Amid the various stories emerging from the Asian Games in Guangzhou – doped-up athletes (judon’t say?), weightlifters with swine flu, cycling smash-ups – one of the most peculiar is surely that of Singapore’s own Shayna Ng, silver medallist in women’s singles bowling (and later winner of gold in women’s trios). Just before she rolled a crucial ball in the twelfth frame, her teammate New Hui Fen asked if she wanted to go to the toilet. That followed on from such timely questions as “When was the last time you had chicken rice?” and “What did you have for breakfast?” All part of their coach’s tactic of firing random questions at his charges to calm them down. Taking their minds off the matter at hand apparently helps them to relax and deliver a better performance.Just how far can you take this tactic? Just what’s an acceptable diversion? “Are you sleeping with my boyfriend?” “Do you like my body?” Instead of mocking, should we be taking this theory to heart? If we’re going to produce more world-class athletes (and make no mistake, world-class these girls are; even in a sport with such all-time greats as Homer Simpson and ‘The Dude’ Lebowski) perhaps we need to incorporate the idea into training regimes across the board. How much distraction can you handle, kid? Does tickling help you shoot straighter? If a teammate dances a jig can you still take that penalty? Should we be throwing eggs at the youngsters pounding the cross-country trails at MacRitchie? Planting banana skins around ping pong tables at community centers?Surely there’s no reason to stop at sports. Getting a job done while thinking about something else is a tremendously useful life skill. Let’s see how taxi drivers perform if we release live chickens in the back of the cab. How will ministers respond if instead of applauding their speeches we start doing the conga? And what about our good friends in airport security? If anyone needs training in keeping a cool head, it’s them. If they’re going to insist on seeing X Rays of us naked before we board, let’s at least find out how far they’re willing to go. Next time you’re ordered through the scanning machine, try talking dirty to them. Hey, it worked for our bowling team.