Girl Power Issue 7 sports

An interview with: Lauren Smith, England & GB Badminton Player.

We had the pleasure of chatting to Lauren Smith, England and GB Badminton Player.

Badminton was the sport my parents played, from just a few months old I was taken to the badminton club and looked after by whoever wasn’t playing at the time, so those guys are like my second family! 

I started playing myself when I was 7 and have just always loved it, I took part in a lot of different sports growing up but nothing seemed to grab me like badminton. Some of that was down to my friendships in the sport but also the variety of playing, there’s so many elements and challenges of playing that every day can be different.

I can’t say it’s ever felt like a career, more of a competitive hobby! What I can say for sure is that there’s never been any other career I’ve wanted to pursue.

Success in domestic tournaments got me invited on to the England programme at 12. I was taken off that programme at 13, so I had to sit down with my parents and decide if badminton was really something I wanted to try and do as we’d have to go it on our own. I believe this was an important moment because it motivated me to work hard and prove that I was good enough and I deserved support

When I was 14 I was back on the England programme! By 15, I played my first international in Malmo and won. At this time I was still living in Carlisle, Cumbria, where I was the only youth player. I trained on my own or with adults and the tournaments I took part in were always long drives away at the weekends.

In 2011 I was selected as a wildcard into the London World Champs, did some training at the national badminton centre with the England squad and I absolutely loved it! At 17 years old I went to university in Leeds where I studied sports coaching and trained further in badminton. 

When I reached the age of 19 I was invited to full-time training in Milton Keynes and so I took the opportunity immediately. 

In 2013, I won my first of 9 national titles. Success continued in 2014 at the Commonwealth games where I earned a team silver and individual bronze medal. I have since taken part in the 2016 Olympics, 2018 commonwealth games and became a European silver medalist in 2019.

Winning the European Championships in 2019 was incredible, I got to share that win with my boyfriend (Marcus Ellis) and whilst representing Team GB, it’s something I still can’t quite believe happened. Also qualifying for the Rio Olympics, the 12 month qualifying process was the hardest year of my career, so to be rewarded by going to an event that had hugely inspired me when I was growing up was mind-boggling! I was part of the same team as the likes of Jess Ennis-Hill and Nicola Adams, my family came over to support and we came joint 9th!

I am sponsored by Yonex and they’ve brilliantly supported me for 7 years now. Being taken off funding when I was young gave me so much determination to succeed, I never take opportunities for granted or feel like anything should be given to me on a plate.

The biggest challenge in my career so far I think has been the Olympic qualifying years (currently about 2 months away from finishing my 2nd cycle!). In badminton, qualifying runs from May 1st-April 30th, in those 12 months you can play as many tournaments as you like, and your best 10 results create your ranking, the top 16 pairs qualify (that’s the simplified version!). 

For Rio I competed in 28 tournaments across the world (Europe, Asia, Panam, Australia and one in Africa!), the travelling was exhausting, on top of that was the emotions of wondering if at the end it would all be worth it and we’d go to Rio. I’m going through a similar thing again for Tokyo and I think those 24 months will have aged me more than any other year of my life! It’s brutal, but ultimately the reward at the end makes it all worth it.

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