Sports

An Olympian of sorts

No medals for him, but Joyce will feel the heat of the sporting arena in Rio, as a caddie  

Patrick Feizal Joyce leaned back in his chair and, for the only time during the 45-minute conversation, turned his nose up at a question.

"That's where you're wrong," he said.

Joyce is Lagardere Sports' vice-president of golf, one of the key men behind the return of the SMBC Singapore Open, and an all-round nice guy.

Yesterday, he embarked on a 30-hour journey to Rio de Janeiro and not just to soak in the atmosphere of the greatest sporting event on the planet when the Olympics kick off tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

No, Joyce is going to be an Olympian. Of sorts.

The 48-year-old holds dual citizenship, of Britain and Canada, but he will be part of Malaysia's Olympic contingent - as caddie to 43-year-old golfer Danny Chia.

And he bristled at the suggestion that he was going to be a fly on the wall in the Athletes' Village, a tourist at the Olympics with an impossible-to-buy front-row ticket, and cruising through the experience.

PRESSURE

"That's where you're wrong. I actually feel the pressure. This is Danny's one and only go at the Olympics and, yes, we have a good relationship, but I don't want to just go there and carry his bag. I want to help when I'm needed," said Joyce.

"Caddying is not an easy job, contrary to what people think. For one thing, you have to be fit. Also, there are rules to follow, you have to know the game and, out on the course, you have to be a psychologist and motivator.

"I certainly feel the pressure."

Chia was the first golfer whom Joyce represented when he started out in 2001 and the pair have been working together for the last 15 years.

Joyce's journey to the Olympics started with a simple conversation between the two friends.

"We've chatted about the Olympics before (last year), but we didn't think it was realistic (to qualify)," said Joyce, who had caddied for Chia some 10 years ago.

"But, last year, when he won his second Asian Tour event, I said to him, 'If you get it, I'll caddie for you and he said it's a deal'."

Only 60 golfers will battle for gold at the Olympics - a tournament format that will see no cuts.

And Chia's road to Rio was a difficult one.

He suffered a career-threatening neck injury in 2013, but enjoyed a revival that saw him eventually qualify for the Olympics in 45th spot.

Joyce did not have an injury to contend with, but his Olympic preparations have not been easy either.

"It was such a rush - and I'm not talking about adrenalin - it was a rush to get everything done. And I still feel ill prepared," said Joyce.

"I've been given reams of documents, detailing clearly what I can and cannot do. They made it clear that I won't get a medal, but at least I'm not subject to doping checks and other things."

While he admitted to feeling nervous about being able to do a good enough job for Chia, the Zika virus was not foremost on Joyce's mind - unlike that of golfers such as Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, all of whom have decided to give Rio a miss.  

"I'm more likely to catch dengue here in Singapore than Zika in Brazil," quipped Joyce who has prudently stocked up on various forms of mosquito repellents.

He isn't too bothered about donning the yellow-and-black tiger stripes of the Malaysian contingent - Joyce was actually born north of the Causeway - but he took the length of the interview to decide what is the one thing he must do in Rio.

"Ok I've got it now," said Joyce, finally putting aside the seriousness of his Olympic task.

"I must go to the athletics session on Aug 14 - after the golf tournament has ended - to watch Mr Bolt and Mr Gatlin in the 100m final."

He is taking his job in the sporting arena seriously, but it was hard to tell if Joyce actually feels like an Olympian.

"My staff got me a cake that said, 'Congratulations on being an Olympian's caddie!'," said a smiling Joyce.

"I thought that was quite rude."

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