The Blog

A Squash Player's Olympic Diary: Days 1-4

My article was published in the Huffington Post today, and I am looking forward to hearing the thoughts of the IOC; I'm sure they will take time out of their Olympic schmoozathon to read my blog.

Saturday 28 July

I decided to miss the Opening Ceremony last night, if only for the fact that I (we)have been forced to practically visualise the whole thing a thousand times by various presenters and television 'personalities' who have been predicting this and that for what seems like years. Instead I went out to eat with a few squash playing friends, where we licked our wounds over squash's exclusion from the Games. We felt like we were partaking in our own private boycott, as if to make some statement, but of course no-one listened or cared. Really we were just happy to turn up at a good Leeds restaurant on a Friday night without having to book a table.

Watched some badminton this morning to ease myself in to Olympic action before my training session. Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier lost in the doubles, but things didn't look good from early on when, after winning the first point they gave a laughably premature fist-pump.

My friends at BBC Radio Leeds decided to take pity on me this afternoon for the fact that I am not in London, where they interviewed me and played some of my favourite songs. Presenter Nick Hatton looked interested as I rambled on about squash bless him, but like me, was possibly more intrigued to see how Cavendish was faring in the road race. As our interview continued it was clear the news was not what the Englishman had hoped.

Thank god the actual sport has finally begun. Less hype, more top class action.

I'm still entitled to be bitter about not being at the Olympics, so in the evening I trooped off with my pal Charlie to watch Morrissey in Manchester. His first between-song quip was aptly aimed at the Olympics: 'So I didn't get an invite to the Opening Ceremony last night. They deemed my smile too sincere.' I can always depend on Morrissey to share the pain.

Sunday 29 July

Dreamt that Jacques Rogge had heard about the Morrissey comment (in the dream Morrissey had also championed the inclusion of squash at the gig - aren't dreams good!) and that he had called an emergency IOC meeting. Squash was called in to London at the last minute. The dream then had me driving down a street in Leeds, where hoardings of Ennis, Daley and Adlington were dispensed with, and replaced by adverts of myself and Jenny Duncalf, Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro, the top four British players.

I woke up.... Rain.

Back to real life and I spent the morning off watching the GB men's volleyball team play against Bulgaria. I've seen quite a lot of them at the EIS in Sheffield over the years and they played well today in an entertaining match, but i'm not sure I can forgive them for temporarily stealing my strength and conditioning coach, Mark Campbell, who is part of their support team in London. How selfish. Not only do they get to include a sub-discipline of their sport that is played on the BEACH, but they also take the top staff with them.... Hats off to the sport of Beach Volleyball for tapping in to the glamour aspect though. Maybe we could get the World Squash Federation to follow their lead: squash courts in the sand? scantily clad competitors? We could even manufacture advertising campaigns exposing luscious derrières of the sport's best exponents. Certainly there is no athlete on earth (blame it on the constant lunges) who can demonstrate such trouser-busting gluteal definition in the way a squash player does.

Saw Leeds girl Lizzie Armitshead win a silver, the first medal for the British team. Very well done, immense effort.

I sat reading the papers for a while and then lapsed in to a harrowing period of depression, in which I contemplated a hard week of training ahead. This kind of depression is a normal response to reading the papers nowadays, but it was worse than ever this time. The blanket Olympic coverage on the box in the background wasn't helping, as, frequently panning on to the Olympic stadium and the athlete's village I saw where I could have been. Instead of Wembley Arena and the Olympic Park this week, it's Pontefract and Eastlands.

I calmed down after baking cookies, but then Vanessa (Atkinson, my girlfriend) and I watched Fencing. After exactly 27 minutes neither of us could work out what was happening, and not helped by the commentary team's analytical chatter, we gave up. Vanessa, clearly thinking Fencing was not up to scratch as a sport, then went off in to her own rage about the Olympics, and so I spent the rest of the evening calming her down.

Rebecca Adlington and Liam Tancock's spirited efforts in the pool helped to temper her rage. The atmosphere in the Aquatics Centre looked electric. I'm almost looking forward to going down there on Friday, even though the down side of this is to spend two hours in the thick of a London rush hour.

Monday 30 July

The BBC must be doing well off the licence fee, because I am losing count of how many smiling happy presenters there are. Even BBC Breakfast has temporarily moved down to the Olympic Park, renaming itself Olympic Breakfast. Apart from the odd mention of Syria, the Olympics is THE news at present.

Interesting how these presenters seem to be all of a sudden intrigued by sports that never usually get on the television. What about the rest of the time? Are these people secretly more interested in archery whilst their day job necessitates weekly commentary on the big boy sports?

I heard Alan Green, the boisterously over-opinionated 5 live football presenter who commentates as if he knows everything, gushing how brilliant he thought the rowing was, as if it is an oddity that a sport other than football could possibly be exciting. Well yes Alan many sports can be very thrilling if you would only give them a chance. He said with great surprise something along the lines of: 'It is completely different to football'. And thank god for that Alan. The differences between rowing and football could not be more pronounced, and I need not go in to them.

The British gymnasts did brilliantly today. I actually thought that I had decent strength, balance and stability as a squash player, until I started watching the gymnastics. More depression ensued as they just made me feel like I should go to the gym. Christ the biceps on them.

Tuesday 31 July

Read on the website that GB badminton players are out of the games. It's even more depressing to see Britain's racket sports doing so miserably. My article was published in the Huffington Post today, and I am looking forward to hearing the thoughts of the IOC; I'm sure they will take time out of their Olympic schmoozathon to read my blog.

Nicol David, the women's world number one from Malaysia has a slightly different way than me of purging her Olympic blues: she has been tweeting photos of herself in different Olympic guises over the last few days. Today she was posing as an archery player. A novel and fun way of keeping her 50 million followers updated over the period.

I also can't help noticing Alan Thatcher's tweets: the World Squash Day chief seems to be hell bent on getting 'Back the Bid' all over twitter in any way he possibly can. Was it today I saw him bombarding all the VVIPs - from Lord Coe to Sophie Raworth to Clare Balding- with messages of encouragement to support squash's bid for the games?

Speaking of twitter, it's on days like this as a relative twitter novice that I feel like saying to hell with it. Some imbecile decided to tweet to Tom Daley after his disappointing result in the diving synchro today to tell him that he had let his father down. There is of course little need in me throwing much comment in here about that, except this: there are times when twitter can be a positive mode of communication, but if it breeds this sort of poison then there have to be doubts.