First a recap. Toni, for all his abilities, has still only figured out how to be in one place at a time. Yesterday and today that place is with John Lane, in the Czech Republic, striving to get European or even Olympic qualification in the Decathlon. This means our updates are restricted to phone-calls in between events as wifi at the stadium is non existent.

It’s in the nature of doing a daily blog with someone who is usually hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away that sometimes films and photos arrive after you’ve shut the laptop for the night. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be shared. For all you abs fans out there, enjoy a very different ‘behind the scenes’ from Golden Globe nominee Toni Minichiello:

All future posts on social media should probably carry the hashtag #sixpacktorio. It could become a thing.

Back to business. A good day for John yesterday included winning a cup for coming first in the 400 metres. A cup that Toni evidently covets.  When I say ‘cup’, I mean just that.  Watch the film:

Day 2.1

Toni, John and the rest of the competitors woke to troubled skies. It didn’t help. Toni picks up the story,

“ The hurdles were ok but when we got to discus it had started drizzling which made the surface really greasy. We switched shoes to try and help the grip and he really went for it but unfortunately it came out of his hand wrong. That’s a setback”.

‘What does that mean now?”

“I means he needs 5.10 in pole vault, around 52 metres in the javelin and about 4.36 in 1500m”.

“Is that do-able in the conditions?”

“It’s definitely do-able. It’s still got to be done. Problem is his left foot has bruised up quite badly. The kids’ sore. Hang on a minute, call me back, John’s about to do his first pole vault”.

Toni calls me back, and I jump in with the obvious question “How was it?”

“ He’s cleared 4.50 and he’ll sit out the next round.”

 john lane pole vault

“What about conditions. Isn’t rain the worst for pole-vault?”

“It’s not too bad now. The sun’s coming out and it’s drying up. The challenge is that he warmed up and then had to wait nearly an hour to jump”.

‘By which time he’s cooled down…”

“Yes. But fortunately he cleared it comfortably. As a coach, pole-vaults’ not a great event to watch. You’re just hoping they clear it without getting injured”.

“It’s the weirdest event”

Toni switches subject.

“Do you know how Nikita got on?”

John, of course, is only one of the team competing this weekend, including Karla in Geneva and several others in Manchester.

“I think she got through the first heat ok”.

“Good. She’s been showing a lot of promise indoors so it’s good to get her competing to see if we can get some of that promise to fruition. Particularly after she dropped a plate on her foot and damaged her toe a few months ago. I’ll check in on everyone later”.

“What time are you flying back to Manchester?”

“6.30 local time so I’ll be leaving here around 4.30 after Javelin. I’ve asked the organizer to split the Javelin into two pools of seven rather than one big group to avoid the waiting around for John.”

“You’re putting him in the first group?”

“No, the second. It’s so he doesn’t have to wait too long to throw after his warm up”.

“Ah. And the 1500 metres?”

“For a Decathlete it’s just a rhythm event. Find your rhythm and stick to it. Then, when you hear the final bell, run like hell”.

“And get ready to suffer?”

“And take the pain. Yes”.

“Speak when you’re at the airport?”

“Ok Fella”.

John’s Day Done, Toni’s Not Quite

Toni has texted me between calls. Jess has run 13.10 in the hurdles. For the uninitiated this represents European qualifying time and in conditions that could pass for a swimming gala.  Toni is pleased. Alicia was also running in the race and achieved a personal best. Toni is happy about these results but John’s day has taken a turn for the worst which, understandably, has darkened Toni’s mood when we speak as he’s in transit,

“The foot got worse. I’ve pulled him from the 1500.”

I swear. It’s a natural reaction. Toni continues,

“John just couldn’t put the weight on it for the javelin. You use the foot as a block so it takes a lot of impact. He took all three throws so he really toughed it out but it wasn’t going to happen”.


“Yeah. Can’t help but be a bit pissed off at the moment. But we live to fight another day”.

I dread the thought that a missed flight might also be on the agenda, “How far from the airport are you?”

“Just pulling in now. There’s nearly ninety minutes ‘til I fly”.

I breathe a quiet sigh of relief, “Travel safe”.

“OK. Cheers”.

Next stop, Manchester, where Toni will land to learn that Alicia has won her 100 metres. Plus some good results from the others that we’ll look at tomorrow. It won’t erase the frustration of today. But it will help.