Coming into 2017 has lead with many decisions from 2016 looming over the fate of a variety of things in the United Kingdom, we all know that the country is in a large dip of uncertainty throughout the upcoming year. One of which that lies dear to me is the fate of badminton within the UK.
On the the 9th of December 2016, UK Sport released it’s funding allocation to sports for the new Olympic and Paralympic cycle on the run up to Tokyo 2020. Four sports; badminton, weightlifting, fencing and archery, had their funding completely axed.
Rio 2016 for badminton was the most successful campaign since it’s height in Athens 2004, where Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms won silver in the mixed doubles. Last summer, Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge beat multiple odds in achieving what they did for Team GB. After fighting tooth and nail, qualifying 2nd in their group narrowly due to fierce competition, they performed valiantly to qualify for the semi-finals of the mens doubles after beating the top Japanese pair. Sadly after losing to the now Olympic gold medallist pair from China, they were able to perform to the best of their abilities against the 2nd seeded Chinese pair in the bronze medal match.
I know where I was. At the Edinburgh Napier university on an internship, asking my supervisor if I could take some time between experiments running to be ablate watch the match. I couldn’t sit still. I could barely contain myself I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, two GB athletes giving it their absolute all in a match they weren’t expected to be in, let alone go onto win. For the whole 3-set thriller I was in a cafe making small shrills and screaming noses egging on the GB team in a match I won’t forget.
To both Marcus and Chris you can see how much it meant to them to perform for their country, tears, collapsing to the floor in probably a mixture of exhaustion, ecstasy and euphoria. Both Olympic Bronze medallists. The GB badminton community thought that this would lead to building on a pedigree of quality badminton players leading by the example of these two. However, UK Sport did not see it that way. GB Badminton targets for Rio 2016 were to bring back between 0-1 medals, and due to the amount of badminton quality coming from Asian players, it was already an uphill battle from the get go. GB badminton met it’s target, but felt like an overachievement due to the standard of badminton in other continents around the world.
Marcus and Chris responded, saying that the medals they won in Rio felt ‘worthless’. Others also have raised their voices. Kirsty Gilmour, the number one seed in GB women singles and 2014 Commonwealth games silver medallist felt disheartened from eh decision “If I ever do school talks I can’t go in there and say ‘if badminton is your dream and if you reach a certain level you are going to be funded, I can no longer preach that message.” By removing funding for top athletes, how does this show how hard work and commitment is treated when performing for your country in a sport that your love? How does this produce role models for children to look up to?
Raj Ouseph, eight-time English National Championship singles winner, thinks that success in the Olympics can transform a sport, where ‘the Olympics is the pinnacle for me and my teammates’ He goes onto describe how the boost in badminton happened after the silver won in Athens 2004. However how does funding pulling show a boost in any sport?
Chris and Gabby Adcock, 2014 Commonwealth gold medallists both took to social media ‘struggling to understand’ the decision with no prior warning. I for one am not able to comprehend seeing a sport that medals in the Olympics to have it’s funding removed for the next cycle. UK Sport funding helped in all of GB’s athletes in the run up to the Olympics and tournaments along the way with transport, entries, support whether physiotherapy or sport psychology. That money was vital to the success of badminton in the UK.
UK Sport responded to the reactions of members within the GB badminton community, saying “we would like to invest in every sport but the reality is we have to prioritise to protect and enhance the medal potential.” I for one do not see how removing funding is a way of protecting or enhancing a sports potential to win medals, especially to one that meets its targets.
Even without the brilliance of athletes in GB badminton, I for one have benefited from badminton as a sport. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. I am proud to be the president of the University of Stirling badminton club. When I started out in my first year of university it was scary like you can imagine. You know no one to begin with at all. I used to play badminton in high school so I thought from there I’d give it a go.
From the first day I stepped foot into that sports hall I felt welcomed. I met people who even though have moved through the club, I’ll never forget. Spending multiple nights in post-training talking about life in general and things on everyones mind The friends I’ve met through the sport are some of the people closest to me, who’ve helped me through dark times and shared memories I will never forget, even with my terrible memory.
Even when I’m not around these guys still do so much for me. I’m trying to pass on the baton of people who come into the club now, that they can find a place where they can have fun and find a friend. However being there for people in the club is difficult from where I am is hard and I’m seeing the challenges associated with running a club, juggling final year and trying to stay connected with people in the club. However, I do it because I love it. The sport and the people within it are what’ve made me the person I am today. I don’t know what kind of person I would be without the club but I can safely say I wouldn’t be as positive a person as I am now.
Now enough of my sentimentality. UK Sport make a decision on the final funding allocations in March, however the petition below is to run till June 15th. There is still time to make a difference and every signature counts towards getting the role models of badminton in GB back they funding to continue to progress in their training and to be able to encourage the progression of the sport in the UK.
Please sign this petition. Whether you’re a fan of badminton, or sport in general. I urge the sporting community to be make a stand to help a sport that deserves to be fully supported by UK Sport. Help GB badminton get its funding back so it can continue to show that it can perform at the highest level and make role models for young sportsmen and sportswomen to look up to.
To all who sign this petition, I couldn’t thank you enough.