A Wisbech coach's diary form the Far East

WE reported last month how Wisbech rugby player Mark Laws endured the most bizarre 24 hours of his life. The day after surviving a massive earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people and made more than five million homeless, he secured his dream job as

WE reported last month how Wisbech rugby player Mark Laws endured the most bizarre 24 hours of his life.

The day after surviving a massive earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people and made more than five million homeless, he secured his dream job as a fitness coach for the Chinese national football team as they prepare them for this year's Olympic Games.

In this new regular feature, the 26-year-old will keep our readers updated with his progress in the lead up to the big event.

Laws has recently been in Vietnam, working with the Chinese women's team as they played in the Women's Asia Cup.


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We arrived in Vietnam on May 26 around 6pm. With our opening match just 48 hours away we wasted no time in acclimatising to our new surroundings and the intense heat. The climate is constantly between 30 and 35 degrees and is very humid. The temperature stays the same 24 hours a day all year round, so it is not the ideal weather to be playing any sports. We went straight to the stadium for an evening training session.

China were the defending champions after defeating Australia 2-1 in the 2006 Melbourne final, and were seeded number one for the tournament. This meant there was a lot of pressure on our players to perform, despite this being a new and much younger squad than 2006, with new management. We came second in the group after defeating the hosts 1-0, Thailand 5-0 and losing 1-0 to a very strong DPR Korea side (albeit by a lucky goal deflected off the referee). The group stages were very tough and played in very hot conditions. This meant that I was very busy dealing with injuries and dehydration, and ensuring that players could play again as soon as possible.

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After finishing second in the group we faced Japan in the semi-final. Japan had won their three matches in Group Two.

The players were rewarded with a two-day break which gave me an extra 24 hours to repair all the niggles.

Despite losing 1-0 at half-time our fitness came through in the second half and we won 3-1 to earn a place in the final - against DPR Korea, a repeat of the group match. Unfortunately we lost 2-1 in the final but learnt a lot from the tournament.

For me it was a great opportunity to see the girls play and assess their match fitness, and also to highlight any specific areas that some players may need extra work. It also gave me the chance to put my recovery skills to the test because the matches were so close together.

Following the tournament we have three days off and then meet at a training base in Shengyang, in north east China, near Beijing, on June 13 for three weeks intense fitness training. This period will be crucial for me to raise the players' fitness levels before July when we have several friendly matches. I will be assessing the players' fitness at the start and end of the three weeks, and making sure that all players improve in all areas.

The Olympic Games starts in early August, our three group matches are on August 6, 9 and 12.

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