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Hunts coaches and gymnasts in Beijing
By Team GB gymnastics coach, Paul Hall
Coach Paul Hall is soaking up the atmosphere at the Olympic Games in Beijing with Huntingdon's best and brightest hopes for shiny medal success.
Once again, a powerful team from Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club is representing Team GB at a major event. And this time it's the biggest of all time - the Olympic Games in China.
Team GB's delegation from the club are: Marissa King, Kayleigh Cooke, Louis Smith, Daniel Keatings, Paul Hall and Monica Boru (coaches).
Latest update: Thursday 21st August - crispy scorpions, anyone?
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
Last night I ate a scorpion. I didn't fancy the termite mush and they'd run out of frog jelly so had little choice really. Dan tried one too but stopped short of the tail. Best way is down in one and think about crispy bacon - they're really not too bad and the entrepreneur in me is considering a little line in bar snacks back home.
Had a great evening last night at the restaurant with families, friends, and colleagues from gymnastics all celebrating the fantastic achievements over the last week. The gymnasts are all looking forward to a few days of rest and sightseeing before the Closing Ceremony on Sunday.† The mood in the Team GB Camp is amazing with our most successful games so far inspiring everybody to work to the max. I hope to see some athletics tonight and maybe some boxing tomorrow.
Louis, Dan, Marissa and Kayleigh all say hi and thanks for the hundreds of messages of support and congratulations that have been flooding in. They are all looking forward to coming home and meeting up.
See you soon!
Wednesday 20th August - a well-deserved rest and a bit of sight-seeing...
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
It's a wonderful feeling to be the other side of a good result and especially good to finish competing and still have a few days to relax, enjoy the Games and see some of the delights of China.†
Now that's a Great Wall, Paul Hall!
The guys are celebrating, chilling, and enjoying the unique atmosphere and the jubilation of a successful Team GB Camp, and the girls are cutting hair, painting nails, shopping and soaking up the sun.†
Today I had my first excursion, visiting The Great Wall. You can read about it, watch it on TV but, like any other Wonder of the World, nothing prepares you for the sight of this incredible structure marching across the top of mountains for as far as the eye can see. We took a cable car up, had plenty of photos on the top, and then a hair-raising toboggan ride down at breakneck speed.†
I rather enjoyed telling Monica, our nervous choreographer, that 'brake' was pushing the lever forward and 'speed up' was pull it back. She discovered my ploy about half a kilometre down having nearly broken the sound barrier on a hairpin bend - I'll pay for a new hairdo, I promise.
Had a Chinese meal today and a difficult choice from the traditional menu: spicy edible fungus, deep fried termite mush, or bee chrysalis. I opted for the steak.†
It was great to see Beth (Tweddle) perform the most difficult bars routine of the competition, but a little disappointing to see her in fourth by less than a tenth. It was an amazing performance, full of originality, and worthy of a place on the podium. We can be very proud of all our gymnasts' performances in Beijing, and Beth has been an inspiration to all.
Finally got into the cube and watched some diving, and tomorrow we hope to catch some athletics after a bit of haggling down at the silk market. Louis and Dan slept in this morning and are relishing their first good rest from gymnastics this year. Enjoy it while it lasts!
See you soon, Paul'
Monday 18th August, Bronze in Beijing!
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
It's 4am and I just got in from the competition. Two hours of doping control and five hours of press. Last night Louis fulfilled a dream that saw a British gymnast on the podium in an apparatus final for the first time in 100 years.
Louis with his medal in Beijing
The pressure was enormous, many gymnasts tasting the medal a little too early and falling in their needed hour. I always said that he just needed to go through his routine and that was indeed the case. We can forgive his small form breaks in that cauldron of an arena that saw so many favourites unseated from the apparatus.†
It was a tough time for Dan yesterday - so near to a final and very frustrating to watch from the stands knowing that you have a medal-winning performance inside you. He is a great gymnast and will blossom in 2012, I'm sure.
Louis is tired but most of all relieved that it's all over and he stayed on. I asked him what he was thinking of immediately before his qualifications routine and his answer kind of sums him up: 'My nan got up at 4am to watch me perform - I couldn't let her down'.†
His phone crashed after the event under the weight of texts from so many of his friends, their support has definitely helped him keep going. He and Dan can now relax and enjoy the second week without the pressure of having to perform.†
On Saturday I came into the warm-up gym ready to begin the session and could see no sign of Dan and Louis. I looked amongst the gymnasts already stretching out but they were missing and I feared the worst.†
As I leant against the raised staging a hand shot out through the curtain from underneath the podium and grabbed my leg, sending me leaping a few feet in the air, much to the entire gyms' amusement. The dynamic duo were under the floor area laughing their socks off...
Well done guys, you've done your Club and Country proud - enjoy the moment!'
Send our guys your good wishes:
Email your messages of support or use the form at the foot of this page to send your messages to Paul Hall and Team GB.
Thursday 14th August, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
It's Thursday afternoon and Dan has just competed in his first Olympic Individual All Around Final.† He improved on both his score and his ranking from the qualifications, finishing 20th overall with a score of 89.000.†††
For Dan it was a marvelous achievement to come to these Games still as a junior and to compete against the 24 best Olympians, despite being the youngest gymnast in the field.†
Dan enjoys the weather
A 15.7 on pommels showed just how good he is on this piece and it was great to see him in third overall after the first rotation.† A few wobbles but a solid performance and looking very comfortable at the highest level of his sport.†
The event was won by Yang Wei of China with Uchimura of Japan in Silver and Caranobe of France taking a surprise third place.†
We got caught in the mother of all thunderstorms on the way back but fortunately, Dan made good use of his black bin liner (see photo).†
Louis is training this afternoon and, in just three days, he will fight for a medal in the Pommel† Final.†
Wednesday 13th August, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
'Better to be a tiger for one day, than a sheep for a lifetime'† So goes the Chinese proverb and I've really enjoyed seeing so many heroic performances over the past few days.†
From Nicole Cooke sprinting to gold in a thunderstorm after three hours of punishing cycling, to Emms and Robertson coming from behind to beat the Chinese at Badminton.† Team GB are doing ok and our medal tally so far looks a whole lot better than the Eurovision results from a few months ago.†
There's great support in the village for all our athletes and we can visit HQ daily to snap up tickets to other events.† Me and the guys will try to see some athletics next week and I hope to catch the diving once our gym duties are over.
This morning we watched the Chinese women beat USA in a thrilling competition that saw the roof nearly lift off the stadium with 15000 spectators screaming their support.
One of the best competitions I have ever witnessed - nip and tuck between the two great nations all the way until Sacramone of USA succumbed to the intense pressure and made some errors that saw the dreams of victory disappear behind a near perfect Chinese Team.† Marissa and Kayleigh watched from the stands and were inspired by some marvelous work in an incredible, emotional atmosphere.
Louis and Dan have been training for the past three days and are busy preparing for their finest hours.†Dan has been coping with the mornings and is really looking forward to his Olympic All Around Final debut.†
Still a junior, he will enjoy the pleasure of competing alongside the greatest names in our sport, all fighting for the Olympic Title.† Louis forgot his accreditation today and missed the first bus but it gave me a great excuse to nip back to the food hall for two more pieces of pizza so I didn't mind too much.†
Today we practiced sitting for 15 minutes doing nothing and then performing a pommels routine - similar conditions to the big event on Sunday.† Be sure to watch the Beeb at lunchtime!
The guys say hi to all their friends and family at home and can't wait to get back and catch up once the job is done.†Marissa misses Cambridge but not the drive up the A14 to Huntingdon six times a week.†
Kayleigh says "hi" to everyone at the Club and be sure to be there last week of August to say "goodbye", as she leaves for Australia on the 2nd September.
Thanks for all your messages - great support!
See you soon,
Sunday 10th August, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing!'
I just had the most incredible experience.† There I was sitting in my apartment with Nigel the trampoline coach celebrating the fact that Beth Tweddle had just qualified for the bars final, when my ears picked up the familiar sound of a bottle being placed carefully on the ground outside the room.†
I opened the door and there, with the biggest grin ever witnessed, was Nicole Cooke with an OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL dangling from her neck.† How cool is that?† Britain's first medal of the Games and it's in the apartment next door to ours.†
Nicole cycled 78 miles in the pouring rain and sprinted like her life depended on it.† She was ecstatic to say the least and it was magical to share her elation and get up close to that bit of metal for which we all crave.
The girls performed well today but finished in ninth place, painfully close to a team final, but not quite enough.† Marissa performed four clean routines to score over 56 all around - she can be very proud.† Becky Downie is in the all around final with Imogen as reserve, and now Beth has a chance for glory - we all wish her well.
Louis and Dan had a rest day today and are a little hoarse after supporting the girls from the stands.†A day full of emotion, some highs, some lows, but I'll never forget that medal winning smile - top job Nicole!
Bye for now,
Saturday 9th August, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
Well, I won't forget the past 24 hours for a long time.†I witnessed the most incredible opening ceremony and then watched Louis and Daniel perform superbly in Subdivision One of the Men's Artistic Qualifications at the Beijing Olympics.
Louis has created a bit of history by becoming the first British gymnast to make a final at this event since the Second World War, and Daniel, still a junior, has qualified for the all around final amongst 24 of the best exponents on the planet.†
The guys were extremely focused and performed great routines across six apparatus but I can tell you that playing the waiting game for eight hours whilst watching other gymnasts trying to take your finals place is far more stressful than being in the competition arena.†
It went right to the wire, with a Korean gymnast pushing Dan into first reserve on horse with an equal score but placed higher due to less execution deductions relative to difficulty.
My favourite moment at the opening ceremony was just two minutes before the official start.†Two and a half thousand people moved into the central arena, each pushing a metre square drum.† They stood in perfect formation for over 20 minutes without a flicker of movement and, as the clock ate the seconds, a hush descended on the stadium creating the most incredible tension and expectation.†
I held my breath and waited for the roar of this army as they moved in perfect synchronicity while the drums beat out the heartbeat we all felt so keenly.†The power of crowds and the ingenuity of man were on display and, at times, I could not believe what I was seeing- an incredible evening.
Louis and Dan look forward to their first day off tomorrow and will go back to the gym to cheer on the girls in their quest to make a Team Final.† Then we start again ready for next week.
Five years ago to this day a dear friend of mine, Terry Sharpington, left me with the task of continuing his life's work at the gym at Huntingdon.† I sat with him the night before he died and we laughed about the wonderful moments that the sport had given us both.†
After sharing some of the many anecdotes about Louis Smith, Terry got serious and fixed me with a piercing stare: 'Louis is the one, Paul.† Remember what I say- he will be your champion.'
Terry, right again mate.
Saturday 9th August, 12.45am (Beijing time)
On his way back to the Olympic Village, Paul Hall tells BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Antonia Brickell about the magnificent opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, 2008.
Friday 8th August, Beijing
'Ni Hao form Beijing!
Well, the day has finally arrived and in less than 24 hours Louis and Daniel will have competed in the qualification event at the National Indoor Stadium. Today we drove past a clock that has been counting down the minutes over the last 4 years and it was showing just 8 hours left - the excitement is building!†
Training was great this morning with all gymnasts focused on tomorrow's job and working with a soldier's discipline. Louis and Dan are in good form and, despite the early training slots, are still managing to smile and enjoy the experience. Marissa and the rest of the Team seemed to have had a good, safe podium and are having lighter training today before their big day on Sunday.
We have our orders for tonight's opening ceremony and have to gather well in advance as the logistics of moving 10,000 athletes into a capacity stadium must be immense. It's just a 20 minute walk from the village but quite tough in this heat.
Been playing guess the sport and am now pretty adept at recognising the cauliflower ears of wrestlers, strange tans of the cyclists and the gazelle-like elegance of some of the female track athletes. I'm sharing with three other coaches and the apartment is now looking (and smelling) like students' accommodation. Did the ironing last night but please don't tell Kim.
Thanks for all your kind words - we all feel so well supported out here and very keen to do the job. See you on the other side...
Wednesday 6th August, Olympic Village, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing,
Just two days to go and things are hotting up. There's a palpable excitement in the Village as it stretches to near-capacity with athletes from all over the planet. Queues are quick to die down but also a great leveller - I enjoyed the laundry line a few days ago as I found myself ahead of Sir Clive Woodward patiently clutching his two bags of whites and coloureds...
The flag-raising ceremony was our first (and definitely not last) opportunity to hear the National Anthem in front of a host of media as well as the Village mayor who greeted us, along with the angelic voices of a Chinese school choir. We followed this with afternoon tea in a traditional Chinese Tea House, complete with choreographed pouring by a graceful hostess and some wonderful dancing from a balletic group on the front stage.† A very pleasant afternoon and a great taste of the best of China.
The gymnasts are fine and putting the finishing touches to a lifetime of work in the hope that it will all come good this weekend. Louis and Dan completed podium training this morning, a safe job but keeping their best for Saturday, I'm sure.†
The arena is vast - 18,000 seats that seem to disappear into the heavens, and cameras covering every corner of the arena. We trained with USA, Italy, Spain and a few individuals and had a good look at how everybody was doing. Marissa and the girls have podium tomorrow, then the opening ceremony on Friday and straight in to competition at the weekend.††
Apparently, a guy called Nadal strayed in to the food hall for a meal yesterday; he's a tennis player or something...
That's all for now. Can't wait for the Opening Ceremony!'
Sunday 3rd August, Olympic Village, Beijing
'Ni Hao from Beijing!
Day 6 and I've found the marmite. Breakfast is now a perfect mix of muesli, fruit, coffee and toast with the spread from home. One of the problems with a food hall so vast is that you need a week to work out the best route for all your favourite fayre, but I'm there now.
Walked through the Olympic Park yesterday evening, past the Bird's Nest and a full-on dress rehearsal for Friday's opening. The streets were overflowing with legions of participants in fancy dress and with various props, and the evening finished with an awesome firework display, still only a miniature version of what is to come. The atmosphere, lighting, and visual spectacle is just incredible - be sure to watch!
Team GB are beginning to populate the village, with the cyclists arriving this morning and the main bulk over the next few days. Even the weather seems a part of the meticulous organisation with gorgeous blue skies appearing with just 5 days to go. The guys want to say a few words:
A few words from our Hunts gymnasts...
'Hi everyone back home! Marissa here! China is amazing... the village is huge and training preparations are going really well towards the Games. When we arrived the weather wasn't so great as it was rather smoggy and one time it chucked it down with rain and we all got drenched! Now the weather's beautiful and sunny with clear blue skies :) The village was quite quiet when we arrived but is quickly filling up by the day with so many different athletes from all over the world. Hopefully things will continue to run smoothly up towards our competition and we'll do our country proud!'
'Yo, Louis here! Me and Dan are fine and soaking up the sun and enjoying the scenery. Not really - we're training every day and getting loadsa rest before the big day on Saturday. The village is awesome and I'm enjoying the food. Hi to all back home, especially my Peterborough friends and all at the gym. Mardi, have you caught that kovacs yet? And how's the suntan Luke? We have podium training on Wednesday so I'm looking forward to the final stages. Catch you later x'
Dan: 'Hi everybody, especially family and friends in Corby. Don't be cross mum - I'm sharing in a small room with Louis and it's all his mess, honest. Please can you call me at 7 each morning to make sure I get up (midnight your time). Am loving the village lifestyle and enjoying the sights. The Olympic Venue is amazing and training is going good. Hope you are all working hard back at the gym - keep out of my locker!† Dan K'
Thursday 31st July 2008, Olympic Village, Beijing
Ni Hao from Beijing,
We've been here 4 days now and we're all settling in to the sights and sounds of Village life.† Louis and Dan are training well and have done all elements and combinations ready for next week. Dan is currently leading on the basketball video game challenge but I'm pleased to say that I'm just ahead of the two Olympians on the daily brain training quiz that entertains us on the transfer bus to the gym.
The heavens opened this afternoon but fortunately Louis and I were well prepared with our Team GB umbrellas. Daniel got soaked!
The facilities are absolutely incredible; even the warm-up gyms have a full podium set up, and I'm enjoying the friendly chats with the legions of volunteers, eager to help.† I especially liked the sign above the medical fridge in gym 2 today: 'The medical ice piece forbids edible', or don't eat the physio's ice, if you need a translation.
The girls have just arrived from Macau and I'm happy to report that all seems well. Colin is full of stories and photos of the Cirque De Soleil, Chelsea FC, and great training in a fantastic Camp - Macau sounds wonderful!
Thanks to all of you who have sent messages, they are very special and much appreciated.†
Bye for now, Paul
Tuesday 29th July 2008, Olympic Village, Beijing
Louis, Dan and me arrived safely in Beijing yesterday (Monday) following a 10 hour overnight flight.† We've yet to see the sky and it's very hot and humid but there seems to be turbo-charged air conditioning everywhere we go. The Olympics are all over the city and our journey to the village saw buildings, lamp posts, and buses festooned with the 5 rings, and it was great to drive past the Birds Nest and National Stadium where all the action will happen in less than 2 weeks.†
We're amongst the first teams to enter the village so it's a little quiet at the moment, but every hour the world's greatest athletes are pouring in and making little nations of their apartment complexes. It's an amazing centre with 3 room apartments furnished to a high standard with every facility to hand.
Team GB shipped in its own red telephone box and have done a fantastic job in making this place feel like a home from home. Dan and Louis are in gaming heaven having found the video arcade with the latest machines all free of charge. The Food Hall is the size of 4 football pitches and boasts cuisine from all around the world, served 24 hours a day.† Discipline is key as what is probably the world's only free McDonalds tempts everybody from a corner of the centre- so far the guys have stuck with steaks and salad.†
There is a massive amount of volunteers who are at pains to help everybody get orientated and enjoy the experience.† Each has been taught a few valuable sentences in English but are a little lost if you stray too far from their specialised subject. I especially enjoyed the: 'Thank you for cooperating with me,' from the burly security guard who frisked me at Village check in - as if I would do otherwise!
We had a good training session this morning (Tuesday), considering it was 2am British time, and Dan and Louis are fit and well and ready for action. We are training with the Italian and Spanish teams in a superbly equipped facility. London already has a hard act to follow!
Hi to everyone back home, especially all at Huntingdon Gym, working hard for 2012, I hope!
Bye for now, Paul.
Support our gymnasts!
You can leave your comments and messages of support for Team GB's gymnasts using the box at the foot of this page, or email them to: email@example.com. As you can see, Paul and the team have good access to technology and we know from past blogs that he and guys and girls read and really appreciate your support.
last updated: 21/08/2008 at 12:07
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