When I call back Toni’s mood has improved. Flights are booked and now it’s a case of killing time.

He’s back at his desk, planning, as per usual.

“At least there’s no excuse for forgetting anything now?”

“I hate packing. I’m Mr. Lastminute.com. Running around to make sure I’ve got Euros, change for the trolley, enough clean pants and t-shirts. It’s going to be an active weekend”.

“It’s going to be a late arrival”.

“As long as the poles arrive”.

For a moment I imagine Toni is talking competitors. Then I click,

“That’s a serious carry on item”.

“It’s usually a bit of fun and games”.

I suspect this is an understatement, “What could possibly go wrong?”

“I hope I get the single room I requested. One time I was unpacking and this six foot six, eighteen stone giant walked in and announced that we were sharing”.

‘That’s a big man”.

“He was massive. Turned out to be a lovely guy but there wasn’t much room to move around”.

“Cosy”.

“Hmmm”.

The man in question was Ben Harradine, Aussie Discus thrower. He is, indeed, a big chap:

Ben Harradine

Australian Discus thrower Ben Harradine

I pause a moment to imagine how that night went. If you’ve ever seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles you’ll have an idea of what is in my mind.

“On the basis you get sorted out in the hotel, what then?”

“You make sure you remember your tickets and you go round the corner to the restaurant that all the athletes use”.

“You need tickets?”

“Oh yes. No ticket, no eat”.

I picture a slightly bedraggled Toni queuing for his rations, ticket in hand, “You’re going to be late.”

“Yeah. Around six hours behind schedule. Not ideal but at least we’ll get a day to acclimatize”.

“Must be a bit strange, the day before competition. What do you do about nerves?”

“…Athletes get nervous. You get an emotional outpouring. As a coach you listen and try to stay in logical mode. You stick to the process. Everything else is interference, white noise…”

“Two fifth of nothing. Athletes get nervous. You get an emotional outpouring. As a coach you listen and try to stay in logical mode. You stick to the process. Everything else is interference, white noise. You get them not to listen to it”.

“Easier said than done?”

“It is what it is”.

I suppose, however we dress it up, that’s always the way it is.