Monday 23 October 2017

Badminton: Second bite at cherry to taste sweeter for driven Magee

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

CHLOE Magee became the poster girl for Irish badminton in Beijing when she got through the first round aged just 19.

The partisan home crowd rose to acclaim her, surprised to see a little Irish girl taking them on so bravely in their own sporting speciality.

Yet four months later, Magee almost quit the sport.

Post-Beijing she switched training base, from Sweden to an elite training centre in Copenhagen. Denmark is the hotbed of European badminton and her housemates included her talented younger brother Sam, yet she still couldn't settle. Her game suffered and she fell out of love with the sport and the lifestyle. She didn't even make it as far as Christmas.

On her return she split her time between her native Raphoe in Donegal and Dublin, wondering what path to take next.

She wasn't sure if she could still make the necessary sacrifices and the lure of college, where all her friends had gone, was tempting.

Fortunately, administrative changes in Irish badminton, now led by Richard Vaughan, helped bring her back from the brink.

They set up a personalised high-performance system for her in Dublin, using Leinster's bases in Baldoyle and Terenure and the Irish Institute of Sport, and her brother Daniel, another of Irish badminton's pre-eminent family, became her coach.

That is why her second bite at the Olympic cherry, starting with a round-robin game against a lower-ranked Egyptian tomorrow night (8.17), means so much.

Under Daniel's harsh training she is now 5kg lighter; a lean mean racquets machine and has moved up 20 places in the world rankings to a mid-40 position.

She still needs to travel abroad for adequate competition and plays for a club in the German league, flying in and out on the same day, but all the sacrifice of the last three years has been focused on this moment.

Irish Independent

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