The secret weapon behind England’s bridge team triumph

There was dedication, heroic endurance and dazzling skill, not to mention fierce rivalry and even drugs testing…And in the end there was a victory for England, secured by a secret weapon which had apparently irritated the French.

But this was not the Olympics: it was the bridge world’s equivalent. And the secret weapon was not new technology, but a dab of lavender oil.

Last week the six members of the England women’s bridge team won gold medals for the game at the World Mind Sports Games…


Heather Dhondy, Nicola Smith, Nevena Senior, Sally Brock, Fiona Brown and Susan Stockdale

They had spent countless hours training, and admitted seeing a sports psychiatrist to reinforce their will to win.

They worked on diet and fitness to get through 13 single-set games and four two-day matches in a fortnight – although they were probably not as fit as the Indonesian team which was sent to an Army-style boot camp prior to last year’s world championship.

For the first time, however, the women have let slip what may be the secret of world domination at bridge…“We dab ourselves with drops of lavender oil before every match,” said Mrs Dhondy, of Hendon, north London. “It is supposed to calm the nerves and improve concentration – and it sometimes annoys our opponents…”

This was confirmed in June, when the English beat a strong French team on their way to winning the 2012 European Championships.

Mrs Smith, of Chelsea, south west London, said: “Although I kept it quiet, I speak French…“So I knew that one of their team was saying: ‘Something smells of toilet cleaner. It’s disgusting.’

“I don’t know for sure if it put them off, but the moment she started complaining about the smell, I knew we had the upper hand.”

Aromotherapy is an interesting medical study. I never thought of it as part of sports training – especially when Western sports are so often sponsored by trendy food and drink and deodorant companies.

I can see it coming. Perfume and cologne sponsorship for Olympic teams. Smell faster. be faster!

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One comment

  1. lowerarchy

    Nice blog. I went for an interview on a Friday when I was 18 (few decades ago now) and the boss said all the staff played bridge in their lunchtimes. Of course, I said, “I’m learning…” and got he job to start the next Monday. So I had to learn…

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