McIlroy lays down Masters gauntlet

Augusta, Georgia

Rory McIlroy will discover whether the lessons of 2010 have stuck when he heads back out at Augusta on Friday.

The 21-year-old scorched to a seven-under 65 to take a commanding lead for most of the first round of the Masters, drawing instant comparisons with his opening 63 in the Open at St Andrews last year. Then, he crashed to a second round of 80.

The question now is, how will McIlroy pick up the very large gauntlet he has laid down at Augusta?

In his favour, Alvaro Quiros's late gate-crashing at the top of the leaderboard means McIroy is slightly less exposed than he would be were he out on his own. But McIlroy will know that his first Masters round in the 60s will count for nothing if he loses focus.

BBC golf commentator Ken Brown told me: "He is at a stage where every round is a learning curve. At St Andrews he was euphoric after that 63 but there were moments in the second round where he wasn't concentrating and I think he realised at the end of the week that those few holes cost him the chance of challenging at the end. I don't think he will fall for that again."

McIlroy insists he will not.

"It is just being patient and realising you don't need spectacular golf for 72 holes to win, you just have to hang in there and grind it out," he said.

Rory McIroy at Augusta

McIroy was in sensational form in the first round at Augusta. Photo: Getty

"It's possible that I can go out and shoot another 65, but I know it's also very likely that I'm not going to do that. So if I do find myself in trouble I'm going to have to stick in there and that's something I learned to do at St Andrews. Even though I didn't do it on that Friday, you should never really make that mistake again."

McIlroy has finished in the top three in three of the last five majors, having only played eight before this week.

He missed the cut at Augusta last year, which he describes as the low point of his season, but after regrouping he clinched his first PGA Tour title a few weeks later before going close at the Open and finishing third in the USPGA, where he was leading with four to play before slipping back.

"I'm still relatively inexperienced but I feel I'm a pretty quick learner," said McIlroy, who was only the second 20-year-old after Sergio Garcia to break into world's top 10. "There's no substitute for experience, especially in major championships."

The world number nine says he has been gearing up for the Masters since the beginning of the year, focusing solely on his game and his fitness in order to achieve his stated aim of winning a major in 2011.

He has enjoyed a low-key preparation, taking the last three weeks off to practice in West Palm Beach, Florida, watch re-runs of Jack Nicklaus's 1986 Masters win and Tiger Woods's breakthrough 1997 victory, and go to the gym.

He was last of the 99-strong field to check in for the tournament and has kept a low profile among the media this week.

And despite a few high-profile backers - close friend Graeme McDowell and six-time Masters champion Nicklaus both tipped him to do well - he was not heavily supported in the build-up. The Augusta Chronicle newspaper polled 62 members of the international media and only one, an Irishman, had him as their winner.

McIlroy himself insists he is not satisfied with two wins from 100 professional tournaments before this week and has stated his goal is to win 10 times in the next 100 events. After a summit with his caddie and agent Chubby Chandler at the end of last season, it was decided his on-course strategy could be improved.

Brown said of McIlroy in a preview piece: "He's got it, no question. He's got what it takes to win anything, any time, anywhere.

"But sometimes he is over-attacking and often on the par fives. At Augusta he will sink or swim on his strategy - knowing when to have a go at greens, when to go at flags, when not to. If he gets it right and holes a few putts, particularly from inside six feet, he can be a world beater."

McIlroy said after playing the four par fives in two under on Thursday: "I always feel I have the game to win, it's just the extra 2% here and there that makes the difference. Those are the sort of things I've been working on this year, course strategy, game management. I feel I stuck to my gameplan well."

Brown concurred afterwards: "He played almost the perfect round of golf. He is very suited to Augusta. He is long, hits a nice draw and was striking the ball gloriously. He played the percentages, hit 14 greens in regulation out of 18 and took 26 putts. If he continues to putt like that he will certainly be in contention on Sunday."

The gym work seems to be paying off, too. While Quiros topped the driving distance stats with an average drive of 309.5 yards, McIlroy was third with 297 yards.

An American fan waiting behind the 18th tee for McIlroy's group said to anyone who would listen: "I just love watching this kid hit the ball."

Brown added of McIlroy's general demeanour: "He seems to handle it like he always does. It seems to come so naturally to him and he gave a delightful news conference."

McIlroy, who has brought three friends with him this week instead of his parents, revealed they had been told off for playing American Football in the street outside their rented house on Wednesday night.

A reporter asked if they were running patterns (American Football moves). He got big laughs with his answer: "I don't even know what that means."

McIlroy also admitted he spent most of his round chatting to fellow 21-year-old playing partner Rickie Fowler and 23-year-old Jason Day about cars, boats and "anything but golf, really".

The young man has the world at his feet. But he needs to keep them firmly on the ground for three more rounds.


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Common Sense Journalist
Three writers brought to my attention the following exchanges that appear in two recent Jon Wertheim Mailbags.

There has been much debate on Twitter among tennis journalists whether or not bloggers should be credentialed for tournaments. I use the term blogger generally because there are some tennis journalists who do write blogs. Also there are some journalists who use information from blogs to write their stories. Where do you stand on this issue? (I don't know whether you should use my real name or not as I might get stoned by both journalists and bloggers.)
-Anonymous, New York/New Jersey

? I don't envy the credentialing gatekeepers on this issue. Tennis in particular -- as we'd expect from a scattered, global sport -- has a huge online presence and following. Excluding bloggers and even full-time tweeters would be a fool's errand. Yet if everyone with a blog were granted a credential, media rooms would need to be the size of the Palace of Versailles. A blanket policy won't work. You simply need to assess on a case-by-case basis. The saving grace: it's pretty easy to discern which bloggers are legit and have a critical mass of followers -- and which don't. Source

Continuing last week's discussion, where do you stand on bloggers? Are you, too, in the "fans with typewriters" camp?
- John P., New York

Since Key Biscayne, I've gotten bits and pieces about a "Twitter battle" and an "alias feud" and a lot of other weird allegations of subterfuge that I don't entirely understand. I'm not sure I ever got the blogger-journalist dichotomy. There are some bloggers who are knowledgeable and diligent and creative and belong in a press room. There are some bloggers who probably don't warrant credentials. As far as I'm concerned, bloggers are a welcome addition to the media caravan. As the mainstream media dwindles, as budgets are cut, as tennis loses currency in the U.S. and goes ever more global, bloggers serve an increasingly important role. If I'm following from afar, give me a passionate tennis lover who might write clunkily or express her fandom too blatantly over the hockey writer for the local newspaper who's covering the tennis against his will. Source

Jon's a cool cat with a fair and open mind. He's also right.

And with that, we'll put this baby to bed.


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Magic Soap
I'm no good at remembering jokes.  I enjoy hearing them - and have an appreciation for humor; I just don't retain the elements of the story in my brain. . . With one notable exception.

Many years ago I was at a small comedy club and an unknown comic took the mike.  He told this joke -
"I was talking to my roommate the other day, about soap.  I told him that soap must be magical.  He said 'Soap isn't magic!  It's just soap!'
I said, Oh yeah? Well think about the soap in the shower. And think about the last thing I wash. . . and the first thing YOU wash. . . It must be magic!"
I've never forgotten that joke.  I think about it, with a chuckle, at least 30% of the times I reach for the soap in my shower.  I don't know why this has 'stuck' for so long, just that it has.  If only all the important lessons in life stuck with the vividness and the humor of that one. . .

Which is why I relate this story.  What I write, on this silly blog, is written with the hope that some of it will resonate and 'stick' with you.  It's my hope that the wheat will show through the chaff and, when you find yourself in need of a good idea in a bad situation, something you've read here will help.

In the meanwhile, Fly Safe -

The feed from


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Ontiveros Shocks the World, With Finesse


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Woods has to back up big talk on course

Tiger Woods was all smiles as he signed for his closing 66 in the WGC Championship at Doral. It gave the former world number one his first top-10 finish of the year and had him nodding enthusiastically when asked whether he liked his chances for the Masters.

His fine round of golf included seven birdies, five of which were converted from inside six feet of the hole. So was this the round that told us that the 35-year-old American is at last back to his best and ready to challenge for the first major of the year?

Discount a 14-time major champion at your peril but it is just as likely that this six-under-par round will prove another false dawn.

Woods has had several impressive finishes recently. There was a 67 at the Barclays in August and a 68 in Boston the following week. Then there was a 68 in Shanghai at the final WGC event of 2010, followed seven days later by a 65 in the Australian Masters.

And there were plenty of positive quotes coming from his mouth.

"Very close," "If I just putt well I'm right there," "I'm pleased with the progress," were some of his encouraging assessments of his revamped game.

Yet the debate about the state of his game and the merits of the swing changes he is making under the tutelage of Sean Foley still rages.

Tiger Woods and Sean FoleyWill Foley (right) steer Woods back to his best. Photo: Getty

Lee Trevino, winner of six majors, suggests Woods should ditch his teacher because it is clear he remains a very long way from being at his consistent best.

And it is also worth noting that the encouraging final rounds I highlighted earlier were compiled while Woods had no chance of winning the tournament. This was also the case with the 66 at Doral that has had so many observers purring with admiration.

Woods remains upbeat. "Overall, it feels really good," he said. "My trajectory is becoming better. My shapes of my shots are getting tighter. The driver is still not quite there. I'm not quite shaping the golf ball like I want to yet. But I'm hitting it flush again, which is good, so that's just a matter of time before that comes around."

And does he like his Masters chances? "Oh yeah," he said.

Woods realises he needs to talk up his game as much as he can in order to maintain the aura he built up with his brilliance on the golf course. That is because he knows - and he always has - that his aura and reputation can help him win tournaments.

As Johnny Miller put it so superbly before Woods destroyed a five-shot deficit to eclipse Sean O'Hair at the 2009 Bay Hill Championship: "He is the sun and you are the butter when you are with Woods in the final pairing."

That 2009 victory for Woods came at a time when his final rounds counted for something, when his putting stroke was the envy of the rest and the notion that he might switch putters mid-tournament was unthinkable.

To gauge how Woods is faring currently, it is worth a look at his PGA Tour statistics. They tell us he averages 1.78 putts per green this year - and there are 99 players performing better in that regard at the moment.

Of course, you can turn stats to win any argument.

It is worth noting that Woods has played only two US Tour strokeplay events this year. His Greens In Regulation figures are much improved, too, which, in turn, means he will be putting from longer distances and thus less likely to single putt.

Even so, Woods lies 102nd for success with putts inside five feet - damning evidence of his current inconsistency with the short stick.

As for the long ones, he still cannot break into the top 190 for driving (distance and accuracy combined) - as was the case for the whole of the 2010 season.

As we know, Woods is rebuilding his swing and tinkering with his short game to make himself a better player. And he believes Foley can help him achieve his goal.

Foley is trading blows in the media with Hank Haney, a former tutor of Woods, over the path the player has taken. Haney, who split with Woods soon after the player had returned to action at last year's Masters following the player's well-documented personal problems, points out that his former charge won 45% of the events he played and claimed a top-10 finish 85% of the time during the last three years he was his coach.

There is no doubt that Woods is still piecing his life back together on and off the golf course, while a new generation of players have caught up and, for the moment at least, overtaken the man who once so utterly dominated the game.

Since long-time rival Phil Mickelson won last year's Masters, all the majors and World Golf Championships events have been won by players younger than Woods, who celebrated his 35th birthday in December. Nick Watney, who was victorious at Doral, is 29, which is exactly the average age of the winners of these elite tournaments.

Martin KaymerKaymer succeeded Lee Westwood as world number one. Photo: Getty

At 33, Luke Donald is the oldest of the winners, while, perhaps most ominously for Woods, the youngest is US PGA champion Martin Kaymer, who is 26 and has already risen to the top of the world rankings.

The German's game and unflappable temperament suggest he will be hard to shift from top spot. If Woods - now number five in the world - is to reassume his position at the head of the game, he has little time to waste.

He has already lost more ranking points from 2009/10 than any other player and, so far this year, has gained fewer than anyone else in the top 10.

Of course, the season is still young and the first major is yet to take place. Were Woods to claim a fifth green jacket at the Masters - his last win at Augusta came in 2005 - then it would change everything.

But he needs to string four good rounds together and come up with a low one when in contention. It is a very long time since he has achieved that.

Perhaps he will at Bay Hill next week. He has won there six times before, including on his last two appearances in 2008 and 2009. His demeanour as he departed Miami suggests he believes it may be possible but the hard facts indicate a renaissance is unlikely.


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2012 legacy could be left 'meaningless'

There's an unwritten rule that host countries of the Olympics don't criticise each other.

So it's significant that Canadian Olympic chiefs (who staged this year's Vancouver Winter Games) have taken a swipe at Britain over the Government's planned cuts to school sports funding.

Britain has to accept this, of course, because London made all sorts of ambitious promises to the International Olympic Committee about inspiring children to take up sport during the 2012 bid.

There is a growing belief that the cuts to the School Sports Partnerships (SSPs) will not help that goal at all. Twitter and Facebook are full of a campaign against the changes and I know secondary schools near to where I live have already started petitions against the cuts.

But to have a foreign national Olympic committee stepping into the row is an unusual development.

The letter from Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive Jean Dupre to Education Secretary Michael Gove came about because Canada plans to use the specialist Langdon Park sports school in Tower Hamlets in east London for training during the 2012 Games.

I've been to see the school's headmaster Chris Dunne and he was part of the report we did for the Politics Show which you can see on my blog last week.

He told me about the Canadian opposition to Gove's plans which resulted in the letter. He said the Canadians had been impressed with the system.

"When they last visited in the October half term I told them of the decision to abandon the SSPs," he said. "They (including their Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury, an Olympic Gold Medallist) were visibly stunned, and asked me whether there was anything they could do to help.

"It's a pretty hefty indictment of the Government's actions by a very well-respected international body. "

As I said last week, I can't see this problem going away. That's because the Government is making changes, not only to save money but also because it believes there isn't enough competitive sport in schools. The people who run the SSPs vehemently disagree with this. Somebody must be wrong.

That's why I see a u-turn ahead. The problem the Government has is that every time it and London 2012 start talking about the sporting legacy of the Games, criticis will simply point to the SSP cuts and dismiss any initiative as meaningless.

Without an effective sport's system in schools, 2012's talk means nothing, they will say.

And it's interesting that schools and former sports stars have been so quick to get the petitions going - and also that the subject has landed at Prime Minister's Questions so fast.

This story isn't going away in a hurry.


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Ramsey has chance to shine against Wilshere

So how do Wales cope against England without the injured Gareth Bale? The answer for former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage is a simple one.

"If I was Wales manager Gary Speed I would ring up Ryan Giggs and get him to play for one game only," he says. "It would give everybody a lift because the whole nation is feeling down at the minute."

It sounds like a sign of desperation but sums up the mood of losing arguably the Premier League's most exciting talent only days before the Euro 2012 qualifier in Cardiff.

The problem will certainly test Speed in his first qualifying game since taking charge last December.

Where once he might have been thinking of unleashing the pace of Bale and Craig Bellamy down either wing, he now has to come up with a different plan.

Savage says there is no point in holding back, though, given that Speed's side are bottom of Euro 2012 Group G having lost their first three games.

"They've got nothing to lose. They are not going to qualify and it's a game against your nearest rivals so you may as well attack England and go for it," he says.

"Everybody expects you to lose and no one gives you a chance other than the people inside the dressing room so you may as well put on a spectacle.

"Welsh people will not be satisfied with a defensive performance, they want to see Bellamy and they would have loved to have seen Bale, but they have other players like Aaron Ramsey's flair in midfield so I think they want to see a performance."

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In Bale's absence much could fall on young Ramsey's shoulders after he was named as the new Wales captain by Speed on Thursday.

The 20-year-old has not played for his country since the 3-0 victory over Scotland in November 2009 and has had to recover from a bad leg-break suffered while playing for Arsenal against Stoke just over a year ago.

Savage believes the appointment is a good one as Ramsey will be a regular fixture for the Wales team in future years.

And he also thinks there is a player on Saturday who may help focus his mind.

During the past year, while Ramsey has spent periods of his recovery on loan at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff, he has had to watch the emergence of Arsenal team-mate Jack Wilshere.

A year younger than Ramsey, the England midfielder has enhanced his growing reputation in Champions League ties against Barcelona and has had England boss Fabio Capello raving about his potential.

"Before Ramsey was injured he was probably ahead of Wilshere in the Arsenal team," Savage adds. "But since his injury Wilshere has shown that he is a tremendous talent, probably one of the best talents England has seen for a long, long time.

"It will be a good battle between the two because Ramsey will feel Wilshere has taken over his slot at their club and he will be looking to prove a bit of a point."

For such a hotly contested game on Saturday, there may be a temptation for Capello to side with experience in England's midfield.

But former England captain and Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer thinks that England need to go on the attack and that means playing 19-year-old Wilshere from the start.

"Wilshere will be able to handle the atmosphere, no problem," says Shearer. "He's played in the Nou Camp and The Emirates against Barcelona and arguably he was Arsenal's best player on both occasions.

"Frank Lampard is very good player and his scoring record at Chelsea and for England has shown that. It's hard to know who Capello will pick in central midfield but it might be a good combination with those pair."

Last month during England's 2-1 victory over Denmark, Capello paired Wilshere and Frank Lampard in the first half, with Barry alongside Scott Parker in the second and it offered a marked contrast.

While Capello was at pains to stress before the game that Wilshere was picked as a defensive midfielder with Lampard given licence to roam further forward, the Arsenal teenager actually played in a role similar to the one he plays at his club.

 Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard offered a more attacking option against Denmark


Touches from the first half show that Wilshere did a lot of his work in the opposition half and played quite narrowly, whereas Lampard, who was prepared to come deep and pick up the ball, provided more width.

During the second half of the friendly international in February, Barry and Parker offered a more solid approach with neither making too many inroads into the final third of the field.

But did that allow England's forwards, which included the winning goalscorer Ashley Young, the freedom to prosper?

Gareth Barry and Scott Parker gave England a more solid midfield against Denmark


Bale's injury might alter Capello's midfield thinking and he has also a dilemma further forward.

With Wayne Rooney recently restored to a more withdrawn role at Manchester United playing behind striker Javier Hernandez, Capello will choose a partner from Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Andy Carroll and Pete Crouch.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Carroll started with Rooney up front as it has the potential to be a very good partnership," Shearer adds. "Both can work off each other as Andy will obviously win his fair share of balls in the air and Wayne will pick them up and work in and around him because he is world class.

"I have seen signs of Rooney returning to his former self and that has largely been shown by his return to goalscoring form. I'm not sure if he is at his very best yet but he looks to have a spring in his step again."

That should prove enough for England to win, Shearer says.

But assuming that Giggs stays as a spectator, Ramsey has a chance to show a huge audience that Wales' future hopes do not rest solely with Bale.

Robbie Savage will will be appearing Football Focus, live from Cardiff on BBC One at 1215 on Saturday. He will also present 606 on BBC Radio 5 live after the game.

You can also discuss more tactical issues and suggest future ideas on Twitter


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What Ever Happened To...?
Former Queensland pocket rocket Amber Fulljames has sent AGB a nice nugget of correspondence to update everybody on her transition to performing with Cirque.

I began my journey to Montreal on July 10 for general formation, or what you would normally call "training or preparation" (but you know them French Canadians)! The training involved acting, dancing, singing, drumming and of course, the act I was training - teeter board - and fast track for 'Mystere'. Formation was such an experience, it threw me into situations I had never imagined, like pretending to be a rubix cube, doing a play in warp speed, pretending to be an elastic and making noises to my movement... and much more interesting stuff.

I left my family at home but gained a new one almost immediately, making friends from atleast 15 different countries. Formation was meant to finish in early November, however I was pulled out in late September and flown to Las Vegas to become an artist in Mystere. Lucky for me a spot opened up and they chose me to fill it. Mystere is about the mystery of life, and so it makes complete sense that my characters name is 'Spermatine'... indeed, I am a sperm! I did that for about the first 2 weeks, I thought it was hilarious but fantastic at the same time. I have also learned Chinese poles and taiko drums.

Since being here I have made another family and become especially close with the girls in my dressing room. Everyone is much older then me so I am the 'baby' of the Mystere family. The boys in the dressing room next to us must think we are crazy because not a day goes by when I don't walk out of that room laughing my head off because of something someone did or said, or more commonly (as I have learned) something I did or said.

I perform 2 shows a night and am loving the performance side of things! The teeter board team is mainly Russians, so for newbies it can be hard to integrate... but obviously not for Aussies. I joke around with them a lot and they are a great bunch!

I got to meet Tabitha and Napoleon from "So You Think You Can Dance". I also got free tickets to the Whoopi [Goldberg] show and Alicia Keys made a visit to the Montreal studios. I'm loving every second and I hope to make a visit home soon!

Thanks for the update, Amber! We're so glad to hear you're enjoying yourself on and off the stage - rock on!


Don't forget to keep your votes for the Australian Gymnastics Blog Awards coming in. The 'routine of the year' post is almost done!


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One day on training camp

Much like the rule that the president and the vice-president of the United States aren't allowed to travel together, the British Olympic Association should perhaps be concerned that representatives from its three top performing sports - rowing, track cycling, and sailing - were all visiting the island of Majorca last month.

Our cycling training camp in Majorca could be summed up in two words: "seriously" and "hard".

We were out there for two weeks training on bikes which, as well as giving us a break from the boats, also gives us a different kind of benefit. Rowing is an all-body exercise so you are limited to how long you can train for by how your back and core muscles hold up; cycling only uses your legs so you can go for much longer.

Our standard endurance rowing session is two hours maximum, whereas on the bicycles we can put in three, four or five hours at a time.

To give you an insight into a day in the life of a 2012 aspirant, here's a look at the highs and the lows of just one day of the 500-odd to go before the Olympic flame is lit in Stratford on 27 July 2012.

GB rowers tackle a mountain decent in Majorca

0700: Alarm goes off. Stretch, and move each limb in turn, exploring the extent of pain and aching in every muscle. Wait for room-mate to say the inevitable "how can it be morning already", "everything aches" or "I can't move" before reaching for watch and taking waking heart rate. Assess the level of previous day's damage to body and physiology while counting the beats. Numbers are irrelevant: as long as it's still beating, you're good to train.

Attempt to stand. Legs might not quite straighten after previous day's exertions so hobble around your room pulling on an all-in-one and a t-shirt before providing a morning urine sample, trotting out into the corridor and joining the march of the living dead of fellow rowers along to where the physiologist is waiting to test hydration, take a blood sample from the ear and, most importantly, start the morning banter.

Annabel leads the pack, keeping an eye over her shoulder for Jess Eddie

0730: Food time. Load up plate with bowls of cereal and stacks of bread and jam to make sandwiches for second breakfast and afternoon tea - two fairly spurious meals invented purely for people who want to eat more, such as your average international rower. You're generally pretty cheerful and chatty first thing and you discuss the morning's training ahead. Don't look forward to what the afternoon has in store: it's too far away. One step at a time.

0830: Fill water bottles with electrolyte drink, stuff pockets full of sweets, bananas and carbo gels and pedal out of the hotel on yet another shift on the Majorcan roads. Expect to put away 1,000 calories in the course of a three-hour ride, and you'll be surprised how good a warm, tropical flavoured carbo gel can taste at the bottom of a mountain after two hours in the saddle.

The stiffness and soreness in the legs soon fade away as you get into the rhythm of the ride, and you begin to enjoy the familiar burn in the quads as the miles roll on. Get used to the sight of Sophie Hosking's back tyre skipping up the hills away from you and Jess Eddie streaking past on the descents.

Experience a few "I love my job" moments with the views from the tops of the hills; and possibly a few "I hate my job" moments getting up there.

After three or four hours on the bike, the day isn't done yet

1300: Eat bodyweight in food, and review the morning's antics, with special praise for anyone who managed any comedy crashes. Boast about how you pushed yourself so hard that your head, like, pretty much ACTUALLY fell off, yeah; while everyone else listens in amazement. The first rule of international rowing: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

1400: Pile into the gym for a weights session. You may have begun your international rowing career thinking you would never succumb to the temptation of cheesy music to train to; but in for a penny, in for a pound, you think to yourself as you bop along with everyone else to the Eighties disco mix coming out of the speakers. Who'd have thought that Kylie Minogue could make the dumbbells feel so light? The legs are tired but the spirits are high!

1700: It's time for a date with the love trolley, or the "ergometer" as most people call it.

This grey machine is both best friend and worst enemy: over 75 minutes, experience feelings of pain (surely my legs shouldn't hurt this much after only 10 strokes), rejection (Why won't it give me the scores I want? What have I ever done to it?), excitement (Yes! Check out these scores! I am the Queen of Rowing!!!), inspiration (these splits will terrify my competitors; roll on the World Championships), boredom (I've been here forever; I can't believe I'm only halfway through), jubilation (last 1000m! Hurrah! Only a few more minutes, and I'm outta here!), and convoluted mathematical calculations (2000m left, at this split that's 7 minutes 54.3 seconds, or 138 strokes, or about 6 and a half 300m blocks, or...), but eventually it's all over and it's time for a quick shower before a return to the canteen for another mountain of calories.

The afternoon brings a session in the gym, before an evening in front of the telly

1930: After dinner, you may head to the welcoming hands of the physios who will attempt to breathe life into weary legs and straighten out twisted backs, in preparation for battle to re-commence in the morning.

Gather with the rest of the squad in someone's room for a quick episode of 24 or Grey's Anatomy before bed beckons. As this is the only taste of the outside world that you see, after a while you begin to believe that it's real, and everyone is as beautiful as they are in Grey's, or the world's constantly on the edge of collapse as it is in 24; so it's always a minor relief to get back to Heathrow after a trip away and realise that good old Blighty is reassuringly uneventful, grey and grubby.

So that's a day in the life - or should it be a life in a day? - of anyone courageous and deranged enough to set aside normal life in order to try to go to the Olympics. Every day brings us massive peaks and troughs but we love it for the good times and the bad alike, and this is the life that we've chosen.


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