With sports shut down worldwide for a period of time, many face the prospect of an entire year without competitions, at least at the elite level.
The lack of badminton tournaments is significant, but the main problem for athletes is the impact lockdown has had on their ability to retain fitness, and maintain the physical and mental requirements needed at the highest level.
Countries differ on rules and restrictions but in each corner of the globe, very few athletes are able to keep to their usual training regimes. Instead they are working on new ways to stay fit at home.
Rio 2016 bronze medallist, Marcus Ellis of England, says: “It’s been very challenging, but having Lauren (Smith, his mixed doubles partner) has really helped because we can get quite creative. We do physical things, we’re hardworking and we have really enjoyed the running and cycling.”
Smith has been entertaining us during quarantine. Check out some of her lockdown workouts.
After over two months of lockdown, most elite players haven’t been able to play badminton.
Ellis says: “The closest we are getting to playing is hitting the shuttle against the side of the house. We haven’t been on court since the Yonex All England Open 2020 (11-15 March). This is certainly the longest break most players have had from the sport.”
In addition to keeping fit, mental health is a much-discussed topic in the UK among athletes, particularly at a time when structure and competition have been removed.
Ellis says he hasn’t suffered any mental health issues himself.
“Opening lines of communication is key. It’s not normal to not speak to someone for three-four months, it’s going to impact you, so pick up the phone and call a friend.”
Post lockdown restrictions, Ellis is most looking forward to normalcy and getting back to training. The unsurprising postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has shifted most athletes’ training plans and competitions.
“My 2020 goal is still the Olympics. My main focus is tournaments, schedule and training,” Ellis added. “We’ve certainly speculated about our return. We’re happy that in the next few weeks we’ll have something to work with. Perhaps once a week training with social distance compliance.”
Each association will have differing set-ups on how badminton will look when it returns, but Ellis retains the sport’s future looks strong.
“It’s come a long way since I turned professional. The growth is exceptional. Badminton is going to go from strength to strength.”
Being a pair on and off the court also has its benefits for the World No.9 mixed doubles tandem.
Ellis says: “You experience the highs and wins. Then there’s the lows and difficult times too but that just makes the victories so much sweeter.”
Smith added: “One of the greatest things is how well you know each other and can read the other.”
Everything is left out there on the court post-match, nothing gets brought back to the couple’s home: “Once you’ve left, you need to draw a line under it and head home.”
Read Part 1 here.