So someone asked me recently how it felt to get back to winning ways and there’s no way I can give an answer that justifies how utterly elated we are to not only be back playing regularly, but to also be winning titles again. It is EVERYTHING to us right now; that we can proudly sit here and say we’re double Commonwealth Champions having won gold (and a team bronze) at Gold Coast 2018, and now double European champions. Get in!
You’ll all know about the struggles we faced in the first quarter of the year, and I’m absolutely not going to harp on about them in this blog. We really feel like we’ve turned a corner, and any mini identity crisis that was looming has long been dismissed as an understandable wobble that all elite athletes face when they’re in long term rehab.
We went to the Commonwealth Games not really knowing what to expect. Yes, we’d been able to test ourselves beforehand at the YONEX All England, but going to Oz as defending champions after a long lay-off had all the hallmarks of being either a beautiful moment where our 2018 season finally got underway, or a very long plane journey that was going to end with us relinquishing our title. And of course that was never going to happen!
The Commonwealth Games mean so much to us and we wanted to win so badly. We knew that we had to find a certain level in order to beat our closest rivals, and we hoped that if we were able to do that, our experience and pure will to win would have been enough to get us over the finish line. In many ways, we surprised ourselves with the form we were able to find on court, but looking back, we were so fresh both physically and mentally, and so hungry to get competing again that the extended break may even have done us a favour or two. A bit like when Federer skips the clay court season in tennis and then hits the grass fresh as a daisy!
Looking back at the pictures of us on Finals day, it was so emotional. We’re really proud of one another for how we approached the whole tournament and how we held it together to win the gold. Standing on the podium was extremely emotional. Of course it was incredible to have won gold, but honestly the last three months have been a real up-hill struggle at times that victory was even sweeter this time around. Through everything, what helps is having each other. Having your partner by your side throughout definitely made it easier to stay focussed on what was right in front of us, even through the darker moments.
We left Oz feeling so proud – of ourselves, our team mates and everyone who put their heart and soul into that event. We went from not having anything to show for 2018, to being Commonwealth Champions, and did I mention that I’d sprained my thumb and Chris had sprained his calf before the tournament even started?!
So we left Oz, waved goodbye to probably the best athletes’ village we’ll ever stay in, and headed for a quick pit stop back home before moving straight on to Huelva in southern Spain for the Europeans Championships. Having defended our Commonwealth title, we knew we could do the same at the Europeans. Our form was surprisingly good, we’d got some great matches under our belt and the freshness of being back competing was still with us. And luckily for us that form stayed with us, and we’re so happy that we’ve become the first English duo to successfully have defended a European crown. Beating the Danish second seeds in a really tight three set match was both exhausting and exhilarating, and if you saw our match point, it definitely went down to the wire with a line call that was really too close for comfort! Thank you Huelva for putting on a great event, and we should absolutely mention our team who’ve somehow pulled it out of the bag, to help us get back to winning ways.
Honestly, the last two events could not have gone better for us and this is absolutely the best case scenario. If you’d told us one month ago that we would have achieved two of our biggest aims for 2018 then I’m not sure we would have believed you. Things really haven’t been that easy for us these last few months, but we did it regardless and are hopeful that we’re now back on track as we head into the next major events of the year. All we want to do now is head home, see our family, and hug them close. It’s been too long and we’ve missed them hugely having been back on the road again. The last four months have been quite the experience.
And what’s life for if it’s not about experience? Packing in as much of it as you can bear. And I don’t just mean the good stuff. Or the easy stuff. You need to feel the bad stuff, the moments of free-fall, the fear, the doubt to appreciate when you’ve got it good. It’s true that things feel better when you’ve worked for them.
So as we sit here writing this latest blog instalment, I know all the stresses of the last few months have been absolutely worth it and that we’re right where we’re meant to be – back on the podium and appreciating it more than ever. We’ve got some serious time to make up for and if we can keep ourselves fit, there’s no reason we can’t actually turn 2018 into a great year after all.
(Photo Credit: Badminton Photo)