Le Plus Important...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An unlikely setting for an epic sporting encounter...

Having played a leading role in most of my convalescence, it was probably fitting that alcohol should once again have been involved in what I hope was the final stage. At five-thirty on Sunday morning, after a French wedding that will live long in the memory, all the necessary elements for recovery finally aligned.

It takes a clever friend with a very special brand of madness I can’t resist to understand that, after a wedding and when everyone else has gone to bed, the best possible thing to do is play badminton in the garden under floodlights until the sun comes up – that kind of thing seems obvious to me, and infinitely preferable to anything as mundane as sleeping, but surprisingly, we were the only players.

Badminton evolved from an Indian game that had no rules or defined playing area. There was no winner, just one, simple, shared objective – keep the shuttlecock in the air. It adhered perfectly to the Olympic ideal that values taking part above winning.

We played in the spirit in which the game was invented, across what had earlier served as a homemade dance floor. Neither of us scored a point, but I doubt we could have made more effort had it been an Olympic final.

I leapt for high shots, I lunged to retrieve the short and wide ones – I even managed to break a racket (pardon, Nico!) trying to retrieve a shot that flew a little too close to the marquee – and all without a single twinge in either my knee or my competitive spirit.

Later in the day I took a walk, half expecting my knee to be stiff, but if anything it felt better. I tried running a couple of hundred metres. It hurt a little, but then so did the other one; it’s been a while, and I wasn’t wearing running shoes.

I’m writing this as I sit on a train on my way back to the UK. I hope that tomorrow I’ll find an hour after work to go to the gym and move the knee-recovery process on. Who knows? Maybe I might even find the time to do some events before the end of the summer and you can all start reading about something other than the wretched state of my health.

The regular (frequently disappointed) visitor to this site will know that, in addition to being injured, I have been rather lazy recently. As ever, the excuses are legion but dull. I have been in need of some inspiration (I even thought about taking another trip to Ikea), and this weekend it has arrived with a vengeance.

All weekend, I played games as they should be played - trying to win, but too busy enjoying the attempt to worry about whether or not it was successful. Sport provides a vehicle for making new friends and basking in the warm glow of old ones. Put a man in a garden with a small child and you have a man and a child looking at each other awkwardly; add a ball to the equation and suddenly there is laughter and play, and later there will be stories: of triumph and disaster, of near misses and moments of brilliance, of mistakes and achievements – of life.

I played this Finnish game in France with a Mexican bandit. It was that kind of weekend.


UPDATE - I didn't make it to the gym last night, but tonight Gareth has very kindly agreed to beat me at tennis. I don't have time to write a preview - if you really need one, tune in to BBC1, BBC2 or BBCi any time for the next fortnight and you'll soon work out what tennis is all about.


adem said...

I'm glad that the knee's getting back into shape. It's very easy to wallow due to injury, but now's the time to fight back and get all those other events completed!!