That day I fell over on court in India and heard my ankle pop seems like a mini lifetime ago now. So much has happened in the 12 weeks since. Naturally at times it’s felt like my frustration levels were going to boil over, but the hours of rehab and the team around us have helped to package up the old Gabby and get us to this point where we can finally get back to business. Being back competing has literally never felt so good.
Throughout everything, we never once took our eyes off our goal of recovering efficiently in time to reach one of our favourite tournaments of the year – the YONEX All England Open in Birmingham. In the days leading up to the event, it was a bit touch and go as to whether it was the right thing to do. I admit I wasn’t at full fitness, but I really wasn’t far off at all. My ankle felt good, but with the Commonwealth Games happening almost immediately after, it wasn’t just a case of throwing everything at Birmingham and I’ll deal with any pain later. We had to be sure it was the right thing to do for the long term, and at about 90% fitness, we felt it was a risk worth taking.
Would we have competed if it was any other tournament? I’m not sure. As a British badminton player, having the chance to compete at home in one of your sport’s most prestigious events is such a motivator, and so we pulled out all the stops to ensure we were as ready as we could be.
Walking out onto court was just such a brilliant feeling. After all the emotions of the previous months – disappointment, frustration, fatigue – this was really a moment to savour and we just went out there with absolutely nothing to lose. You can probably tell by the smiles on our faces how much it meant to us.
And so even though we knew in our heart of hearts that being crowned All England champions would have been a big ask, it was just fantastic to be competing again. As an athlete, we’re conditioned to want to win, to challenge ourselves and to push our own boundaries. Not having had that in so long really made us want it even more and we were pleasantly surprised with the level we found and the results we got. We beat the world number eight pairing in round one, and then the world number seven in round two. To step straight back into playing top 10 level was really great, and even though we lost a tight three set quarter final to the Japanese pair, we can look back with real pride at not just how we managed to surpass our expectations for this particular tournament, but how we’ve managed this whole period of our careers.
And so onwards we go…and we’re now here on the Gold Coast in Australia where the sun is shining and the next competition is looming. The two Malaysian pairs are probably our biggest competition, one of which we beat in round one in Birmingham. We have one week to acclimatise (and yes that absolutely means acclimatising to the weather by enjoying some pool time), to shift this hideous jet lag, and to get used to the arena.
This is a massive fortnight for us. In week one it’s the team tournament, followed by a week of the individual event. What’s really great is that we feel absolutely no pressure. We’ve travelled to the other side of the world and we don’t intend to go home empty handed. We’re feeling fit, and at long last, we’re ready to start winning again!
Good luck to everyone representing the Home Nations in Oz, especially Team England!
(Photo Credit: Badminton Photo)