We Got This
I caught up with Toni on the eve of the event and thanks to a time difference of four hours am writing this whilst he, Jess and the team are (probably) lying awake waiting for their alarms to go off telling them that the big day has finally arrived. They may not be nervous but I am.
Our conversation takes place over Facetime whilst Toni constantly fumbles with a pile of pins. I’ll explain that shortly. First a catch up on the final build up.
The Olympic Stadium
Before the competition, the athletes and support teams get the stadium tour. I always find something awe inspiring about an empty stadium. Perhaps it’s the combination of scale, silence and anticipation of the event ahead. Toni, as expected, views it all with slightly less romantic notions,
Toni, Now Outside of the Athletes Village Is Surprised to Find Himself in Rio
“It was raining which caused some inevitable transport problems. It settled down but it went from no queues to one hundred and fifty people wanting to get on a bus at the same time”.
“How was the trip?”
“It was fifty minutes instead of forty but then we went at rush hour. It wasn’t too bad”.
“What happened when you got there?”
Derry’s View of The Tour
“We all got a tour. Basically they took mass of people and divided us in half, a sort of walking riot.
Just Walking Around
We went from the warm up track to first call area then final call, followed by a quick look around the athlete rest area. Essentially we followed the route Jess and all the athletes will follow into the stadium. Once we all got out into the stadium it was carnage as everyone gets excited and starts looking around.
It wasn’t helped by the Canadians stripping off and starting a training session”.
“Weren’t they supposed to do that?”
Toni is obviously less than impressed, “No. Official training was scheduled for everyone with proper starting guns etc. No-one needed guys ploughing round the track”.
In the interests of international relations I’ll skip the next bit and pick up later in the conversation,
Jess Takes the Picture
Jess’ Picture of Alison and Derry
“Once everyone was gathered back up we were taken where you go after an event. They have a queuing system, like a bank, except it’s for media. There are different walkways for different types of journalists; newspaper, TV, radio”.
“Where will you be whilst Jess is competing?”
“I’ll either be in the warm up area or in the coaching seats for field events”.
“Flo (my wife) wants you to wear orange or pink so she can spot you in the crowd”.
“I think the Dutch and the Germans may have a problem with that. Come to think of it I dunno why the Germans are so keen on pink”. Toni tails off, “Hang on a minute, what day is it? Ah, OK, I’ll be wearing Blue. We have a rotation schedule, white one day, blue the next”.
It’s Like a Bin Day Rota But For Shirts
“Did Jess manage to warm up during all the carnage?”
“Yes, Jess had a look at the stadium then did a warm up after the walk around whilst I found where everything was”
“What’s left to sort?”
“Apart from the checking in the javelins and collecting pins, nothing?”
“Yes, I’ve collected five hundred safety pins and I’m putting them together in fours so everyone has pins for their name an number cards”.
The Pin Doctor
“That’s very generous. You’re like the Good Samaritan of heptathlon coaches”.
“Bored is what I am”.
“No, I just want it to start. I’ve got a bit of media left to do then it’s dinner, early to bed and up at six for breakfast before we get taken to the stadium”.
Toni Inspects the Runway
“Not long now”. My turn to pause. After speaking to Toni and writing this blog every day since April I’m suddenly lost for words. I don’t want to say just say ‘good luck’.
Toni, interrupts my thoughts, “I’ve got to go I’m afraid. I’m being picked up”
“Hey, listen. Get a good nights sleep and I hope it goes well tomorrow”, I wince at how lame my words sound but Toni is on the move.
“Hopefully catch you tomorrow at around six in the evening your time”.
“Yep, you can be my wake up call”.
And just like that he’s gone. Like you, reading this blog, all I can do is turn on the television and watch what happens. All the training, the plans written in pencil, the teams’ combined and applied skill, the disappointments, the PPPBs, the patience, the pain, the banter, all now come down to two days in Rio. Two days in which Jess could make history as the first British woman to retain an Olympic title.
Whether that Olympic title happens or not, it’s been a privilege and an education to be involved in the journey with the Coach to Rio. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it?
P.S. I forgot an important update and one that Toni is immensely proud of. Here’s the evidence: