GB’s Harley Towler writes about his experience in Rio helping the Team GB players prepare for their opening Olympic matches.

“The time has come. The players are ready to embark on what will be one of the biggest highlights of their career – competing in an Olympic Games.

There’s huge excitement around the whole team, and it really started to build at the wonderfully organised send-off, just how close we are to the Olympic badminton competition starting.

Unique opportunity

It’s a great honour to have been selected as a member of the support team and my role is to provide sparring and feeding during training sessions.

This will involve trying to help my teammates peak and pushing them as much as possible during training. Alongside this role it gives me a unique opportunity to immerse myself into an Olympic Games and experience what village life is like, and to learn from the other players how best to prepare for some of the biggest matches of their career.

We left Heathrow on 2 August and after a short stop in Lisbon we arrived in Rio at 5am on 3 August and had a welcome meeting at 9.30am, so there was no chance to rest.

Pre-competition has been a case of fine-tuning and tapering, and preparing mentally in the best way possible. Some players might want to simply relax and soak up the incredible atmosphere around the village, while others may want to exhaust the resources they have available to them, such as video analysis, the coaching staff and sports medicine team.

The focus within training sessions leading up to 11 August are around quality and not necessarily reproducing the volume typically seen during a training week.

The first few days here in Rio were a case of getting familiar with the environment and attending several formal events.

Best preparation

After a couple of days, we were able to practice in the main competition area. While the hall in the Riocentro Pavilion is nice to play in, there is a side drift which can be difficult for the players to deal with. However, they are learning to cope with this with more practice.

We had a rest day on Monday (7th) to recuperate and also to watch some other sports such as the Men’s Team Gymnastics final and tennis. Team GB have given the athletes a great environment to choose how they want to best prepare. There are fantastic facilities for sports medicine, strength and conditioning as well as a huge food hall with a wide-array of cuisines.

The British School located nearby has had a full gym shipped over purely for the use of GB athletes and is a retreat for athletes should they wish to meet up with their nearest and dearest who have travelled to Rio.

Village life

Although I’m staying outside of the village, in an apartment complex nearby, I will be spending the majority of my time in the village and have access to all the facilities there. I have only experienced village life once before at the 2013 University Games in Kazan, but Rio is on another level.

The vibe in the village is simply amazing, with Brazilian music playing in the distance and famous athletes everywhere you look. In the first few days I’d seen Rafael Nadal, Bradley Wiggins and even the British flagbearer, Andy Murray.

It’s been great to experience an Olympic Games and see everything that goes on and what to expect. My biggest career goal is to go to an Olympic Games and win a medal and this has made me want to achieve it more than ever.

I’d like to thank Badminton England, the BOA and the team for giving me this opportunity and for making me feel welcome among the GB team. All that’s left to say is that I wish the team the best of luck for when competition begins, and I hope I get the chance to watch some of their matches

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