Jo Healy looks back at a glorious day at Eton Manor for the wheelchair tennis
By Jo Healy. Last Updated: 05/09/12 9:04am
What a glorious day to be at the Olympic Park. The sun was shining and the Brits were in action in the wheelchair tennis. Although surprisingly, the stands weren't quite packed to the brim as I would have expected. I figured I would put this down to people taking the opportunity to enjoy the Park itself, picnic on the green where they can watch the action on the big screens.
At Eton Manor the atmosphere was perfect. Something to do with the weather I imagine. The mellowing heat caused everyone to relax and simply enjoy the tennis. Even Prince Edward made an appearance, there to support the GB players and experience the action himself. I only caught a glimpse of him leaving, though, three cars and an entourage of about a dozen.
I bumped into a rather interesting Thai reporter. No entourage. He had gone all out in a traditional Buddhist dress and temple-shaped head piece. He was all smiles as we greeted each other in Thai (point to me) and had our photo taken. Unfortunately my Thai isn't that good so the conversation ended relatively briefly. It was great to see someone get so into the occasion. And you have to give him credit for wearing the heaviest imaginable outfit on what was probably Britain's hottest day in years.
Over to the competition, and ParalympicGB No.1, Lucy Shuker, was up against Holland's Jiske Griffioen in the women's quarter finals. The match was full of long rallies and deep hitting, but Shuker seemed to struggle with her own performance and couldn't find her rhythm.
I had a brief chat with Shuker after the match and she was obviously disappointed. Frustrated at herself more than anything. She was graceful in defeat, but very quick to turn her focus to the doubles competition later in the day, and not dwell on the singles loss too much.
Peter Norfolk, aka the 'Quadfather', lost the chance to defend his Paralympic crown, going down 2-1 to Israel's Shraga Weinberg. Norfolk remains in the medals however. He and his quad doubles partner, Andy Lapthorne, will have Great Britain's best chance for a gold medal in the wheelchair tennis. They take on Nicholas/Wagner of the USA on Wednesday. A huge match as the number one and two ranked teams battle it out for glory.
One thing that really struck me about Eton Manor was the laidback atmosphere. I walked in and saw a few of the GB players relaxing on the bold coloured lounges, headphones in, sunglasses resting on their heads, and just minding their own business. I think it is great that the athletes can be so comfortable in such a public place.
Although it's not open to the ticket holders, the room was busy with journalists, production teams, and information staff darting around, having meetings or eating lunch. It was quite sweet I thought. Not sure if you would see Maria Sharipova sitting in such an open room with dozens of people darting around her. But then again, maybe you would.