If Euan Burton does not return with a judo medal from Beijing, the entertainment business may be an option. He has been coached in juggling by Tag Lamche, former drummer with with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. This is no frivolous party trick, but is part of a hand-eye co-ordination development programme. It's just one part of Sir Clive Woodward's ambitious £20m elite performance masterplan, and is geared less to Beijing 2008, but rather London 2012.

Burton said yesterday that he does not regard himself as a guinea pig, but he is being used to pilot Woodward's ideas. If it succeeds, more Team GB competitors may find themselves improving sensory motor skills with Tag, who has already helped skier Chemmy Alcott.

Burton stepped off the mat yesterday in Macau and pronounced himself ready to go.

The 81-kilo Edinburgh player is in action next Tuesday in the Beijing University Science and Technology Gym. "I am fit, really sharp, and just tapering down," he said. "I'm right where I want to be for making the weight."

As typhoon Pak Men lashed rain and sent palm trees thrashing outside, Burton corked his own energy, preparing to unleash it over the six five-minute contests it will take to win what would be Britain's first Olympic judo gold.

He knows only too well what the pain of defeat can mean. He was sparring partner to Graeme Randall when the Bonnybridge fighter won the world title at this weight. Randall also won Commonwealth gold, but his Sydney Olympic defeat hurt like no other.

The 29-year-old Burton, from Tranent, is working with as many as a dozen specialists enlisted by Woodward. These include Lamche and David Alred, the psychologist credited with having helped Jonny Wilkinson become a points-harvester. The former secretary of the RFU, Bob Weighill, had banned Alred from rugby for life. Woodward appointed him England kicking coach.

If Burton succeeds, there is every possibility the programme will be extended to every British Olympic sport. But Woodward's ideas are controversial. He has been accused of cutting UK Sport's grass, duplicating what they do on their turf.

"I don't feel like a guinea pig at all," said Burton. "Only positive things can come from working with experts in their field, and having different people in the programme.

"Tag is teaching skills acquisition, with all sorts of drills. There is a good deal more to this than "hit me with your rhythm stick", Tag's old band's quirky-lyric smash.

There is no percentage in being slow. Burton only wants it quick, and the faster the better.

"It's about accuracy and speed of the hands, and then transferring that to judo. It's a long road. We have been working together for about nine months, but it's on the back burner now until after Beijing. The maximum focus will be after the Games, building to 2012.

"Essentially it's about hand-eye co-ordination and accelerated movement. If you can get your hands faster, you can get your hands on your opponent quicker, even if it's just fractions of a second. Tag and I are face-to-face about once a month, but we talk on the phone, and send video clips."

Juggling is part of his training. "I can do a fair variety of things with three balls, and have just started with four," he says.

Also helping train his eyes, to see more and see it earlier, is Cheryl Calder, a specialist in vision' who worked with the England World Cup rugby side. "If my peripheral vision is better, and I can see an opponent's foot or a hand twitching better than I had done before, then that provides me with another tiny percentage improvement in my game."

He says he believes it's important to keep an open mind. "The big difference I have seen with Alred is mindset. My coach, Billy Cusack, sits in and the three of us discuss the sessions together.

"We'll look at how we create pressure or react to pressure, rather than have a set programme. It's good to have a fresh pair of eyes, someone from outside judo with a slightly different view. But I am not about to tell you my exact mindset in fights and reveal it to rivals."

Clint Eastwood features in Alred's script. There's a scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which he plays to Burton. Eastwood is expecting an ambush by a gunman. Three turn up. The message is to be prepared.

Burton says he's wanted to be Olympic champion since he was six. "To know that I've got a chance of being Olympic champion is a massive thing for me." He has travelled the world in search of the tools, a dangerous pursuit. He admits to a slight shoulder niggle after returning from a high intensity and high volume three weeks in Japan about two months ago.

"But it's not a setback," he says. "It won't affect me on the mat. When you get slammed on your back these things tend to happen."

Pressed about the risks inherent in sparring and training, he said: "You are taking a risk every time you go on the mat. There is always a risk of getting injured in any sport, and even more so in a contact sport. But I think the risk of not preparing properly is bigger than the risk of getting injured.

"I'd rather turn up at the Games absolutely confident that I'd done everything I could to be in the best condition of my life, than play it safe, and know I was in good enough condition to finish in the top 10.

"I don't want to finish in the top 10. I want to be the person standing on the top of the podium and I think to do that you really have to push yourself to levels that you have not done before."

"The three weeks in Japan were about volume. Its the volume of judo, of randori, that gives judo fitness. You have to be ready to do six fights in one day, at absolutely maximum intensity."

He stresses the need to have "a fight for every type of fighter". The Georgians can put people away in the first minute. But phenomenally strong, they don't last, having given so much. "If you are clever, and keep away from them for a minute and a half, then they lose."

You need the ability to put someone away very quickly. You have to be clever enough to win fights tactically, and good condition so that if the fight goes into the last minute or goes to golden score, you are still able to push in that last period.

"The big difference you see with people who get on the rostrum - not just at Olympic Games, but consistently - is that they have a fight for different styles."

His is the most competitive weight. He reckons half of the 32-strong draw are capable of winning. "European judo is so strong that if you qualify from Europe, you are a medal chance. There's nine qualified from the European ranking list, so if you are one of those nine, you've already proved you can medal in the biggest events."

Burton won European bronze in 2005, and European and world bronze last year where he beat the 2000 Olympic champion at 73kg. By the time the Beijing qualifying period ended in April, Burton was European No.1.

If he brings home a medal, Burton could change the whole approach to Olympic preparation. Every aspiring 2012 competitor will have reasons to be cheerful.