Photo: Badmintonphoto
Chloe Birch: It would be a shame
Date: 6/23/2020 8:18 AM
Published by : Emilie Sommer (BEC)

The women’s doubles qualification has been like “dancing on the edge” for Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith. There are a lot of strong women’s doubles pair in Europe like Selena Piek and Cheryl Seinen, the European Games winners, as well as the Stoeva sisters, to name a few that Birch/Smith have been competing closely with. 

The qualification year for the Olympic Games can be extremely hard as the players practice a lot and play as many tournaments as they can. Now when the Olympics has been postponed, there will also be a new qualification period which mean the players need to find focus and strength once again to perform as good as they can. 

The qualification is in itself very hard physically for many players, but then when you are on the edge to qualify or not too, it can be just as hard mentally. 

- I found that very difficult. At first obviously no one knew what was going to happen with Tokyo Olympics and I was often getting asked if I knew anything. I think obviously for me, we were so close to being qualified for Tokyo, and after the All England where we earned valuable points for qualification but also has a great game against the former World Number 1s, it was a tough blow to think we could have to do the qualification process all over again. The qualification year for most people is hectic and very tiring with lots of tournaments and travelling, I just hope BWF find a way to incorporate the points we have already earned in this qualifying year to add to Tokyo 2021 because it would be very sad if that was all wasted. Although having some time to reflect now and everything that is going on in the world there is much bigger things happening right now, that an Olympic Games feels almost irrelevant until we can get the Coronavirus under control. 

One more shot

Birch is 24 and will be 25 when the Olympic Games will take place in 2021. Three years later she will be 28 and Paris 2024 therefor could be another shot at securing a spot at the Olympics. 

But even though Birch will able to play for the Olympics 2024 that is not what is on her mind when she thinks of the future. 

- I think that’s a tricky question, even though I am still young I still have lots I want to achieve in my career, and I have always been ambitious despite being young. The extra year until this Olympics gives us more time to prepare and improve that is for sure, however it could also impact following competitions after the Olympics such as 2022 Commonwealth Games which is in Birmingham. For us this is a home games so we will also be looking forward to that, however with only a year between the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games it could affect preparation. 

Read: Thom Gicquel: It depends

England or Team GB?

England competes under their own flag at most tournaments, but when it comes to the Olympic Games, the players compete under Team Great Britain together with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That means Birch will not be the highest ranked women’s singles player as Kirsty Gilmour from Scotland is ranked 40 spots higher when they compete under Team GB.

- I think our situation with England and Team GB is always a tricky one because not many other countries have the unique situation we do. In my opinion it’s never been one that’s bothered me, since I began Badminton and was interested in sport, I always understood that the Olympic Games is competed as Team GB. Obviously, it’s strange because yes, I have been the top singles player in England for a couple of years now but Kirsty is ahead of me in the rankings so there was always a realism going into qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. I think it also took the pressure off me competing because I could enjoy my singles matches instead of looking so much at the points or what other people are doing, and then fully focus on qualifying in the women’s doubles event. 

Fast forwarding 10 months from now when the new qualification period is over, we will know which players who will have qualified for the Olympics 2021 in Tokyo. Asking Birch if she will have a ticket for Tokyo, she says. 

- I really hope so. I think I found the qualification year really hard and the constant pressure to perform and do well at every tournament. We played a lot of tournaments and travelled to so many countries that it would be such a shame if it was all for nothing. I think our progress over the last year has shown that we are still an improving pair. I think we have worked on certain elements of our game which doesn’t necessarily come natural to us but has improved our overall game so we can compete with and beat some of the best WD pairs in the world. Hopefully when we can get back training, we can carry on improving to cement our place in Tokyo 2021.

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