My Journey so far...

Like many others, I started badminton through a family member joining my brother at Oliver’s badminton club in Llanelli aged 13 (a late starter compared to most internationals). I loved the sport straight away and spent the next few years competing in various local leagues and competitions but was never part of the Welsh system.  

This continued until I was 21/22 but my weight had steadily increased to 19 stone.  Despite this I was still relatively competitive and knew I had talent so I made a promise to myself to try and get fit and not to waste what I had.  A tough 12 months followed with a complete revamp of my diet etc alongside building up a training regime which resulted in a 6 ½ stone loss. 

I joined forces with James Phillips who turned out to be my doubles partner for the next 8 years. After a while I was invited to train with the Welsh squad. Initially I felt like a fish out of water training alongside established players who were better than I was at the time. Training was also a lot harder than I’d been used to and I’d often return home and gingerly walk from my car to the house, tackling the stairs was another matter! It would have been easy to retreat to what I knew best but I was determined not to always wonder what could have happened. To be honest my first cap still seemed a million miles away so I dare not dream that a Commonwealth Games could be a possibility. 

Three years later with my first cap achieved a late surge earned us selection for Melbourne 2006. I and my family could not have been prouder and my experiences out there surpassed expectations. This included marching in front of a hundred thousand people at the opening ceremony at the MCG; experiencing the village atmosphere of a multi-sport event for the first time; my on court successes reaching the quarter finals and the unique support athletes received through all of the fans and teams of volunteers.

Needless to say I was bitten by the Commonwealth Games bug which is probably the main reason I’m still going at the ripe age of thirty something.  I’ll save the bulk of my career stories for my memoirs but James and I enjoyed a successful few years before he retired from international badminton shortly after Delhi 2010. 

The bane of any athletes life is injuries, I got off relatively scot free on this score until 2 weeks before Delhi when I tore my calf and my participation was severely in doubt. I can’t remember a lower moment than that afternoon when I was convinced it had been snatched away from me. On the morning I was due to fly I passed a fitness test to allow me to go but my chances of actually stepping on court were rated at 40% at best. Thanks to great support from the Sport Wales and Team Wales medical team I was patched up and recovered well enough to be able to compete.

A couple of months after the games I was just getting back to full strength when on 1 January 2011, I started feeling shoulder pain. Shoulder soreness is not uncommon for badminton players who will hit thousands of smashes a week in training, however, this was something different. After months of physio and two cortisone injections I had shoulder surgery in August 2011. Even though the operation went well the road to recovery is rarely smooth and my rehab had its ups and downs. I’ll always be grateful for the physio (& mental) support I received through Dan Grimstead (of Sport Wales) and latterly Dave Saunders (of Agile Therapy).  It’s taken a long time and it has been less than 12 months since I’ve been able to play pain free.  Regular physio, weights and rehab is now part of my routine but (touch wood) the shoulder feels good.

Upon returning to training after my operation I started a new partnership with Nic Strange who is my current doubles partner. The 2012/13 season was our first taste of competitive play, a Commonwealth qualification campaign typically starts two years before as you need to build your ranking steadily so we were straight into it. It was a great year for us winning three European Circuit tournaments and the national championships before my shoulder flared up again which took me out of action for 3 months and ended our season.

Top 60 in the world is a key bench mark when considering selection for the Commonwealths and one that we are all aiming at. During the 2013/14 season we have achieved that having been ranked 56 during Nov/Dec 13. Our passports will demonstrate that this season has been an extremely busy one for us competing in tournaments covering most of Europe and beyond having competed in Bahrain earlier in the year and in Peru next week. 

Our ranking has dipped slightly in recent weeks. There is a very difficult balance to achieve because by playing in too many tournaments trying to get the results you need it takes your time away from the training environment where the hard work is done. For myself this is compounded because I’m the only player who works full time (luckily I have a very supportive employer) so I’ve got another ball thrown into this juggling act. 

The selection date for badminton is May 15th; we have two or three tournaments to go in Peru, Russia (for the European Championships) and possibly Slovenian Open. We are highly motivated to finish our campaign on a high so that our mind set is good ahead of a very welcome training block to prepare us for Glasgow! 

I’ll sign off with a special mention for my very supportive fiancée Laura. Not only must she put up with my training, travelling and coaching around a full time job she’s also bearing the major brunt of wedding planning this year. We delayed our wedding so I could go for Glasgow (fingers crossed for selection or I’ll be in trouble!) so three days after the Games we will be getting hitched. There is a lot of downtime in between training and competing at the Games so this time around I’ll be including a bit of speech writing no doubt!