Go for gold with hellfire and hypnotism

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The Independent Online

Sending off a British Olympic team to Athens involves more than just assembling a bunch of athletes, boxers, rowers, etc. All these people have to be looked after, and their wants provided for. Today we go behind the scenes and profile just a few of the backroom boys and girls who keep the show on the road, and who will give our team a chance of going for gold.

Sending off a British Olympic team to Athens involves more than just assembling a bunch of athletes, boxers, rowers, etc. All these people have to be looked after, and their wants provided for. Today we go behind the scenes and profile just a few of the backroom boys and girls who keep the show on the road, and who will give our team a chance of going for gold.

Derek Bosher, Sports Counsellor

"There was no sports counselling in the old days. If you lost, you lost. Nobody tried to get in touch with your feelings of loss, or talked you through it. When you came off the track, having finished a pathetic seventh out of eight in the 800 metres semi-final, there was nobody there to make yourself feel good about yourself, and pick yourself up again."

Derek Bosher talking, one of a new breed of sports counsellors whose job it is to, as he puts it, turn losing into loving. What the hell does that mean?

"Ah, you see, when people lose a race or a contest, they feel rejected and unwanted. But losers are the majority! Winners are a very rare bunch, and not always a very pleasant lot of people, whereas the losers represent the mass of humanity, so I see it as my job to put the loser back in touch with his fellow man and woman. By losing, a competitor has reaffirmed his or her humanity!"

And if they win? Do they need counselling then?

"No. Then they need advice from the media coach."

Max Herold, Media Coach

"When you win a race, you raise your hands to the crowd, you wrap yourself in a Union Jack, everyone loves you, then someone sticks a mike in your hand and you make a fool of yourself with some ludicrous gushing interview, and undo all the good work. It's my job to prevent all that," says Max Herold, British Olympic media coach.

But surely you can't grab someone just after they've won a medal and tell them how to do an interview?

"No, no, no," says Max. "We have long training sessions beforehand. I coach our medal hopefuls in how to be loved by the public. Anyone can win a race. It takes a star to be popular as well."

And if you're given an athlete who, frankly, has no real chance of a medal, what do you do then?

"If they're really hopeless, I leave them to the team chaplain."

The Rev Guy Walpole, Olympic padre

"People think of me as some sort of wimp," says the Rev Walpole, who was chosen as British Olympic padre after a gruelling series of trials at Lambeth Palace. "Well, there's plenty of wimpishness at the Olympics all right. But it all comes from the counsellors, and the media coaches, and the health and safety people. And from the athletes too. One little pulled muscle and they're off for six months. God save us, the modern Oympics is like one big safety net! That's why they need someone like me, to go out and kick ass!"

The Rev Guy Walpole is not, it seems, like the conventional image of a padre. He does not, for instance, pray with the athletes for success.

"Certainly not. Hellfire is more my method. Convince the buggers that they're going to be damned if they don't win, and it does wonders."

And if all else fails?

"If all else fails, hand them over to the team hypnotist."

Leo Wirral, official British Olympic team hypnotist

"You are going into a deep sleep," says Leo Wirral. "When you come out of this sleep, you are going to interview me for The Independent newspaper. You will ask me some questions, and like my answers, no matter what nonsense I tell you. Then you will offer me £500 for the interview. In cash. £500, remember. OK, you can wake up now."

More key British Olympic figures coming soon!

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