Chloe Magee aiming to enjoy another Olympic experience in Tokyo in 2021

By Padraig CoyleBBC Sport NI
Chloe Magee won a mixed doubles bronze with brother Sam at the inaugural European Games in 2015
Chloe Magee won Ireland's first ever European Badminton Championship medal with her brother Sam in 2017

Trusting that the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic happens at pace, optimism remains that the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games will go ahead in July 2021.

The world's best athletes have been adapting their plans accordingly.

And Donegal badminton star Chloe Magee wants to be among them to conclude a career which will have spanned four Olympiads.

"We're not there yet", cautions Magee, who is paired with her younger brother Sam in the mixed doubles.

"We still have work to do to make it into the last 16."

A family affair

Magee's journey into the professional badminton world began in her home town of Raphoe.

"My dad ran the local club and used to bring us along", she says. "We were all natural at playing and loved it. As we got better, he took us to tournaments around Ireland. It spiralled from there."

"My younger brothers Sam and Josh and I went on to play internationally. My older brother Dan is also a coach and a high-performance director with Badminton Ireland. You could say it's a family thing."

During her last year at Royal Prior School, Magee attended a training camp where Swedish-based coach Tom Reidy, originally from Limerick, recognised her potential.

"I didn't believe at that stage that I could get to the Olympics, but Tom convinced me that, with full time training, I would reach the next level. After finishing my exams, I was on the plane to Sweden. I was there for two years."

Olympic experiences 'incredible'

Reidy's judgement was warranted as 19 year-old Magee became the first Irish woman to win an Olympic singles match at Beijing, before exiting at the second round.

At London 2012, Magee took a set from world number two Hongyan Pi of France. Four years later, Rio 2016 ended with Magee failing to qualify from her group.

"For me to have reached the level to play at the Olympic Games has been incredible", says Magee.

"When I started out, I didn't have any funding. My parents Samuel and Audrey put a lot of money into my being able to train full time. My family have given me every opportunity to be the best player I can be. They've been there through the good and the bad."

Sam Magee and Chloe Magee
Sam Magee and Chloe Magee won Ireland first's badminton European Championship medal in April 2017

The Magee family had the double joy of seeing Chloe and Sam win mixed-doubles bronze at the 2017 European Championships in Kolding, Denmark where they lost out on a silver medal to Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christianna Pedersen.

"Of course, going to the Olympics is something special, but being on the podium alongside Sam after winning a medal stands out by a long way", she says.

And mentioning younger brother Sam, one wonders what it's like to train and compete with your sibling?

"We both have to be very professional about it. When we're training, we have to focus solely on badminton. We spend so much time on court, we rarely do anything together outside of the sport.

"It's normal that when you spend so much time travelling and playing, you're bound to get on each other's nerves at times, isn't it?"

Motivation difficult

At the moment Magee trains twice a day at her Dublin base, within a bubble of eight players. She admits that in the current vacuum of uncertainty it is difficult to maintain a high level of motivation.

"It's hard in the best of times, but in the context of this pandemic, it's even more so. With badminton being an indoor sport, it always seems to be the last to know what's happening in regard to the tournaments that will take place."

There is a possibility that competitive badminton could return in Thailand in the near future.

"It depends on how low the infection numbers stay as to whether it goes ahead. In Asian indoor venues, air conditioning is a real necessity and that has to be a consideration. We will keep training and be prepared for whatever comes along."

Magee remains grateful that Badminton Ireland takes care of all their travel and competition arrangements, as she and Sam keep their minds on reaching their top 16 target before the April cut-off date.

"It's been good to have had a rest from all the travel. However, it would also have been great to have played some higher-level tournaments and collected the ranking points we need. Qualification is based on the best ten results from the last 12 months."

Exciting talent coming through

While Magee's plan has always been to retire after Tokyo 2021, she doesn't plan on cutting her ties with the sport.

"I won't walk away. I'll want to be involved. Badminton Ireland has developed its academy and high-performance area so much in the last ten years that there is some really exciting talent coming through.

"I've given my life to badminton but I've been on so many flights, I'll just want to take a break for a while."

However, not just yet. Tokyo's Musashino Forest Sports Plaza next July, is the place where we'll want to see Chloe Magee having her final day on court.

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