As beads of perspiration trickled down Chinese badminton player Lin Dan’s forehead during the final on Sunday, Great Britain’s Ainsley Richards prepared to leap into action on the court.
No, her task was not to return his serves in the electrifying badminton final of the London Olympic Games. Her task was to mop up his sweat from the floor.
In a report by The Wall Street Journal, 17-year-old Richards is part of a specially trained 30-person janitorial team responsible for mopping the floors during the Olympic matches to prevent players from slipping.
"It is not the most glamourous job," Richards, herself an elite badminton player in the Welsh league, was quoted as saying, "but we're on TV – and we're in the Olympics."
A mopper is one of the most high-profile volunteer jobs one can get at the Olympics. These workers responsible for keeping the courts sweat-free are prominently featured in games such as badminton, volleyball, handball and basketball.
Don’t think that getting a job to mop sweat comes easy – there was intense competition for the mopper roles, with volunteers chosen based on their background of community service and sporting leadership. Once selected, these moppers had to undergo months of training before they could appear on court.
"You have to go like lightning – you feel like Usain Bolt mopping," says Richards. Staying in sync is difficult, she adds, because athletes on either side of the court produce different amounts of sweat.