Before I start this post, I have to admit recognition to a power greater than mine for the idea, that power being Deborah Ross in this Saturday’s Times magazine and her article “Going for Gold in Procrastination”. I suppose both her and I should give greater thanks to Olympic fever. Having failed to set the running track alight during my most athletic years (namely the egg and spoon race of Sports Day 1986) and therefore an ensuing apathy towards anything involving aertex and knicker shorts, this year’s Olympics have had me glued to the television over the past weeks. So in the vein of her article, here’s Clare Balding and Gary Lineker’s commentary of the sport I have given myself to for nearly two years.
Gary Lineker: Welcome back to the studio. Clare, there’s been a lot of coverage of the strength of Yorkshire producing some of this year’s best Team GB athletes, and this young lady epitomises the dogged determination that has apparently made a county of medal winners.
Clare Balding: Yes, and the amazing thing is she only took up this sport just under two years ago! The training schedule has been intense, starting in the playing fields of the hospital, and I believe she trains seven days a week. The thing about this sport is the conditions are completely unpredictable, requiring her to react in milliseconds to achieve anything near a medal winning day.
GL: That’s right, many thought she wouldn’t have the strength to succeed at the start. It’s been widely reported that she has often struggled with confidence and self belief, but her love of the sport has shone through every time, despite the gruelling days where she has failed to even get past the first hurdle. But we shouldn’t forget she’s only one half of Team D, she’s fully matched by the Wolf. His absence from the reporting of the sport has apparently been somewhat a bone of contention, especially amongst teams of medical professionals. It’s something I understand she’s campaigning for on the side.
CB: Yep, yep, well Gary, I believe we can join her now. Rufus is competed over 24 hours, so we join her at the start of this final. She’s handling Rufus quite well this morning, it appears the conditions are a little stormy. I believe wind velocity is at maximum.
GL: Quite often conditions start this way, but she’s multi-tasking well, supported by her teammate the Wolf. As she attends to his thirst, he vents his gastrostomy well. If you listen to what sounds like a drain emptying soon the crying will die down, and perhaps a period of rest before the day begins proper.
CB: Indeed Gary, it’s all about pacing yourself with Rufus, otherwise by lunchtime he handles badly. Oh no, looks like we’re all up. Nice sideswipe by the Wolf by placing him expertly in the jumperoo whilst the preparations begin for the day. They are allowed to pre-prepare the medicines the night before so I believe there’s only the mixing of the milk and priming of the pump going on.
GL: Ah ha Clare, yes, but don’t forget the vital cup of tea making that the Wolf is doing simultaneously, allowing for the stamina required.
CB: We join them all downstairs now. Vitally CBeebies is now up and running, as Rufus is brought into the arena and placed into his throne for the start of proceedings. That’s a lovely bit of medicine administration and ‘flushing’ as it’s known in the sport, despite Rufus attempting to get involved with his own gastrostomy.
GL: Yes, Rufus is very nimble fingered so you have to be quick. Their timing is impeccable though, notice how Chuggingtons has just started, calming down Rufus again, and allowing the team mates to sit back for a minute.
CB: It’s deceiving though- notice Mum’s eyes, watching for the merest body movement, eye roll, or cough. They have to get in there in a split second, stem the flow of the feed and attach a syringe otherwise the floodgates open, and that requires an entire kit change, stalling them further.
GL: We join them again, looks like the first feed has been eventful but responded to well. I’m getting word in my ear that actually they’re ahead now.
CB: But notice them still observing carefully and not rushing still, that’s the secret here. They’re handling him well on the floor, encouraging some beautiful rolling and physical feats from their sport, none of which we would have thought possible when the sport began. There’s a kit changed required from all teammates, this is when the day really starts I believe. Who’s first to handle the baton? Not unusually I believe Wolf is attending to his kit change whilst Mum gets Rufus dressed, ready for whatever piece of equipment they’re going to tackle first.
GL: Notice Rufus’s ferret like determination not to allow his kit change though. Luckily Mum’s trained in this the most, so he’s successfully coordinated in 5 minutes, and it’s back to the jumperoo whilst Wolf exits the arena at this point and Mum attends to her own dressage.
CB: We’ll return to Rufus later on in the day. My notes tell me there’s another couple of feeds to administer, some more physical time on the frame and some sitting practice, as well as further floor time and of course, the outside part of the event, which has to be timed perfectly to prevent Rufus becoming unpredictable again. He only handles well outside the arena when rested well, and the conditions are temperate.
GL: Surprisingly you join us again earlier than expected with the athletes in Rufus. It appears there has been a change in the running order. There was an unexpected tidal wave of milk that erupted, and despite the early intervention of calpol, Rufus is becoming hot and unmanageable. Mum is pulling on all her reserves, she’s stripped him down, attending to thirst. Oh, nice use of some favourite toys, looks like they’re working. Oh no, spoke too soon. There’s a flurry of activity, looks like Mum’s considering her options, she’s picked up the telephone.
CB: Hard to tell what she’s thinking, there’s flashes of panic, but I believe she’s mentally working her way through what to do next. Ooh, that’s a school boy error, trying to ask Rufus what is wrong? She’s time wasting. Ah ha, she’s gone to his nappy bag, pulling out Sophie the giraffe and anbesol. Applying quickly and with flourish, she’s brought Rufus back round.
GL: Oh yeeeesss! Did you just see that? He actually laughed! They’re back on track. It was touch and go there for a second. Looks like it’s plain sailing to the bath event now. Looks like there’s some sort of communication practice going on, Rufus is now handling wonderfully.
CB: And we’re back with Rufus, where Wolf has taken on sole responsibility of the bath event. The key points here are earned by a successful brushing of teeth, singing of songs, blowing of bubbles and vitally prevention of soiling in the bath otherwise the whole event is cut short. Rufus seems to actually be enjoying this portion, which is just lovely to see. Look at Mum’s face, she’s beaming with pride at her team mate, and sheer delight at her sport. She’s stepping in to apply the post bath massage and towel dry, and the final kit change. There’s a bit of a wrestle with the hairbrush, but looks like we’re on the final stretch.
GL: It’s amazing to see the quality of Rufus now. Two years ago when it was just establishing, the equipment was very weak and frail. It took very different handling to what we have seen performed today. But yet team D have always risen to the challenge, adaptation is the key. We don’t know the future of the sport, but it appears to be going from strength to strength. Garnering support from previously unknown places. Sponsorship from various key teams, who provide equipment where needed. Let’s hope it doesn’t succumb to failures in funding like so many other events have.
CB: It’s the end of the event now, Rufus masterly entertained with songs and signing, supported by the iPad. He is attempting some more physical feats of endurance in his cot, but winding down now. I think the results will be collated shortly, the event ending when Rufus falls asleep. Looks like he’s going… Oh yes, there he is. Points may be knocked off as he’s upside down. As long as Mum or Wolf step in and turn him in enough time, they should regain the control over the reflux. Ah, here comes Wolf now, he’s spotted the error, and turned him before administering his final feed.
GL: Yep, yep. Results are through… Disappointingly they’ve only earned Silver. Apparently, they may have awarded gold had Mum now insisted she should have done more. That’s not a Gold winning attitude I’m afraid. But she looks happy just to have qualified.