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Beijing Shooting Range Hall

The great Chinese party is well and truly underway, but at the shooting range this morning it felt like it had been thoroughly pooped.

After the most lavish Opening Ceremony ever staged, the home nation planned to be celebrating the first gold medal of the games by half way through the first morning.

Du Li did it in Athens - could she do it in Beijing too?

The crowd of slightly bleary-eyed Chinese journalists who joined me on the 7.10am media bus to Shijingshan full expected her to be celebrating a successful defence of her title in the 10m air rifle by around 10.50am.

The fans pouring into the venue were all waving red flags with yellow stars on.

1.3bn people expecting a glorious start to the games - the pressure on Du's slender shoulders couldn't have been greater...

Continue reading "Du blows it - but gold for shooter who married the man who missed it"

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One of the great inventions of the ancient Chinese world was gunpowder.

So it's not a great surprise that the first Olympic champion of the Beijing Games is very likely to be a Chinese shooter.

Du Li is the defending champion in the women's 10m air rifle (yes, I know that you don't need gunpowder to shoot an air rifle).

I'm expecting to see her crowned champion again at around 11am local time (4am UK time) on the first morning of the Games, surrounded by ecstatic local fans.

Du Li in action in April

Continue reading "Shooter Du Li set to win China's first gold"

Look down the list of 28 Olympic disciplines and it's interesting to note how many of them count as combat sports.

There's boxing of course, judo and taekwondo, wrestling...and hockey. Or maybe that was just at my school.

And then there's fencing. On the surface, it doesn't have a great deal in common with the others. Think boxing and you think rough and ready East End gyms, the Kray twins, blood, sweat and broken noses. Think fencing and it's all about Errol Flynn and the Three Musketeers and duels at dawn over the honour of a fair maiden.

The address of the British Fencing Association in London is 1, Baron's Gate. Says it all, doesn't it?

Continue reading "Fencing starting to scratch surface"

We all know that women are great at multi-tasking. For most of us, that means supervising maths homework while feeding the cats, creating a perfect costume for the nativity play, and holding down a full-time job.

For Britain's star women modern pentathletes it means shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running - all in one action-packed Olympic day.

Continue reading "Multi-tasking with guns, swords and horses"

On the face of it, Sir Steve Redgrave and I don't have much in common.

Him, 6 foot 4 inches of pure, honed rowing genius. Multiple world and Olympic champion. Utter dedication and commitment to athletic excellence.

Me, 5 foot and a bit of serial exercise avoidance. Drop-out from all known school sporting activities. Prone to having that one glass too many of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.

But when it comes to Olympic Games attendance, we're on a par. OK, so he went five times, and came back with five gold medals. I'm heading for my fifth in Beijing, and the most I've had to show for it is some rather nice framed posters and a lot of special memories.

Like broadcasting live from the steps of the Sydney Opera House on the first morning of the 2000 Games. Or losing a contact lens on the media bus on the way to the synchronised swimming in Barcelona, which added a certain surreal one-eyed hysteria to the event. Or knowing that every tiny stone on every corner of every street in Athens had more Olympic history at its core than the whole of Atlanta would ever have.

I'll be covering a range of sports in Beijing, most of them involving assault with a deadly weapon - think shooting, fencing and modern pentathlon. And I promise to try and avoid my usual trick at the Olympics - every time I turn up, Britain's hopefuls lose the plot completely, and those medals disappear into thin air. Belated apologies to the entire GB judo team in Atlanta.

Sir Steve can feel very thankful that I waited until he retired before I made it along to the rowing.

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