link to an interesting article (with an accompaniment of apposite comments from the members of the site) on Sportsfilter, a new statue photo on Stand By Your Statue, or a new set of amusing observations on one or other of my favourite blogs – it’s a rare day indeed when none of them have changed from the day before.

On those rare days however, I find myself feeling quite disappointed. I hadn’t realised until this morning that I may be inadvertently fuelling that sense of disappointment in others. This morning, I surfed to my own site – this site – and, forgetting momentarily that I am the sole contributor, felt disappointed that there wasn’t any new content since the last time I looked at it.

I don’t have much to tell you at the moment - I am still awaiting surgery on my knee (on 21st March), after which I will hopefully not take too long to get back to trying my hand at Olympic events – but it’s an unusual day indeed that I don’t have anything at all to say. As such, I have resolved to make this entry the first in what will hopefully become a Friday routine. No doubt, as the year progresses and I get back into training and eventing, there will be times when I need more than one post in the week, but from now on, loyal (and much abused) reader, regardless of other posts, there will always be one on a Friday.

Having said that I didn’t have much to tell you, I suppose there are a couple of things you might not know about (unless you know me personally – in which case you will be sick of hearing me bleating on about them).

This day last week, I got a call from BBC Radio Oxford at lunchtime to see if I would do a live interview with Sybil Ruscoe on the drivetime show at 4PM. Obliging sort (and media whore) that I am, I agreed to wander (or limp) up to the studio and spent a very pleasant half hour yacking on the radio with the sports-mad Ruscoe.

Statue John recorded the whole show in Real Player, and as soon as I can figure out how to edit out the bits I’m not in (and therefore make the file a manageable size), I will pop it online for you.

I’ve also started writing a monthly 200 words about what I’m doing for the Oxford Courier Journal – a local free newspaper. I’ll scan the first instalment over the weekend and put it on here. The second is due to be published soon.

Otherwise, all is fairly quiet. I’m getting frustrated with my injury now and 21st March seems a long time away. I’m assured that after the surgery I shouldn’t be out of action for more than three or four weeks, but it’s going to take time to build up muscle mass again, and I’ve been limping so long now, it seems odd to imagine walking any other way.

Essentially, I have fallen into the trap that all injured athletes must face. My knee injury should in no way have prevented me from lifting weights or even swimming with a leg float, but I have resorted instead to eating pies, smoking cigarettes and playing x-Box whilst lying on the sofa and feeling sorry for myself.

Part of the problem is getting around – I can get where I need to go, but the limping makes it take longer and tires me quickly – but in truth, that doesn’t seem like such a problem when it is a card game or a night on the beer I’m trying to get to instead of the gym or the pool.