• Olympic Taekwondo: a guide

    Posted in sport on August 9, 2012

    One of the last events to get underway at London 2012 is the martial art of Taekwondo. Starting yesterday, 116 athletes embarked on the long journey to Olympic Gold. There is still a lot of fighting to be done so here’s our guide to the intricacies of this great martial art.

    Origins

    Taekwondo originated during the 1950s in Korea, partly as a means of teaching discipline and increasing strength in the Korean army and is heavily entrenched in their history. Taekwondo means to “the way of the foot and hand”. There are a huge amount of variations in the sport but the Gyerugi sparring format is used for the Olympics because of it’s clearly defined scoring system.

    Olympic format

    Each fight has 3 rounds in which competitors aim to score points by kicks and punches to the body (1 point), spinning kicks to body (2 points) and kicks to the head (3 points). Fighters use a variety of moves including blocks, kicks, open handed striking, punching, throws and takedown in an attempt to score as many points as possible.

    It’s a knockout event so it’s very tense right from the first fight and there are 4 different weight divisions for men and women. We like the fact that any one beaten by the two finalists on the way through go into a bronze medal competition with the 2 beaten semi finalists, which seems much fairer and should negate the affect of a bad draw.

    #teamGB

    In the men’s tournament there has been plenty of furore over the selection process that saw world number 1 Aaron Cook miss out on a place in the team but his replacement, Lutalo Muhammad, is a current European Gold medalist and is expected to challenge for an Olympic medal.

    The women’s team is particulalrly strong with Sarah Stevenson and Jade Jones (only 4 years after taking up the sport!) amongst the favourites for Gold in their weight categories, coming into the Games with plenty experience and success in top level tournaments.

    Try it yourself

    To get involved in this great sport that works on strength, control, discipline and endurance then head over to British Taekwondo’s website to find your nearest club.

  • Wild swimming spots around London

    Posted in sport on August 7, 2012

    Having watched the Brownlee brothers bring home 2 great medals in Today’s triathlon we are more excited than ever to get involved in triathlon (coaches coming soon!). We also thought it would be a great time to look at some of the best wild swimming spots in and around London to hone your open water swimming skills. So we asked our intern Eloise, upmysport’s resident wild swimming expert, to put together her 5 favourite spots and tell us why wild swimming is so good!

     

    “Wild Swimming is an amazing, exhilarating refreshing activity for everyone. Whether you’re diving in to perfect your front crawl technique or just to have a good splash about, the benefits for your mind and body are incredible.

    By taking a dip you will soothe muscle aches, boost the immune system and release endorphins giving you an ecstatic natural high. A NASA study said over a 12 week period regular swims in cool waters can bring down blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce fat disposition and inhibit blood clotting.

    You may feel a million miles away from lush green pastures and wild springs when sat at your office desk. However, our very own River Thames has been awarded the world’s biggest environmental award, the Theiss River Prize, beating off rivers from Australia and Japan. Believe it or not London itself has some of the hottest wild swimming spots around.

    My Top 5 wild swimming spots a stones throw away from London

    Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

    A great central location close to tubes, trains and pubs. Hampstead Heath is a favourite, they are safety conscious with life guards present and offer male, female and mixed ponds.

    Hythe End Gravel Pits

    A nature reserve in a series of old gravel pits near Staines upon Thames. Only 27 miles from central London perfect place for a dip and a picnic!

    The Serpentine Hyde Park

    An amazing pre or post work dip! The Serpentine Lido is open all summer and the Serpentine Swimming Club runs morning lesson sessions.

    Thorpe Lake, Surrey

    A great open water swimming spot for all abilities, it has a picturesque man made beach for basking in the sunshine. The site also boasts a running trail making it a perfect spot for the triathletes to train.

    Heron Lake, Middlesex

    A beautiful lake suitable for all levels of swimmers from first timers to top triathletes. It is a great venue with a big safety focus, the only lake with full safety cover on the water and dry land.

    If you are loving the idea of fresh wild swims then get involved with the OSS. (The Outdoor Swimming Society.) It’s the world’s biggest collective of wild swimmers. Join them for information and inspiration about wild swimming, river swimming, lake swimming, sea swimming, open water and lidos.

    And to get you in the mood here’s a quote from wild swimming fanatic Nikki Jackson:

    ‘Nothing like wild swimming to connect you to your inner self, you feel free and uninhibited the second you step into the water and start to splash – I am a splasher and whooper when I get in!

    It washes away anything else that is happening and you are taken up in the moment flopping around in the water like you did when you were a kid.  It feeds the soul, you feel enlivened, enriched and engaged with nature.'”

    We hope you’ve been inspired by today’s action and have enjoyed Eloise’s look at some her favourite spots around London. If you have your own favourites please add them below!

    Keep you eyes peeled for upmysport adding triathlon coaches soon!

  • Our favourite stories of the Olympics so far (at 16:11 on Thursday!)

    Posted in sport on August 2, 2012

    As London 2012 marches into its 6th day of competition (how did that happen?!) we pick our favourite British moments of the games so far. There has already been an incredible amount of amazing action so if we haven’t got your favourite please add it below!

    GB women’s Volleyball

    GB women’s volleyball team are unlikely to win any medals at this year’s games but, in their maiden Olympics, they have achieved plenty, even after they have only played one game. Unlike 95% of the GB athletes here in London the Women’s volleyball team receive no public funding, and yet with all the odds stacked against them managed to win in their first ever Olympic appearance.

    Hopefully this fine showing will not only earn them proper funding in the future, but also put women’s volleyball into the public eye, showing what a great team sport it is for fitness and camaraderie. It’s also a sport that needs very little equipment and is well-suited to the changeable British climate!

    Great Britain celebrate their first win

    Lizzie Armistead, Women’s road race Silver medal

    Lizzie’s amazing performance in the Women’s road race was not only important for the here and now, getting Team GB’s first medal, but also for the wider picture, Lizzie used her medal winning performance to raise awareness of the disparity in support between the men’s and the women’s teams.

    Her performance shows what can be done with limited resources. Let’s hope it can be a catalyst for change towards a more level playing field with the men. Lizzie was also proof that that GB cycling’s Podium program works, and her performance should motivate a generation of younger cyclists, having gone from not owning a bike to being Olympic silver medalist in just 6 years!

    Men’s Gymnastics team, Men’s team Gymnastics Bronze medal

    After Lewis Smith’s medal in Beijing, men’s gymnastics had shown signs that it was coming out of the doldrums. Those signs are now hard to ignore after the Men’s unexpected, but thoroughly deserved, team gymnastics Bronze medal.

    Long seen as a old fashioned, exclusively female sport, Gymnastics now has a cool, assured and successful group of role models that should help get people back into a sport that is great for working every muscle group, and ideal for players of other sports who are looking for a complementary discipline to improve their strength.

    The GB Men’s celebrate winning a Bronze medal (Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble)

    Bradley Wiggins, Men’s road cycling time trial Gold medal

    What hasn’t already been said about Bradley Wiggins?! But he keeps winning races and breaking records, even with all the pressure of a partisan local crowd. The success of GB cycling in Beijing has already seen a marked increase in participation in cycling across the united kingdom but Wiggins’ Gold medal, coupled with his win on the Tour de France, is likely to send it to the next level.

    This is all before Chris Hoy, Rebeecca Pendleton et al. have even touched a pedal in anger! Elite level success has already seen a huge increase in general participation, which is only likely to continue after this latest round of medals. Success in road cycling will hopefully be a particularly powerful driver of increased participation, as cyclists can see just how easy it is to get out there and ride!

    Gemma Gibbons, Women’s Judo Silver medal

    An amazing individual effort from Gemma Gibbons to get to an Olympic final and claim a Silver medal having not even been expected to make the top 10. Clearly a very emotional competition for Londoner Gemma, who lost her mum in 2004, but she managed to overcome all this in a great semi final performance, beating the world champion from France.

    She also ended a run of 12 years without a medal for GB Judo, and here’s hoping that her brilliant performance will reignite interest in a sport where only 5,000 women in the UK actively participate in (compared to 500,000 men and women in France). Great for discipline, working on all round strength, and a lot more tiring that you might expect!

    Please add your own great moments below!

  • Olympic Synchronised Swimming: A guide

    Posted in sport on July 31, 2012

    With the Olympic swimming meet progressing at a rate of knots, it will soon be the turn of the synchonised swimmers to show the world their skills. This unique sport often captures the imagination of the public for its quirky combination of dance, gymnastics and swimming, and because of a heritage that can be traced back to 1950s Hollywood movies.

    However it can sometimes be written off, unfairly, as an easy sport to do, so we will do our best to show how challenging and great to watch (and do!) synchronised swimming can be.

    History:

    Synchronised swimming has some particularly glamorous origins, from the first official ‘water ballet’ competitions in the late 19th century, through to being popularised in Hollywood movies throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s by Collegiate champion swimmer Esther Williams.

    Although the sport did have to wait until 1984 to become a fully-fledged Olympic sport, after being demonstrated as early as the 1952 Olympic games. For the 2012 games in London there will be two medalling events: the Women’s duet and the Women’s team.

    Rules and Scoring:

    Each team performs a routine, set to music, which incorporates ‘hybrids’ (legs out of water), arm movements and throws.

    There are two different sections for each team to complete:

    technical– a set of preset routines that everyone must complete and,

    freestyle– which has no requirements to meet and allows the teams to create their own, more creative routines.

    The swimmers must be synchronised to both the music and each other, and are then marked out of 100 on artistic (50) and technical (50) merit.

    Key moves:

    Sculling: this is the essential skill for synchronised swimmers, and involves the use of the hands to propel and support the body. There are a huge variety of different ‘sculls’ including the Torpedo, split-arm and barrel.

    Eggbeater: synchronised swimming for treading water, but potentially a little harder than what you may remember from school swimming lessons! The swimmers use this move to propel their bodies out of the water so that their arms are able to do some of the more technical high-scoring moves.

    Back layout: the most basic position, the body floats completely upright using sculling to stay out of the water.

    High scoring positions:

    Flamingo: swimmers, with their legs completely vertical and out of the water, put one foot on the other leg’s shin and resemble the pink water bird that gives the move its name.

    Crane: the swimmers, again with their legs completely out of the water, keep one leg vertical, and one moves to 90 degrees making an L-shape.

    Manhole lift: a very complicated and high-scoring move which only a video can do real justice:

    #TeamGB: 

    The women’s team, particularly the duet team of Jenna Randall and Olivia Federici, have shown real improvements coming into the games but aren’t expected to medal. Russia are huge favourites having won Gold in both Athens and Beijing and look in great shape for London..

    For up to the minute news and behind the scenes action follow @GBswimming on twitter.

    Get involved:

    If you like the sound of this surprisingly difficult sport which can see swimmers staying under water for up to a minute at a time, developing incredibly strong core muscles, and working in unison as a team, then there are lots of options in and around London. British swimming have a list of London swimming clubs, a lot of which have their own synchronised team, here.

    If you’ve been inspired to get into the pool don’t forget that we’ll soon have a selection of excellent coaches to browse and book on upmysport, click here to sign up and stay updated.

  • In the Sportlight: From teacher to GB Olympian, Dan Fox

    Posted in sport on July 26, 2012

    A geography teacher until 2010, Dan Fox has become an integral part of the GB hockey squad, and now has over 40 international caps to his name. “We’re going to win”…Dan takes 60 seconds out on the eve of the Games to tell us about his sporting history (and impressive claim to fame!), pre-game toilet habits, advice for anyone struggling to be active, and GB hockey’s chances of a medal….

     

    Snapshot

    Name: Dan Fox

    Main sport: Hockey, Team GB

    Other sports past & present: Cricket. Whiff Waff.

    Best sporting moment: World Cup Semi final, Delhi 2010

    Worst sporting moment: Dropped from the England Squad for the Commonwealth Games 2010, by text, in a field in N Wales.

    Funniest sporting moment: Ran my Dad out without facing in cricket match [funny on reflection – not at the time]

    Claim to fame: Better first class average than Brian Lara..!

    Sporting Hero (& why): Jonathan Edwards. Earnest and brilliant – Stockholm 97.

     

    The 60 Second Interview

    How did you first get into hockey, and what made you keep going with it?

    My parents played every weekend, so I had little choice but to start, but simply – I’ve always enjoyed it.

    So, you’ve gone from being a geography teacher to an Olympic hockey player. How did that come about?! 

    Except at the very top level – hockey is an amateur sport, so I went to university and got a job that would allow me pursue a future in sport alongside earning a living. Progressively I taught less and trained more until in 2010 I took the plunge, went full time and by 2011 received lottery funding in the build up to London 2012.

    Sport you could never get the hang of… 

    Gymnastics – being the wrong way up isn’t natural.

    Not natural… (©JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

    Any sport(s) you want to try, or get better at? 

    Golf – might go on a course.

    What would you say to someone wanting to be more active but not sure where to start? 

    Sport reduces stress and makes you feel better. Always have this at the forefront of your mind – and the reasons not to play or take up sport will fade into insignificance.

    Best bit of coaching advice received

    Never lose your sense of humour.

    Any pre-match superstitions or rituals? 

    Only the involuntary need to go to the loo about 8 times.

    What’s the mood like in the Team GB hockey camp so close to the Games? Focusing on medals, or taking it one match at a time?

    We’re going to win and I know we couldn’t have done any more than we have in preparation for the tournament.

    How can we best show our support for Team GB hockey? 

    Wear red to the games, make as much noise as possible, and if you want to follow us more closely then you can via twitter @danfox450 @GBHockey

    And finally…we currently cover golf, tennis and personal training – which sport(s) do you think we should do next and why?

    Badminton, table tennis; great fun, regardless of the British weather.

    Thanks a lot to Dan for taking the time out of his very hectic pre-London schedule to chat with us, and most importantly good luck with the Games! GB have their first Olympic game against Argentina on Monday night  at 7pm, catch it live on the BBC. 

  • Great places to watch the London Olympics for free!

    Posted in sport on

    With only 24 hours until the off, excitement has reached fever-pitch here at upmysport hq. There’s obviously a huge amount of great sport to take in over the next fortnight, and while most of this will require a ticket to watch live, there are a few of events you can see for free. Here are some of the best spots:

    The congested start of the London road cycling test event on the Mall

    The Mall to Kingston – Mens and Women’s cycling road races, 1o:00 am on Saturday 28th & 12:00pm on Sunday 29th July

    If you’ve been inspired by Team Sky’s brilliant effort during this years Tour de France (and our recent cycling blog!) then here’s your chance to see some of them in action. With only the start/finish and parts of Box Hill being ticketed, much of the route is open to everyone, so there really is no excuse not to come and take in some of the best riders in world cycling. Team GB contains Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who will be aiming to return the favour from Le Tour and successfully lead out for Mark Cavendish to claim Gold. Check out the route here.

    Victoria park and Hyde Park – Throughout the games, 27th July – 12th August

    As part of their sponsorship of the games BT have set up a number of ‘Live’ viewing areas where you can enjoy watching all the great events from three great locations (Hyde Park, Victoria park and Trafalgar square). The first event to look out for will be the opening ceremony at Victoria Park (tomorrow!) where you can watch all the action unfold and even try out some of the Olympic sports in the ‘Have-a-go’ section. Watching any event where GB is looking to medal on the huge screen at Hyde Park is also a must-see with the 7th August a good night to pencil in as Chris Hoy is likely to be defending his Keirin Gold and Victoria Pendleton goes in the Sprint final.

    (Tip: The BT live venues are free to enter until they have reached capacity. To guarantee entry you can book tickets in advance, for a small processing fee, here)

    Hyde Park-  Women’s and Men’s Triathlon, 9:00 am on Saturday 4th & 11:30 am on Tuesday 7th August

    Two great opportunities to watch some world class endurance sport. The Men’s triathlon is likely to be a real highlight with the Brownlee brothers hot favourites for a GB 1-2. With over 90% of the course open to spectotors without tickets it is a great opportunity to watch history being made (we hope!). The two marathon swim events are also being held at the Hyde Park Serpentine and are likely to be a little less crowded.

    London’s Hyde Park looking resplendent in the sunshine

    Thames-side from Embankment to Blackfriars and the City – Women’s and Men’s Marathon races, 11:00 am on Sunday 5th & 11:00 am on Sunday 12th August

    Both the Men’s and Women’s blue ribband long distance events are largely available to spectators without tickets and due to the nature of the course (3 loops) there’s plenty of chances to take in the athletes! Viewing alongside the Thames is traditionally a busier area for spectators with the City section of the course usually more sparsely populated. Check out the route here.

    If you’ve heard about any other great spots to see the action please add them in the comments below!

  • Olympic Cycling: A guide

    Posted in sport on July 24, 2012

    After all the excitement of  this weekend’s Tour de France which saw the first British winner in the tour’s 99 year history, the cycling world’s attention turns to the Olympics. The timetable for Olympic cycling can be a little intimidating, so hopefully we can shed a little light on the myriad of classifications (Keirin, Sprint, Team Sprint, Team Pursuit, Omnium and Road Races – and breathe!). The thought of all that great cycling has made us even more excited for our cycling instructors going live on the site very soon – watch this space (sign up here to stay updated)!

    GB riders are coming off the back of a great tour. photo credit:PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images

    Keirin

    Riders follow a motorised bicycle around the track for 3 laps with each lap increasing in speed, the motorbike then leaves the track and  the riders are left to sprint the final 2 laps to the finish. Great medal chances for GB as Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy (Video of final below) go all out to defend their Gold medals won in Beijing.

    Sprint

    Competitors race for 800 metres; often only flat-out sprinting in the final stages of the event. Riders spend the rest of the race jockeying for the best position, and can even come to a complete stop as they manoeuvre themselves into the best possible position to launch an attack in the final stages. Another strong couple of Gold medal chances with Team GB enjoying an embarrassment of riches. Victoria Pendleton and Jason Kenny (who was selected ahead of Sir Chris Hoy) will be both be hot favourites going into the event.

    Victoria Pendleton in action on the track

    Team Sprint 

    Each team of 3 riders try to cover the 3 laps of track in the shortest possible time. Each cyclist takes one lap as the leader then drops out and takes up a position at the rear of the team. Another very strong medal opportunity for GB with the men’s team looking to defend the Gold they won 4 years ago, and the women’s team looking to win Gold in its inaugural appearance at the games.

    Team Pursuit

    A longer version of the Team sprint where riders are faced with 4000 metres of racing, taking it in turns to lead (which is more tiring due to air resistance). Each team consists of 4 riders and will stay like that until the final couple of laps where the slowest sprinter will drop out to leave the remaining riders to race for the line. Groundhog day: Another event where GB are strong favourites to win Gold in both the men’s and women’s event. Both teams go into the event as reigning Olympic champions (Beijing 2008 was a pretty good event for Great Britain!).

    Omnium

    The heptathlon of the track cycling world, riders are faced with a total of 6 separate events including flying lap time trials, individual pursuit and a longer 15km scratch race. The Omnium event will have its first appearance at a Summer games so a slight unknown quantity; expect GB’s Laura Trott and Ed Clancy to be competing amongst the medals.

    Road Race

    One of the easier to explain disciplines, as riders face the challenge of riding 250km (Men) and 150km (women) through London and Surrey. There are two classifications, each with their own medals attached; the road race (first one to the finish line wins) and the time trial (riders set off at 90 second intervals and the fastest time set on course wins). High hopes again for GB with Beijing silver-medalist Emma Pooley looking to go one better in the time trial, and Mark Cavendish looking to take Gold after playing more of a supporting role during le Tour.

    Get involved! Unlike the track cycling, the road race is only ticketed in certain areas so you can watch the riders anywhere along the track, Cycling Weekly have done a great guide to the best places to watch the race here.

    Cav looking good in sprinters’ green..

    If you’ve been inspired to get into cycling and are looking for some routes in and around London you might like to check out our previous blog post on Long London cycle routes here.

  • Alternative sports profile episode 3: Three day eventing

    Posted in sport on July 12, 2012

    We don’t quite know how it’s happened but it has….London 2012 is only 15 days away and it’s time for another look into lesser known Olympic sports. This week it’s the turn of 3 Day Eventing, so we’ll make sure you know your Piaffes from your half passes and your canters from your triple combinations ready for the start of the games.

    Equestrian sports have been in all but three of the modern Olympics and come in the form of 3 disciplines: Dressage, Showjumping and Cross-country. All of the disciplines have their own medals attached to them as well as contributing towards the final team eventing medals.

    Each event is designed to test the ability of the rider to control the horse in different ways:

    Dressage

    At a glance: over the course of 3 rounds, rider and horse perform a pre-set (apart from free-style final round set to music) routine of movements with a panel of judges scoring on accuracy of movement, calmness, suppleness and flexibility.

    The best horse and riders will: Move in perfect harmony with subtle, often unseen, communication between the two.

    Terminology:

    Self Carriage: Horse moving in balance without support of the reigns.

    Piaffe: Trotting movement on the spot.

    Half-pass: When a Horse moves forwards and sideways and leans towards direction of travel.

    Freestyle Dressage

    Showjumping: 

    At a glance: Horse and rider must negotiate 15 obstacles in 3 rounds of competition, with time faults given for infringements such as refusals, knocking down fences, tapping the fences and exceeding the time limit.

    The best horse and riders will: Find the best angle of approach possible for each jump to ensure course completed in the minimum amount of time. Cutting too fine an angle will mean that the horse can’t complete the jump; taking too wide an angle will waste precious seconds.

    Terminology:

    Run-out: when a horse runs around the jump instead of jumping the fence.

    Verticals: where poles are place on top of each to form a jump.

    Oxer (or spread): two verticals close to each other to make the jump longer.

    Hogsbacks: type of spread fence with 3 rails and the tallest one in the centre.

    Jump size equivalent: Range Rover (2.2m wide x 1.6 metres tall)

    Cross Country

    At a glance: Takes place on all 3 days of the event and sees horse and riders tackle 45 jumps (which range from ditches to fences and combinations of the two) over 6 km in an attempt to get round the course in the quickest time. Seconds are knocked off for not completing jumps.

    The best horse and riders will: Judge the speed right, accelerating where possible and showing more caution during challenging sections of the course  to avoid refusals or falls.

    Terminology:

    Triple combination: three jumps in quick succession with just a few strides in between.

    Lighting: horses eyes do not adapt quickly to changes in light, so riders must judge the best time to accelerate when coming out of the shadows or covered areas.

    Distractors: parts of the course, such as bight coloured flowers, designed to take the attention of the horse.

    Jump size equivalent: Medium sized garden shed, lengthways! (3.6m wide x 1.8m high)

    Action from Greenwich Park with the City in the background

    All of the rounds (apart from the final showjumping round) contribute to the team event, and each country can enter up to 5 riders. The three lowest scores will then count towards the team total and decide who wins the 3 day eventing gold.

    Equestrianism has historically been a sport that Great Britain has excelled in, claiming 27 medals in total. The class of 2012 are in high spirits after a successful world championships last year, and will be aiming for at least 3 medals. Look out for Laura Bechtolsheimer as she attempts to win Great Britain’s first medal in the individual Dressage event.

    Getting into Equestrianism: It’s now easier than ever to get into horse riding with lots of great organisations making it available to all. Stay tuned for upmysport to help you find and book horse riding lessons, add your email here and we’ll let you know as soon as horse riding instructors are live on the site. In the meantime to find more information and to find out your local equestrian centre you can head to the association of British riding schools website here.

    Olympic small talk fact: Civillians were first allowed to compete in Olympic Equestrian events at the 1952 games, until then only commissioned military officers were eligible compete.

    Come back next week for another guide to alternative Olympic sports. If you have a sport you would like us to cover please let us know!

     

  • Olympics sports profile: Modern Pentathlon

    Posted in sport on July 6, 2012

    After last week’s introduction to Handball, it’s time to delve into another slightly alternative Olympic sport. Modern Pentathlon is an event that that most of us are aware of but very few know the exact make up of this great multidisciplinary sport. We hope to change all that and turn you into Modern Pentathlon expert.

    Shooting          Fencing         Swimming     Showjumping       Running

    The modern pentathlon was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic games. The initial aim of the sport was to test competitors in 5 skills that a soldier would require if caught behind enemy lines: riding an unfamiliar horse (Showjumping), fight with a pistol (10 metre pistol shooting) and sword (fencing), swim (200m freestyle), and run (3km cross country). So that will hopefully give you a different perspective when you watch the Modern Pentathletes compete later this Summer!

    Men’s Modern Pentathlon has been a part of the Games since 1912 with the women’s event being added fairly recently at the Sydney Games. Modern Pentathlon’s eclectic mix of events all take place on one day meaning the competitors have to quickly adapt from sport to sport with little time to draw breath. Much like the Decathlon and Heptathlon athletes are vying for points rather than trying to beat their direct opponents, until the final event where the first to cross the line wins gold.

    Fencing: The event gets underway with Fencing, which takes the form of a round robin tournament where each competitor ‘duels’ against every other competitor in one minute rounds. Top Pentathletes will be looking to win at least 75% of their duels.

    Swimming: Next up, the athletes head to the pool and do a 200m freestyle race, with 2 minutes 30 being the standard time. Points are then awarded, and taken away, for times below and over that time.

    Showjumping: After that challenging swim the Pentathletes take on the Showjumping section of the event, where they have to negotiate 15 obstacles with a horse they have met 20 minutes previously- pretty tough!

    Running and shooting (not at the same time!): The final section combines running and shooting, and sees the competitors starting in order of points scored with a handicap of one second for every 4 points they are behind the leader. The Pentathletes have to run to the shooting range, successfully hit 5 targets in 70 seconds and then run 1km, they repeat this 3 times and then cross the finish line- quite a day!

    Being a Jedi must be an unfair advantage..?

    Obviously, given the range and types of sports that make up Modern Pentathlon, it is a little harder than other sports to get into but there are ways round that! The range of sports may seem intimidating but as PentathlonGB point out that most of their elite athletes came from single sport events, so it can easily be done. For more information on how to get started PentathlonGB offer a great FAQ guide here.

    GB Modern Pentathlon team looking very smart.

    Team GB has historically performed very well in the event (4 medals in 3 games) and go into London with a strong chance of medalling in both the women’s and men’s discipline. The men have world number 5 Nick Woodbridge and European silver medalist, and the Women’s team is headed up by European championships bronze medalist, Samantha Murray. The Modern Pentathlon will take place on the 11th August and takes in 3 different venues; the Aquatics centre, the Copper box and finally the Greenwich park. If the sound of this has tickled your fancy there are still tickets available here. In more good news for those who are intrigued by the sport PentathalonGB, in association with BT are running a ‘come and try it’ event in London during the games, more info here.

    Olympic small talk Fact: The original Pentathlon which took place in ancient Greece included stadion foot race (nude running!), wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus.

  • In the sportlight: Andy Baddeley on engineering his way to an Olympic medal

    Posted in sport on July 3, 2012

    Since graduating from Cambridge with a double first in Engineering, Andy Baddeley has represented Great Britain in major championships across the globe for nearly a decade. An Olympic finalist in Beijing in 2008, and a World Championship finalist in Osaka in 2007, Andy was the first male British 1500m runner to make a World Final in 10 years.

    Andy’s selection for the GB team for London 2012 has now been confirmed, and with the Games fast approaching we caught up with him to find out how he became an elite athlete (and not an engineer!) and how his Olympic preparations were going…

    Sprint finish on the back straight

    So, you got a double 1st in Engineering from Cambridge but decided to become a full time athlete. How come?

    At the time it was a difficult decision – I had been offered a PhD and wasn’t at a level with athletics where I would qualify for the national team – but I knew I could always come back to academia, whereas you only get a pretty small window of opportunity with professional sport. I moved down to London, giving myself a year to see how it went. After a year I missed the World Championship team by 0.2s, and bagged a silver medal in the World University Games.

    Now I find it impossible to imagine doing anything else – my ‘office’ has been all over the world, with this year alone seeing me training in Kenya, Florida and California chasing the sunshine! Admittedly I’m getting further and further from an academic career, and spending most of my waking time turning left isn’t helping…

    How did you get into running?

    When I was 10, a friend of mine was badgered into doing an after school activity by his mum, and chose cross-country. He asked me to come along for moral support – he lasted a few weeks but I’m still going!

    Sport you could never get the hang of…

    Rugby! I was at a hockey and rugby school, both of which I was rubbish at! For some reason they setted our games classes according to two criteria – the first XV rugby team, and who was good at the bleep test! Which meant that I was up against some pretty big guys (I was one of the shortest and skinniest – I didn’t really grow until year 11!)

    Sports that you miss now you are an elite athlete?

    Definitely tennis. I’m a huge Wimbledon fan, and finally managed to go for the first time this year – centre court on day 3, it was incredible! I’d love to be able to go an have a knock, but just can’t take the risk in terms of injuries. One of my favourite sporting memories of all time is the whole tournament in 2001 when Ivanisevic won.

    Which sport do you want to try but haven’t got round to?

    Skiing. I’d love to do it, but it has to be the highest risk sport for breaking a leg! I’m looking forward to being normal in a few years and learning to do it. I’d also love to try a triathlon, I can swim a bit, but have never cycled properly so it would be interesting to try one. I think I assume I’d be really good, whereas in reality I’d be so tired and so far behind by the run that it would hopeless!

    Andy won’t be trying this any time soon..

    What would you say to someone wanting to be more active but not sure where to start?

    The key motivator for me in getting out when it’s raining or cold is the commitment to meet someone else. I’m lucky in that I have a group of incredible training partners, but I would say just a simple agreement to do something with a friend is enough to get you out of the door and on the way to discovering something incredibly rewarding. You can do anything you set your mind to, and sharing a sense of achievement with a friend will bring you closer together.

    Best bit of coaching advice received?

    It’s a cliché but “enjoy it”. Elite sport involves a huge amount of sacrifice, so if it’s not fun most of the time, what’s the point? I try to treat my training and preparations professionally, but enjoy banter with my group who make sure I can’t take myself too seriously! (In fact, the girls in our group spend most of their time tuning us out!)

    Any pre-race superstitions or rituals?

    One of my training partners tells me I have OCD, as I like to lay out all my race kit neatly (ok, in order and in piles), a bit like Rafa with his drinks bottles! I also like to take some time to have a read in order to relax my mind before I really gear up for the race.

    Andy celebrating another win

    Sporting Hero?

    I’m writing this watching Roger Federer as he heads into a fifth set. Boris Becker is commentating, and I’d be hard pressed to pick between the two of them. I grew up watching Boris, and every time I went to the local grass courts to play, I’d be diving around trying to emulate his Wimbledon heroics. But since I’ve stopped playing tennis, I’ve loved watching Federer, as he never seems to panic and is so supremely skilful that it’s hard to see anyone else as the greatest ever.

    What’s the plan between now and the games?

    Training and a few races. Nothing spectacular – my coach and I drew up a plan, so we know what we want to do, and it’s a case of getting it done in order to make sure I peak at the right time.  One key focus is to try and keep things simple, and not get too excited with all the Olympic furore.

    And finally… We currently cover golf, tennis and personal training, Which sport do you think we should do next and why?

    This one ties in with your question about people starting out in sport – I’d say running (obviously!) as there are a huge number of social running groups all over the country. There are also the Parkrun series which are fantastic, free and have a huge attendance. There must be a lot of like minded people who want to get together and chart their progress together.

    Thanks a lot to Andy for taking the time out of his very hectic pre-London schedule to chat with us, and most importantly good luck with the Games! Look out for Andy competing in 1500 metres which starts exactly a month today. To keep up with Andy’s progress and send him lots of support before the games, head over to his twitter page here.