Before we go any further let this column give up a "Hip! Hip!" and a whopping helping of "Hurrah!" for Emma Pooley's silver medal ride in yesterday's individual time trial. Regular readers will know that we are by no means arrivistes where Emma is concerned having brought her to your attention on no fewer than three occasions before now, particularly in relation to her selfless front running on behalf of gold medallist Nicole Cook in last Sunday's road race. Our unfettered delight at her success turned to slack-jawed admiration at the meticulous endeavours of what became known as Project Pooley as revealed by 1992 Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman to the BBC. Pooley had only taken up cycling to keep in trim while recovering from injuries which kept her from triathlons and cross-country running. When her aptitude for tackling climbs led her to finish eighth in last year's World Time Trial Championships on a similar course to Beijing, British cycling's elite program swung into action:
We pulled together a group of specialists - coaches, psychologists, bike experts - into a kind of commando unit... We developed a completely different bike that allowed her to make use of her very small size, which is fantastic for going up hills - but not much good for coming down, when it is about power... [The bike] allows her to get into that really tucked position coming down - because her advantage is that being small she doesn't hit a lot of air... One's natural reaction is to back off the pedals as soon as the road starts sloping down. But like anything else it is trainable to reduce that.
We're thrilled to see this level of preparation already in hand and proving it's worth. Let's hope that such forethought characterises Britain's approach to London 2012 across all sports as evidently there is still work to be done:
I didn't prepare as well as I should have done. It was unprofessional and something I need to learn from.
That was the disarmingly honest self-assessment of Andy Murray whose hapless Games ended abruptly yesterday at the hands of last year's Wimbledon doubles champions, leading us to ponder whether he spent more time at the opening ceremony than on court. We'd also like an investigation as to whether his appearance in the singles was really just a hologram of him taken a year ago. In fairness, our bitterness and disappointment here is sharpened by the sense of burgeoning hope that Murray had built in us following his recent, laudable Tour successes and we hope sincerely that, at the least, this chastening experience, and the break from playing, will lead to big things from him at the imminent US Open.
Sad to say judoka Winston Gordon exited stage left yesterday without getting within sight of the medal podium. Gordon was edged out in his opening bout ("I went for a score which to the referees' eyes was against me - I thought I threw him first") and was then denied a repechage opportunity when his conqueror was promptly dismissed by his next opponent. We have to say on this evidence that the judo scoring leaves us a bit cold. Winston pulls the guy over by the legs to get the sport's third highest score of ten points and then in a ground struggle his opponent causes a small fraction of Winston's back to touch the deck for a couple of milliseconds and registers the second highest score, which just happens to be a hundred. Time delaying aplenty sees the opponent docked a further meaningless ten points and it's all over. Harsh.
Fencer Richard Kruse, meanwhile, was defeated by a single point in his second round bout with the world champion and number one seed. The men's hockey team had a tactically astute and resolute draw against the highly rated Netherlands side equally narrowly denied them in the final ten minutes when a trip close to goal enabled Taeke Taekema, Dutch hockey's answer to David Beckham, to slap home the winner from the equivalent of a free kick just outside the penalty area.
Turning our attention to Day Six we discover that this is the first day where we will not see any members of Team London making their Beijing 2008 debut. Instead we'll see the continuation of the windsurfing, rowing and women's hockey storylines. Bryony Shaw will be aiming to sail herself back into the medal positions during races five and six of her competition between 6am and noon (all times BST), while, in contrast to previous days, stop off for a leisurely cappuccino and you could miss our oarsfolk altogether. Their contributions to the morning's semi-finals could be compressed into as little as forty minutes across the hour between 8:30 and 9:30. Hester Goodsell goes first in the women's lightweight double sculls, then it's Mark Hunter in the men's equivalent and finally the men's lightweight four featuring James Clarke and James Lindsay-Fynn.
You'd then need to take a late lunch to catch our resurgent women's hockey team whose "must win" match against New Zealand, world ranked only one place above England, gets underway at 2pm. Both teams have already lost to Germany, but it's clear that the form found in the second half against Argentina will need to be repeated as New Zealand took the lead in their encounter with the Pool leaders and were only vanquished by the odd goal whereas Britain contrived to concede a handful.
Picture of an invitation to enter a Copenhagen catering establishment via kawanet's Flickr stream.