THE Extreme Environments Laboratory is never likely to be mistaken for a luxury spa resort.

That Gordon Reid chose to spend eight hours inside a heat chamber prior to departing for Tokyo tells us two things.

Firstly, the life of a professional athlete is not always glamorous. And, secondly, that preparation is key when the margins between success and failure are so fine.

Reid collected gold and silver medals on his previous Paralympic adventure to Rio in 2016 and there is an expectation that the wheelchair tennis player will be back on the podium at least once this time as well.

In the doubles he and partner Alfie Hewett are as close to a sure thing as there can be. The duo have swept the board in recent Grand Slams, winning seven in a row from the 2019 US Open to this year’s Wimbledon, the latter earning them an audience with the Duchess of Cambridge.

“She’s really nice and supportive and she ended up coming the following day to watch my singles final too which was brilliant,” reveals Reid.

The Helensburgh athlete is keen to taste success again as the 18-times Grand Slam champion bestowed the highest honour on the Paralympics.

“It’s going to be a bit different from Rio with no fans there and all the protocols in place but it’s still a massive event,” he says. “Getting to represent your country is always a real honour as we don’t get that too often in tennis. So I’m really excited and looking forward to competing.

“What I achieved in Rio five years ago is right up there for me compared with everything else I’ve done in my career.

“For wheelchair tennis, the Paralympics is still the pinnacle of our sport. That’s the big one that most people want to win.

“It’s great to be able to say I’ve done that, especially when in a usual cycle you only get that opportunity every four years.

“You have to make it count when the chance comes along and that’s hopefully what I’m going to be doing here in Tokyo.”

Reid admits that being the pair to beat will place the spotlight firmly on him and Hewett when his doubles campaign gets underway tomorrow.

“There’s a pressure there but it also brings a level of confidence,” he says.

“We’re going in ranked as No.1 seeds and there’s a reason for that. We’ve been playing great and produced consistent results over the past few years now. We deserve to be up there but that doesn’t guarantee you anything in sport.”

Visiting the heat chamber was not a pleasant experience but Reid was determined to leave no stone unturned.

“I’d like to thank the Institute of Sport and the University of West of Scotland for helping me out with that as I’d watched a lot of the Olympics and seen the extreme conditions the athletes were enduring,” he says.

“They’ve got a lab where they can set the heat and humidity to whatever levels they want. So I spent an hour at a time inside the chamber on the handbike doing interval sessions to get my heart rate up.

“I did eight sessions over two weeks which is the recommended scientific amount to get the benefits from it.

“That was great to get that extra peace of mind that you’ve put your body through a little bit more exposure to prepare yourself for these conditions.

“You come out of it every time feeling absolutely knackered! But hopefully it helps.”

Retaining the singles title will be a tougher ask for the 29 year-old who is ranked fifth in the world and has not won a Grand Slam on his own since 2016, having finished runnerup in that Wimbledon final watched by the duchess this year.

“It’s going to be very tough as the level has improved consistently over the past few years,” he adds.

“There are a lot of good players in great form at the moment so I’m under no illusion as to how difficult the singles challenge is going to be.

“But at the same time I’ve beaten all the guys who are ranked ahead of me this year so I know I’m capable of producing those results at the big events.”

Reid is a massive Rangers fan but has steered clear of Ibrox since fans were allowed back to minimise any chance of catching Covid and placing his Paralympic appearance in jeopardy. He is determined to get to a game upon his return, ideally on the pitch showing off his medals should Tokyo all go to plan.

“I thought it would be a wise decision not to take any chances so I’ve not been to a game yet,” he says.

“But that’s going to be the No.1 target on my list when I get back. And if there was a chance to get on the pitch at half time I’d love to do that.”