An Olympic Encounter

As I boarded a Birmingham bound train in London this afternoon, joining me and my boss Paul on the Virgin Pendolino was a genuine real life Olympian, resplendent in her Team GB tracksuit and lugging three quite sizeable holdalls.

The sight of the homecoming hero led Paul and I to daydream for a moment as to how it must feel to perform on the biggest stage, which naturally spawned speculation as to the sporting discipline which could have propelled us to stardom. It was at this point that I loudly asserted one of the chief observations I’ve made during this epic summer of sport.

You see, as something of a frustrated sportsman myself, I’ve been examining the options which could, potentially, lead to me representing either Britain or Ireland as a 32-year-old in 2016 – and the specific role I highlighted as the easiest in the entire Olympic Games was that of the Handball goalkeeper.

The theory is sort of sound, in my humble, and most likely incorrect, opinion. With teams regularly chalking up over twenty goals per game, it seems somewhat apparent that the goalkeepers can hardly be blamed for poor team performances. While in sports like Football, where a goalkeeping error can be fatal due to the comparative rarity of goals, in Handball, it would seem, you might just be able to get away with being… well… a bit crap.

You already know where this is going, don’t you?

As we exited the train, I eyed up the young athlete once again and managed to clock the name on the accreditation pass that still hung proudly from her neck, resolving to Google our esteemed fellow passenger to discover exactly what she’d been up to in the last couple of weeks.

The name: Laura Innes.

The position: Team GB Women’s Handball Goalkeeper.

You feckin’ IDIOT, Parker.

So, Laura, on the off-chance you’re reading this, and if you heard my ill-informed outburst on the train, I will offer you this crumb of comfort:

While you were representing your country at the biggest show on earth, I sat here, wrote about it, and ate crisps. I think it’s clear who’s the winner here.

You know it is. It really is…


The Birmingham Bullet

As my Facebook and Twitter followers may have gathered, I’ve been hard at work on behalf of Speedo in the last couple of weeks, marveling at the efforts of supreme athletes such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin and their contribution to an incredible summer of sport.

Today, for entirely unrelated reasons, I decided to go swimming myself. Never, ever let it be said that I’m easily led.

In preparing to hit the water, I’d fooled myself into thinking that a week or so of careful study of elite swimmers’ technique might improve my own performance. Armed with this sure knowledge, I jumped in, and immediately attempted a proper, head-in-water, Freestyle stroke which, in my defence, I did quite well for about ten metres before happening upon the realisation that I wasn’t sure how to breathe whilst doing it.

As I tried to figure it out, I was casting envious glances at the person swimming next to me. Man, he looked the part. Cap, goggles, aquashorts, head in the water, perfect technique, breathing on the third stroke. How dare he show me up in this way? I was at the Olympics last week, where was he?!

So I decided. I was going to race him. That would show him.

And so I finished my length. I waited for him. And then, with an imaginary starter’s gun in my head, off we went.

It was an epic battle. He with his almost effortless front crawl versus me, having reverted to my usual, peculiar, head-above-water Breaststroke, albeit a particularly lungbusting version of it.

Somehow, against all the odds, I was head-to-head with my rival as we approached the wall that marked the end of the 25-metre length and, according to my rules, our race. “You’re Michael Phelps, you’re Michael Phelps”, I told myself.

It was tight, and for a moment I was worried that he might pip me at the post. But, with one last desperate lunge at the wall, I sealed my victory and celebrated wildly as my opponent sadly accepted his abject failure.

OK, that’s not actually what happened. I touched the wall first, that bit is true. But I was simply too tired to celebrate, which is good, because I suppose, what with the other lad not actually knowing he was in a race, it might have looked a little weird.

Let’s also ignore the fact that he then went on to swim at least three lengths in the time it took me to recover from the exertions of our momentous battle.

I won, that was all that mattered. And as I swam away, the theme to ‘Chariots of Fire’ reverberated in my head.