After the heartache of missing out on London 2012, Gabby Adcock is closing in on a trip to Rio. Lee Sobot reports.
FOR several years now, badminton’s national headquarters of Milton Keynes has been home for Garforth-raised star Gabby Adcock.
Pet dog Bowser, though, ensures visits home to Leeds are frequent.
When Gabby and playing partner/husband Chris are on badminton duty, mum Jane baby-sits the couple’s beloved pet pooch. That means a drive to mum’s house in Leeds each weekend before heading off on sporting duty.
Come the summer, her daughter hopes to be turning up with an Olympic medal.
Gabby and her Nottingham-raised husband Chris are ranked seventh in the world’s mixed doubles rankings meaning a place on the plane to South America is effectively guaranteed. Rio will be a second Olympics for 26-year-old Chris who partnered Imogen Bankier at London 2012 – when his then girlfriend Gabby White was sat in the stands.
Gabby, then 21, had hoped to be in Games action, partnering Robert Blair in the mixed doubles and fellow Leeds ace Jenny Wallwork in the women’s, but Olympic qualification proved a bridge too far.
Four years on, the Leeds star is set for her first Olympics alongside her husband who Gabby married in 2013, whilst also partnering each other on the badminton court.
The move has truly proved a match made in heaven and having previously been mixed doubles partners since they were juniors, last weekend saw the duo scoop their fourth national title together with a convincing victory in the English National Championships at Derby University. At just 25 years of age, that success also marked an amazing ninth national title for Gabby who partnered Chris to golden Commonwealth Games glory at Glasgow 2014.
But it is worldwide glories that are now at the forefront of the young couple’s minds as they aim to become Great Britain’s first Olympic badminton medallists since Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms won silver at Athens 2004.
Any medal will initially be brought back ‘home’ to Milton Keynes, yet there’s no disguising Gabby’s affection for her hometown of Leeds where the star hopes to return to live permanently after what is promising to be a stellar career in sport. Reflecting on the fact that she is now just five months short of competing in her first Olympics, Gabby told the YEP: “It’s quite an overwhelming feeling to be honest because I was so gutted that I missed 2012 and I was always going to make sure that I wasn’t going to miss this Olympics.
“I worked even harder and to know that I am finally going to my first Olympics, I’m so excited already. I’m looking forward to the build up to it.
“Chris got to experience it in London, he said that going to collect your kit and all that is really exciting. To be able to do that with my husband as well, it’s going to be an amazing experience. Obviously I got to go and watch him at London which was amazing. But Chris said that even for him who has been to an Olympics, it’s going to be so different with it not being in your own country. He said it was so easy being in London but it’s going to be a whole new experience for him as well.
“We are going to be away from home and it will be a different experience for Chris as well.”
From a Team GB badminton perspective, the duo are set to be joined by men’s singles British No 1 Rajiv Ouseph, the world no 17 and off-court partner of another Leeds ace in Kate Robertshaw. Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour – the women’s singles world no 18 – is also set to board the plane.
The picture is less clear for Team GB’s leading men’s and women’s doubles pairs who will look to frantically amass as many ranking points as possible between now and the qualification cut-off point of May with the aim of reaching the top 16. Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge are currently ranked 25th in the men’s doubles while, in the women’s sphere, Lauren Smith and Heather Olver are ranked 30th. Leeds duo Robertshaw and Sophie Brown are 60th.
Gabby explained: “GB will just take one mixed doubles pair, unless another pair from GB gets within the top eight in the world. That’s very, very unlikely so it will be just me and Chris that will be going in the mixed doubles.
“In the men’s doubles and the women’s doubles it is still very touch and go. They are all very stressed at the minute. I think they’ve got ten tournaments in a row coming up.”
For Gabby and Chris, though, a more relaxed approach to Rio is in store with the couple able to pick and choose their tournaments as they target a place in the world’s top four to ensure they are seeded in Rio.
The German Open later this month and March’s All England in Birmingham are next on the agenda – and rest assured mum Jane will be on dog-sitting duty.
Handily, the frequent drive back to Leeds also allows Gabby to see the rest of her Garforth-based family, dad Steve, older sisters Jessica and Dominique plus 12-year-old half-brother Cameron, who is already picking up a badminton racket. Gabby explained: “My mum lives in Leeds so we are up every time we go to a tournament.
“We will travel and drop Bowser off at the weekend so I get to see my family. And it’s still the best place for shopping is Leeds.
“It’s amazing and I always pop into Leeds if I want to go clothes shopping.
“I love Leeds, it’s where I’m from and maybe in a few years time after badminton I can possibly see myself moving back up there.
“Or we’ll have to somewhere in between Leeds and Nottingham. I don’t know, what’s in between Nottingham and Leeds?!”
But there’s only one city on Gabby’s mind right now – Rio De Janiero.
“It’s not yet been officially announced that we are in and that we have definitely qualified but we are very, very confident that we have,” said Gabby, formerly of Garforth Community College, now Garforth Academy.
“Because of the amount we have won and how we have done this year, we are pretty high up the rankings and with the tournaments that we have played in we have done quite well in them. Pushing on for a top-four seeding is the next tricky thing to do.
“If we can do that, then brilliant, if not it’s not complete a disaster.
“We’ll just have to go away and beat who is on the other side of the net anyway.”