Today finds Toni in a ‘harrumph’ mode. Along with the rest of the team he’s suspended in the zone known as pre-season. Most of what he calls the “lumpy bits” have been done but it’s not quite time to see what results a winter’s worth of sweat, disciplined eating and regularly self-inflicted pain will deliver. It’s the night before the exam, the calm before the media storm, the day before the weigh-in. Everyone is a bit grouchy and grumbly.

No athlete, in any sport, seems to like pre-season. Evidently Toni feels the same. He’s also burdened with a few set backs due to injury and the nagging suspicion that making his own Rio goal is also under threat. That threat, it seems, comes from an unlikely source: a Sheffield doughnut shop, Eve Kitchen.

Carla is taunting Toni with a picture of some hardcore food porn, specifically doughnut porn. The picture talks louder than words.


“That’s ridiculous” says Toni “Where is it? I think I really need to visit”.

“So, what are your Rio goals?” I ask, “looking good for the camera?”

“Yeah. Is that ice-cream with the the doughnuts?”.

“Did you know that until they shared the very first televised Presidential debate Nixon was way ahead of Kennedy in the polls? After people saw Kennedy looking cool, collected and handsome Nixon’s grip on the race started to slip.”

“Didn’t Nixon sweat a lot and mumble?”

“I’m impressed. Yes he did and he was jowly and basically didn’t look as good as Kennedy. You better be the hot coach”.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”

“Is that a doughnut joke?” ***

I try a different tack and turn the conversation to the BBC documentary that started filming the previous week. It turns out that the next scheduled filming clashes with a Diamond league event in New York. Except that the organisers have now moved it to Boston and it’s street athletics.

Toni isn’t sure if Jess will compete or not. I assure him that Boston should be nice at that time of year and suggest the that the organisers might be willing to fund business class flights for an extended travelling party. He’s not so sure. I put it down to the pre-season vibe. I’ll try again another day.

Conversation turns to the ongoing threat of the Zika virus. Toni hopes that now cases are being reported in the USA that more might be done about it. He doesn’t sound convinced. I suspect it’s a topic we’ll return to many times over the forthcoming months.

He then goes on to share a story involving a governing body, a contract and a key figure in athletics.

Me: “I can’t write about that can I?”

Toni: “No”.

It strikes me that this blog is also in pre-season mode. Everything more or less ready to go but we’re a few weeks out from going live. It’s frustrating. And there’s not even a doughnut in reach. Harrumph.

Roll on competition time.