Switching Wales for Poland 'a difficult but good decision' - Jordan Hart

By Tom BrownBBC Sport Wales
Why badminton player Jordan Hart switched from Wales to Poland

Badminton player Jordan Hart says she did 'what's best for me as an athlete' after switching allegiance from Wales to Poland.

The Pembrokeshire athlete has moved to Warsaw and will no longer represent Wales at any competition, including next year's Commonwealth Games.

Hart says it was 'nigh on impossible' to be a full-time badminton player from Wales.

Badminton Wales says it respected Hart's decision but was 'disappointed'.

"It's been a really difficult time for me," the 26-year-old told BBC Sport Wales. "It was a decision made with a lot of tears."

"You have to be in an environment where you feel like everyone's pushing for the same thing," Hart continued. "Where everyone has the same goals and aspirations and you feel supported.

"Moving to Poland and seeing what is possible in other countries and how other countries treat their athletes was a big wake-up call.

"I had to do what's best for me as an athlete and I think this decision is that."

World number 62 Jordan Hart
World number 62 Jordan Hart will now represent Poland rather than Wales at future badminton competitions

Although Hart has represented Wales since 2009, she had most recently been living and training in Coventry.

When her coach, Steve Butler, took over as head coach of the Poland Badminton Association, Hart decided to move with him.

She now trains six days a week for up to 30 hours in total.

Hart says this kind of programme was not available to her in Wales or England.

"I'm used to training in just a local leisure centre - no full-time athlete environment," she continued.

"So I felt like a bit of a celebrity coming here because the facilities are so great. Now I have physio and S&C and stuff I've never been able to access on a regular basis before.

"So all my Christmases came at once really."

Badminton Wales 'disappointed' but respectful

Hart will now represent Poland on the World Tour.

She had hoped her first tournament under the Polish flag would be next month's India Open - but that has been postponed due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.

Hart has only changed her sporting allegiance, rather than nationality or citizenship. But the move means she cannot represent Wales at any major championship - most notably at next year's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

"I love being Welsh," she said. "That's kind of my identity.

Hart now trains full-time in Warsaw
Hart now trains full-time in Warsaw

"That's why the decision was such a stressful and long decision.

"I think the assumption will be, maybe from some people, that I've moved here and changed my flag because I'm now going to get more funding. But I've actually made the decision with no guarantee of any financial support from the Polish association.

"So I think that speaks volumes. I've left behind the little bit of support I did have to no guarantee of anything.

"But from a mental wellbeing standpoint I think the decision had to be made."

In a statement Badminton Wales said it was 'disappointed' by Jordan Hart's decision to transfer to Poland.

"As a small National Governing Body, Badminton Wales has supported Jordan throughout her career with the limited resources available," it added.

"However, we respect her decision and wish her continued success in her ongoing career in Poland."