Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli has an extremely unusual method of preparing himself for races.
Sportspeople can be a superstitious bunch. The fear of leaving anything to chance in pursuit of victory can lead to some odd rituals and routines before competition. Rafael Nadal's almost psychotically precise schedule before and during tennis matches is one of the better-known idiosyncrasies; former Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann's habit of not brushing his teeth on the morning of a game, less so.
But Condorelli might be the pick of the bunch. Before each race he competes in, before he gets onto the starting blocks, he will give his father, Joseph, 'the bird', or, to put it more bluntly, the 'middle finger'.
Four years ago, Condorelli found himself in hot water. Just before he competed in the 2012 US Junior National Championships, he gave his father the finger, just like he always does. Unfortunately, Joseph was sitting behind the camera-so an entire watching TV audience thought he had aimed the gesture at them.
According to Condorelli, he and his father, Joseph, came up with the idea as a way of combating pre-race nerves Condorelli used to suffer as a youngster. As Joseph explained to swimswam.com:
When you get on the blocks, just put everything out of your mind and swim like there’s nobody near you. He said to me, 'How do you do that?’ and I said, ‘Well, you say **** it’. So he looked at me in the crowd, and we both gave each other the finger, and he started winning race after race and we never looked back.
An apology letter from the swimmer soon followed. But, thankfully, Condorelli still maintains his routine-only in a slightly more disguised, subtle manner.
Despite millions watching, the 21-year old did it last night before his 100 metres freestyle semi-final at the Rio Olympics in which he placed second.
Condorelli races tomorrow in the heats of the 50 metres freestyle and 100 metres butterfly before the biggest race of his career so far, the 100 metres freestyle final.
Maybe he'll give his old man the full two fingers this time, for twice the luck.