Beijing Olympics 2008: living the dream
Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:15
For many sportsmen and women, being asked to represent your nation at the Olympics is a huge honour and a high point of their careers but mere selection was not enough for Devin Mullings.
The Bahamian was offered a place in the national tennis squad as an alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens but turned it down, even though he had no guarantee that the chance would arise again.
I decided not to go because alternates couldnt walk in the ceremonies, and I was just starting school at Ohio State, he explained.
Four years on and Mullings, following an impressive NCAA career, has emerged as the No.1 singles player in the Bahamas, despite not pursuing a professional tennis career following his time at Ohio State.
Mullings is currently ranked No.985 in the world nowhere near the Olympic standard for the singles competition, but high enough to earn himself a spot in the doubles event, partnering compatriot and world No.8 doubles player, Mark Knowles.
“Hopefully this whole opportunity will spark further success in my tennis game going forward”
Knowles will be competing in his fourth Olympics, having competed in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Games with fellow Bahamian, Mark Merklein. In the wake of Merklein’s retirement, Mullings has stepped up to form the new-look outfit.
He is one of the top ten greatest doubles players in tennis, so its a great honour to play with him, Mullings said, and he rates their chances should he do as hes told.
He has the experience hes won Grand Slams in doubles; hes won the French Open and the US Open doubles, and hes been to the Olympics, so thats a huge thing for me to be able to use his experience during the matches out there.
It would be great to win a few rounds or get to the medal stages, he continued. But I just want to compete hard and do everything that my partner is asking me to do, listen to his instructions. I think if I do that, then great things are going to happen.
Perhaps more importantly to the 22-year-old, this time round he will walk in the opening ceremony as part of the Bahamas Olympic team, and truly get the full Olympic experience.
Its an honour Im expecting it to be an unbelievable experience.
I dont think any words would be able to describe it. Ive seen it on television, Ive seen different athletes walk out there, and its a great honour to actually be walking out there instead of just watching. I think you have to actually be there and experience it to give you a full understanding of how it truly feels.
At a competitive level, Mullings is thrilled at the prospect of playing on a world stage alongside the likes of Federer and Nadal, both of whom he admires greatly.
I really appreciate what those guys are doing with the game today, he said. Theyre the two best tennis players in the world right now, and they have excellent sportsmanship, and a great camaraderie going on right now. Its great for the game.
And since his inclusion at the Games was announced, Mullings is reconsidering the prospect of turning pro.
I want to give it a good shot and see what Ive got. For a couple of years, at least, I want to compete hard and see how far I can take it. I want to perform well in the next few years, representing my country in the Davis Cup, as well.
But for now, Mullings is focussed on producing a performance to be proud of in Beijing. In his opinion, finally realising the Olympic experience should bring out the best in this aspiring tennis star.
Hopefully this whole opportunity will spark further success in my tennis game going forward.
Many describe the Olympics as a life-changing experience. For Devin Mullings, they could be just that.