Saturday 22 September 2018

No regrets for Evans as new opportunity knocks for Rio hero

Scott Evans’ famous celebration at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Sportsfile
Scott Evans’ famous celebration at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

In the end, a 15-year career boiled down to three short days of reflection, during which Scott Evans looked inside his heart and realised it was time to move on.

The Dubliner announced yesterday that he will retire from international badminton after next week's European Team Championships in Russia, drawing the curtain on a decorated career that saw him compete at three Olympic Games and carve a path for Irish badminton where once none existed.

There's no single thing that made him call time, just a confluence of factors that, when added together, left him fully content with the idea of walking away.

First: the tap running dry on desire. Evans has been based in Copenhagen since the age of 16, from where he built himself into a world-class player, but that do-it-yourself mentality is only sustainable for so long.

"I don't have that same energy and attitude," he admits. "If I don't have that I will never get to the level I know I can play at. It doesn't make sense to continue doing something your heart is not in and the desire to continue doing that has faded away the last few months."

Second: the injuries. Playing through pain is something he's done for many years, and while adrenaline typically carried him through matches, the toll on his body has become increasingly cruel elsewhere.

"I haven't played a tournament in the last two years where I haven't had an injury and on a daily basis that's not fun to deal with," he says.

Third: the knock of opportunity. Evans was recently offered the chance to help set up a badminton academy in Copehagen alongside a retired elite player, a rare opportunity to secure a living from the sport for many years to come.

The effort involved in that, however, would simply not allow him the time and energy to train like a professional and the on-court returns were simply not going to sustain him much longer.

"Financially, if you're top 20 in the world you can earn some very good money but if you're not it's hard. I never went into badminton trying to be a millionaire, but I also have a future to look at.

"I spent most of my savings on my badminton career and that's not a negative thing, it's something to give myself the best possible chance I could. I could continue playing and decide (to retire) in a year's time when my body couldn't cope but would the (job) opportunity still be there?"

In recent weeks Evans took time to reflect on his situation, weighing up the pros and cons of carrying on, but any time he sent the thought of retirement rolling around his brain, it always came up with the same answer.

"It was a very strange few days for me," he says. "When I said to myself 'I'll seriously consider stopping', it came to my heart straight away that this was the right thing to do. But there were a lot of times in those days where my mind said, 'is it?' Then every time I came back to that feeling in my heart that this is the right thing to, the right way to end."

Glorious

When he looks back, two glorious moments are forever branded in his memory: his Irish Open win in 2012 and the Rio Olympics in 2016, where Evans finished a superb ninth.

He loves the sport too much to ever truly walk away, of course, so Evans will still play, but now his focus will be on imparting his wisdom to the next generation.

"I'm still training and I probably will for a number of years because I love badminton, and I'm addicted to it," he says. "I was very proud I was able to stick it out, put in all the work I did, and achieve all that I achieved."

Irish Independent

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