Monday, September 1: Nine athletes, four coaches and six support staff set off for Gatwick’s North terminal from Sheffield, Cardiff, London and Kent. It’s an early start for everyone with transport leaving Sheffield and Cardiff at 05.00. The Sheffield group run into heavy Monday morning M1 and M25 traffic but everyone arrives safely and we’re all checked in for the Air China 13.15 departure for Beijing.
Once through security some of the team head to Jamie’s Italian for a last meal and tuck into the full breakfast before we head for the gate. A number of travellers ask where we are going and wish us luck.
Thanks to Air China’s helpful and friendly staff we are all given priority boarding and get settled for the 10 hour flight. Will Bayley tries out his Chinese on a couple of our fellow passengers and there are lots of smiles and nods so hopefully he hasn’t offended any of them.
We’re held on the runway for a while but finally we are airborne and on our way. Ten hours on a plane is never easy and as we are due to arrive in Beijing at 05.50 local time on Tuesday it’s a case of either trying to sleep or staying on UK time and then adjusting when we get to China.
Tuesday, September 2: After a relatively smooth flight we arrive at Beijing Airport at 06.30. It’s raining but around 20 degrees. As always it takes a while to get everyone off the plane as we wait for the wheelchairs to be brought up from the hold but the Air China staff are very helpful and we are then escorted through immigration and on to a train to collect our baggage.
There are two minibuses waiting for us and we make our way through the early morning Beijing traffic to the National Centre for Disability Sport which will be our home for the next two weeks.
Our psychologist Tim has devised a jet lag strategy and we all head to our rooms in the accommodation block to get a few hours’ sleep – alarms are set for 13.00 so we don’t sleep all day. Some people make it down to lunch but everyone is looking forward to tonight when we can all go to sleep again.
A few of the athletes wander over to the competition hall to take a look – for some it is their first experience of China and one of the first things we notice on the way is the vivid pink blossom trees which on closer inspection turn out to be plastic.
Everyone gathers for a team meeting at 18.00. Training tomorrow from 10.00-12.00 and then hopefully a trip to the Great Wall in the afternoon. Other teams starting to arrive now and the build-up to the 2014 World Championships has begun.