Friday, September 17, 2021
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Spotlight: Chloe Birch | Badminton England

Chloe Birch draws inspiration from the exploits of her compatriot in Rio and the rise of European players in the women’s doubles as she prepares for her Olympic bow.

The 25-year-old will partner with Lauren Smith in Tokyo with the pair looking to become Great Britain’s first Olympic medalists in their discipline.

Birch and Smith took silver at this year’s European Championships, and the duo that beat them in the final, Bulgarian sisters Stueva Stefani and Gabriella, saw a path for the continent’s badminton stars to follow.

Birch hopes to do just that in Tokyo, while having to look no further than the achievements of two of Britain’s Rio champions to realize what could be possible this summer.

“The shift in Europe has been massive in the ladies’ doubles, and the Europeans are really pushing, which is a very different scenario than it was five or ten years ago,” she said.

“It’s great that the other Europeans are doing as well as you do.

The Stoeva sisters motivated everyone as we thought “If they can do it, why can’t we?”

“We were so close to beating some of the best real couples in the world, so why not? Why not us?”

“Why can’t we go up in the Olympics, do our best and get a medal?

“We saw with [men’s doubles bronze medal winners] Marcus [Ellis] and Chris [Langridge] Last time, anything could happen. You enter the games and get as far as you can.

“I’m really excited about trying to create turmoil against some of the best couples in the world.”

While this is Birch’s first Olympics, she’s used to competing in multiple sporting events – dating back to 2013, when she represented Team GB at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.

This was followed by a place in England’s squad for the Commonwealth Games – and a bronze medal in the mixed team event – and Birch believes those trials put her in good standing before her debut on the biggest stage ever.

“I’ve done quite a few multi-sport events, like the Commonwealth Games, so I kind of know the whole village environment and I’m going to adapt that more broadly,” she said.

“It will be a little different but we are there to compete at the end of the day. We have to enjoy it but we have work to do.”

Born in Preston and raised in Sheffield, Birch’s badminton adventure began at the Abidal Park Badminton Club and forms one half of a proud Northern duo with Carlisle Smith.

The pair’s candor helped bring out their best on the court and Birch believes transparency will be key as the 14th-ranked world stars, who won the Orleans Masters in 2019 for their first BWF World Tour victory, will go on to glory this summer.

“We’ve definitely evolved as a pair in the past few years,” she said.

“There have been challenges. We are both northern, bitchy, a bit stubborn at times, but you get past it and you work together and you always know the other one puts 100% in getting the best score.

“We both have this ultimate goal of giving the best of our abilities in Tokyo. As long as you have that, you can achieve anything.”

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