Sunday, August 3, 2008

Badminton: Irish team first in Village

Caption: Scott Evans in action (more pics at his website; link below)

First of the Irish to arrive in the Olympic Village last week were Scott Evans and Chloe Magee who will compete in the badminton singles, starting on Saturday August 9.
The pair are truly living the dream - both still under 21, they were aiming for London 2012, but have improved so much in the past two years that they also qualified for Beijing.
Just as they arrived in China, the draw was announced for the first round in a competition where the host nation is aiming to make a clean sweep of the five gold medals on offer.
Evans, world ranked 46, will play Germany's Marc Zwibler, who is ranked at 23. Only last December, Evans narrowly lost to Zwibler in the semi-finals of the Irish Open at Lisburn.
In the women's singles Chloe Magee, world ranked 74, faces Estonia's Kati Tolmoff, who is ranked at 46.
"I can't wait," says the 19-year-old from Raphoe in Co Donegal."I'm hoping to do my best and go a few rounds.
Since moving to Sweden two years ago to train with Irish coach Tommy Reidy, Magee's game has steadily improved. "I'm much more consistent and am mentally smarter - I have also learned the different patterns of play."
Ultimately her sights are set on the doubles in London, where she hoped to pair up with Karen Bing. "I hope to train a bit more with Karen at home after al this is over. The British have done very well in doubles, so it is our best chance."
Evans gave his fans a scare when he withdrew from the US Open after badly twisting an ankle." I was meant to play a match on the Tuesday, but injured my ankle on the Monday. By the Tuesday I couldn't walk, but I've been going to the gym and doing bike work and I'm fortunate that I had four weeks to get it right."
Evans reckons his gruelling schedule could have had something to do with the injury. "I had eight flights in three weeks, most of them long haul. I flew for American from here after coming home from Indonesia, then on to Vancouver for a training camp, then back to Denmark, where I'm based and then back to Dublin."
He's eager to get started on his Olympic campaign after all the build-up.
"I'm really looking forward to playing now and I'm not really bothered about the draw. I'm just focused on my game right now. The ankle is all but healed as the extensive physio I have been getting on it has worked well. So all in all things are very positive and progressing according to plan.

Looking after the Irish pair is former world No 1 and coach Jim Laugerson. "I first met Scott I think two years ago. He was playing for another club in Denark but wasn't happy. I told him to come to Copenhagen, where he could meet more people. He decided to come home, but after a week came back to Denmark, joined my club and hasn't looked back."
Laugerson, who won the Irish Open at Lisburn in 1995, has since become involved with the Irish set-up.
"I'm trying to move the sport here in a different direction so that we can give players an opportunity to compete at the highest level. They need competition against the best if they are to learn how to think for themselves and improve. Also we need to ensure that they still have a social life and develop as human beings," he says. At the moment, that means that the best three Irish players are living and playing abroad - but that could all change.
Laugerson believes in adapting to the particular culture of a country, having previously coached in Austria. "We have to develop a situation where people are allowed to fail. Young people must know that it is OK to aim for the top. If they fail, so what? Better to try than to sit in a pub and drink pints."
* Order of play :
Scott v Marc Zwibler (GER) Sat 9 August, 9.20 am (2.20am our time).
Chloe v Katie Tolmoff (EST) Sat 9 August 19.50(12.50pm our time).
* Keep up to date with the Irish team at http://www.scottevansirl.com/ which is Scott's excellent wbsite.

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