Tokyo target for guardian Gabby Adcock as badminton funding boost reflects growing medal haul

LEEDS badminton star Gabby Adcock could not hide her disappointment when her sport was stripped of crucial funding in December, 2016, despite Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis taking a Rio Olympics men’s doubles bronze.

Tokyo target: Badminton star Gabby Adcock. Picture: Alex Morton/Getty Images

Adcock vowed that the show would go on and went on to star at the European Championships five months later, taking gold alongside husband Chris in the mixed doubles as part of stellar haul for Team GB.

“We are all starting to come into our prime. That’s the frustrating thing,” said the Garforth-schooled star following her gold at the 2017 Europeans.

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Nearly two years on, those words have proved well founded with Adcock since adding further Commonwealth and European golds to her collection plus a World Championships bronze in Glasgow.

Chris and Gabby Adcock celebrate winning their mixed doubles quarter final match at the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

The latter prompted a UK Sport U-turn with Adcock now targeting a maiden Olympics medal at Tokyo 2020 next year and proud her efforts have put British badminton on a stronger financial footing for the long term.

Adcock and the rest of the GB contingent were left rocked when UK Sport cut the funding from £5.9m per Olympic cycle to nothing.

That, though, failed to stop the medal haul and six months after Glasgow, UK Sport announced they would be investing £630,000 for the remaining period of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle from the new ‘Medal Support Plan’.

The Adcocks now embark on a bid to qualify for their second Olympics together. But Gabby says the funding is more important to the future of the game than the couple’s own quest for medals.

Chris and Gabrielle Adcock, in action during their mixed doubles quarter finals at the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

Adcock told The Yorkshire Post: “UK Sport want medals and they have to see the progression track on the way to the Olympics so a world medal was obviously something that they recognised and realised that we have got a chance.

“It was good to be recognised and, fortunately, Badminton England have had a few months now to prepare. Extra funding from UK Sport is like an added bonus because Badminton England have done a really good job of transitioning and becoming more self-reliant.

“It’s a massive shame that other sports are in the same position so, hopefully, they will get recognised as well and get more funding.

“Anything for badminton is massive and, hopefully, it can benefit everybody a bit more at least up until the next Olympics because we did not expect that at all. To get rewarded with a bit of recognition and a bit of money to help was really good but more so for the younger ones.

“Chris and myself are quite established and we have sponsors and we have prize money and things like that. But it’s more important for the younger generation that they can still do what they love to do and be able to play badminton and not think ‘I can’t do this any more’.”

At 28, Adcock is naturally starting to face questions as to how long she will continue playing alongside her husband, who will turn 30 in April.

No time soon is the answer with all focus now directed on this year’s main international events in the European Games and World Championships as well as the quest to qualify for next year’s Olympics.

Adcock explained: “I think you need to be in the top 16 to qualify – I’m not too sure – we just go on court and play!

“It depends because you can only have two of the same nation inside the top eight that can qualify and then there’s the continent rule as well so that Australia and Africa get a spot.

“Qualification starts in May and it’s tough but I believe that if we can perform, and play well that we will be there.

“We are ninth at the minute but there’s a couple of players that have stopped playing together within that top nine that have retired and what not recently. Most athletes dream to win that medal at the Olympics, it always has been but, luckily in badminton, there are so many other things that we dream to do and win and achieve as well though the Olympics has got to be up there with one of the top.

“We have also got the World Championships this year and it is always a massive aim to medal there. We have also got the European Games this year which is a new event.

“The All England as well is always one that we dream of doing well at so they are the three major ones that we will be trying to peak for.

“We have decided that we are going to play a few less tournaments than last year and really peak for the major ones so we get better training blocks in.”

That, though, has not stopped an extended recent stint in Asia with the Adcocks spending three weeks in India representing the Chennai Smashers in the Premier Badminton League before jetting to Malaysia and Indonesia for Superseries events.

While Adcock has no clue as to what her long-term future holds, it will definitely be rather more relaxed.

Adcock said: “I don’t want to set in my head any decisions of when I want to stop or be thinking if it’s my last Olympics. I just want to play it by ear and I’ll see how I am.

“It definitely won’t be any time soon after the Olympics but you have just got to go with how you feel. But we’ve definitely thought that when we retire we don’t want to be travelling as much at first so to be a coach straight away would be difficult because that would mean probably travelling. I think in the first year we will definitely take some time for ourselves and actually go to the places that we actually want to go to!”

First and foremost, though, will be spending time at the duo’s home of Milton Keynes and making visits to Adcock’s home city of Leeds. “The funny thing is, if you ask me now where I’d like to be I would say it would to be at my own home,” said Adcock, speaking from Bangalore.

“I am the happiest when I am at my own home, baking, doing my own cooking or eating a meal that I have cooked.

“It sounds crazy but we are just away and rarely at home with our dog Bowser so it would be so nice just to spend six months in the house just using the house and spending time back in Leeds with the family – but we would love to explore more of Europe, too. I would love to go to Rome and Barcelona, places like that, because with badminton we always seem to be in Asia. I’m definitely look forward to coming back nearer Leeds when we are retired!”

There are 172 quota places available for qualification for badminton at the 2020 Olympics.

The qualification period takes place between April 29 and April 26, 2020, and the Badminton World Federation rankings list will be used to allocate spots.

Nations can enter a maximum of two players each in the men’s and women’s singles, if both are ranked in the world’s top 16; otherwise, one quota place until the roster of 38 players has been completed. Similar regulations apply to players competing in the doubles, as the National Olympic Committees can enter a maximum of two pairs if both are ranked in the top eight, while the remaining NOCs are entitled to one until the quota of 16 highest-ranked pairs is filled.