- 1 Aug 08, 02:22 PM
Watching the British badminton team warm up is exhausting in itself.
A bit of "keepy-uppy" is followed by what can only be described as a frenetic synchronised dance.
It's only then that the fencing-like parry and thrust of practice begins.
Lightning reflexes, power and timing are paramount as the shuttlecock whistles over the net in a blur of rackets.
The gymnasium reverberates to the sound of playful banter. The team are in high spirits.
Four years ago Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson gripped the nation as they took silver, and very nearly gold, in the mixed doubles.
Now they are back to try and go one better but they have stiff opposition - and they are only a few feet away in the form of British team-mates Donna Kellogg and Anthony Clark.
While Robertson has been nursing a serious ankle problem - fully fixed he tells me following an operation - Kellogg and Clark have stolen a march, denying the reigning world champions the European title.
The bad news is both pairs have lousy first round draws in Beijing, against the mighty Chinese.
"Bad for them, you mean," flashes back Emms in a manner akin to her instinctive net play. "They won't want to play us, all the pressure is on them." Kellogg and Clark are just as bullish even though they've never beaten their opponents. "We're fitter, stronger, faster now" says Clark, sounding like the Bionic man.
So what price an all-British final? It could happen. "It would be brilliant, we're all friends," says Emms who's playing with Kellogg in the women's doubles, though I swore I saw a glint in her eye as she added, "I hope they'll be no dirty tricks!"
Another bunch targeting medals as well as err, targets, are the archers. Aside from shooting, archery is about the only sport I can think of where the secret of success lies in keeping absolutely still, so I was shocked to be greeted on arrival at the Macau University Football pitch, by the sight of the team grooving to the sounds of Girls Aloud, Beyonce and others as they prepared to practice. Wouldn't all that foot tapping scupper their aim?
"We don't even notice the music we're so in the zone", says Alison Williamson. "It's mainly there for the spectators, but it's useful to get used to it being there."
Archery is a sport, like many others, which is much, much harder than it looks. As I stood on the shoulder of Larry Godfrey, the sport's version of Kevin Pietersen for his dyed-blond locks ("Though I'm no switch hitter" he assures me), I was struck by how tiny that target looked 70m away. Factor in a sudden gust of wind, perhaps one of those infamous Macau downpours and it's nigh on miraculous that they ever hit the damned thing, never mind the bullseye. But those who fall in love with it find it's under their skin for life.
Ask Simon Terry. After winning bronze in Barcelona in 1992 he quit. Now aged 34 he's back.
"Watching Alison Williamson win her bronze tickled a nerve. I dusted down my bow and arrows which had sat in the loft for 10 years, and decided I'd give qualifying a go. I never thought I'd get this far."
How much further could the comeback kid go? You can be sure they'll all be all aiming for Olympic glory.
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