Saturday, 2 August 2008

The perils of the Olympic experience

Before we left for our Altitude camp in Austria about a month ago Sir Steve Redgrave, the Five times Olympic Gold Medalist and arguably the greatest rower of all time, gave a chat to our team with some advice for preparing for the games. One of the areas he spoke about referred to the general excitement and energy that you feel when getting to the Olympic Village and how distracting it can be.

Most of our training is long, arduous and repetitive. So for the most part when you are not training we have very little energy to do anything and I usually find myself sleeping most of the time in between sessions anyway. Eating, sleeping and rowing has consequently been our daily routine for the past 5 weeks. However, in the last 3 days our training amounts have already halved as we taper for racing and we find ourselves naturally loitering around the hotel with more energy and more time trying to keep occupied.

Sir Steve spoke about some of his experiences when staying in the Olympic village where there are many more distractions than in this hotel. Back in ’84, his first Olympics, there was a designated free games arcade near his room. So whenever he had some free time he would invariably find himself in front of a games consol hammering away at the latest video game. I think Pac-man had just been released. So it wasn’t long before he ended up with Teno in his wrist 3 days before his first race and having to explain to the doctor why it was twice the size of his other wrist.

Another story he told involved the women’s 8+ in Atlanta ’96. During the week before racing the 8+ went down with a severe case of stomach cramps. The team doctor was called in to try and diagnose the symptoms but nothing could be found. So a state of panic ensued with the women being quarantined from the rest of the team to ensure no one else went down with the mystery illness. It wasn’t until the coaches spotted the post training behaviour of the crew that the penny dropped. Whenever the Womens 8+ came off the water to put their boat away two of the crew would sneak off to the free Ice Cream stand, where the new Walls Magnum had just been released, and bring back a large haul to the girls eagerly waiting their refreshment. Each girl was having about three to four of these a day.

So I guess the moral of the story is don’t do anything stupid. It’s easy to say that but it’s two weeks of your life where you’ll never have this much money spent on you ever again, so it’s not surprising you’ll want to enjoy the experience as much as possible. If the cost of the games is broken down per athlete I think the amount would come to £50,000 for those two weeks, about $100,000. That’s an expensive holiday.

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