Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Everyman Olympian visits the real Olympics

On a day that started with my being completely shattered from my second Boxing training session at Southend Amateur Boxing Club, I popped to the paper shop to find myself involved in the national news and then topped it all off after work with a first visit to the actual Olympic Games!

Coach Daley set the Boxing session in motion with a 3 or so mile warm-up jog before we joined a busy gym for a full skipping session, which our Heavyweight coach also took. Then Gary (Daley) instructed the lads to glove up for a bag session; this involved a few minutes each pounding the variety of punch bags which are positioned around the walls, before a short break and a shuffle along to the next bag in line.

As well as being introduced to punchbags this time around, I was given instruction on punching combinations and technique by Coach Condon as he wore pads for me to hit. This came prior to the bag session, which itself was followed by the concluding floor work to the session.

The floor work hurt: ten gruling exercises which worked much like a mini circuit training session, though without the break for breathing and moving between stations - exercises from sit-ups to burpees to press-ups to squat thrusts are ALL performed back-to-back with Coach Daley driving through the process with ease himself whilst barking instructions for the group to follow at pace.

Hence my walk to the shop for breakfast supplies was left till the last available minute, but boy was it worth it...

I flicked eagerly through the paper while eating my muesli/honey/milk/blueberry combo, and then I nearly spat my breakfast cocktail out with joy - for there on page 24 of yesterday's Times was a write-up on The Everyman Olympics:

The Times, Page 24, 31st July 2012 edition

Humbled by the memories of the help I've received to make it to this point, a point which makes our collective efforts worth reading about, I inhaled the remainder of my cereal and popped the kettle on while I read the article once more.

It was now 5:45PM. To my right sat my brother, Mike, and all around us were complete strangers, yet fellow sharers in a spectacle that would see history made before our eyes, for we were all party to witnessing the world's best 4 men's foil fencers battle it out for Olympics 2012 honours.

In the first Semi-Final, Mike and I had opted to support Italian, Andrea Baldini, against World Number 9, China's Lei Sheng.

Baldini (Left) prepares to attack Lei

The second Semi-Final presented a no-brainer for our support; Egypt have never had a medalling fencer at the Olympic Games, so when we heard that Alaaeldin Abouelkassem (just 21) had beaten a Triple World Champion AND a Double World Champion on his route to the last four, so he had our full backing as he fought the somewhat spirited and more eagerly supported (by 5 or so very well organised countrymen - one man chanting with a group chorus reply) Byungchul Choi from South Korea.

In both instances the bigger of the men went through to the final, and our support produced mixed results: Baldini's all out attacking style failed against the composed, accurate sword of the chinaman, but our unpronounceably named Egyptian triumphed with a large degree of flare against the feisty Choi.

There was a short break, which we spent pointlessly joining a que to buy drinks which we never waited for and then returned to our seats in the rafters of the temporary 20,000 seater arena within the nationally famous Excel exhibition space. Next up was the battle for bronze, a match between the tiddlers which didn't disappoint; the clash was so close that the final was delayed as these two attacking foes took it the distance - Choi winning out 15-14 to tremendous celebrations from the South Korean contingent sat just yards away.

'Egypt, Egypt, Egypt' the crowd called in support, Aladin (near enough) was starting to make us feel like he'd been granted his three wishes by the genie - after an injury break in which our Egyptian protagonist received treatment for what looked like a mix between cramp and the attentions of Lei's sword, Abouelkassem had somehow scored to lead 13-12; he'd last lead at 2-1.

3 points later and it was all over, Lei coolly struck three in a row to become victorious, though in truth there two winners in the arena last night.

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