Scott Evans: ‘Rio was such a high... it’s been very difficult for me to get back into the right mindset’

Scott Evans announced his retirement from international badminton this week. The three-time Olympian was a star of the Rio Games for his dramatic victories and shirtless celebrations. His final competition will be next week’s European Team Championships.

Scott Evans: ‘Rio was such a high... it’s been very difficult for me to get back into the right mindset’

Q: Did you feel a sense of relief after making the decision to retire?

A: Yeah, absolutely. I made my decision towards the end of November/ start of December, so I’ve had time to think about it before announcing it. To be honest, the last 14 days the only thing I’ve wanted to do is get it out there. It’s been hanging in my head which has been more annoying than anything else.

People are always asking, ‘What’s your next tournament?’, ‘What’s happening?’, ‘How come you’re not playing tournaments?’, and I always have to find something to tell them. I didn’t particularly want to go around lying to people.

I absolutely didn’t expect the response I got from so many people and the media. I was chatting to my girlfriend the day before, saying, ‘I don’t think it’ll be anything too crazy’, but it’s been the total opposite. It’s been an incredible couple of days.

Q: I don’t know when it was filmed but you were featured on the Olympic Channel in December and you said you’d an eye on a fourth Olympics — “I still feel I have something incredible to produce”. What changed between then and now?

A: That documentary was filmed back in February-March-time last year and they only came out with it around the same time as I was seriously considering what I was going to do. I thought, ‘Jeez, that’s terrible timing that this comes out now and I’m going to be announcing that I’m going to retire’.

Back in March, I had no thoughts at all to stop playing. My target was to keep going and maybe try to qualify for another Olympics, but a lot has changed since then.

Q: Has it just been an accumulation of injuries and a lack of desire?

A: Yeah, it’s a combination of a lot of things. My body hasn’t been great for two years, possibly more.

I’ve had a terrible cycle of small injuries. I’ve also had an issue with my shoulder which I got back in January 2015 and that’s been on and off ever since. Even in Rio, I was in a heap with my shoulder. An absolute heap. I was getting treatment three times a day and taking painkillers. I was in agony.

It’s not particularly fun to be doing something you love and having… like sometimes during the night, if I wanted to turn over and take my duvet with me, I’d wake up with a pinch of pain in my shoulder.

The desire to do the training has been falling away ever since Rio. Then, back in October-November-time, I was out having a drink with a friend of mine and he mentioned setting something up in Copenhagen, which sounded like a very good opportunity — one it’d be stupid of me to turn down. Once we talked more and figured out this was something we were going to do, I had to make my decision.

Q: Tony McCoy, among others, has said “a sportsperson is the only person that dies twice”. Will you find it hard to replace the buzz of competing at the top level?

A: It’s very difficult to say how I’m going to feel about that right now. But yeah, of course, it’s been such a big part of my life for the last 15 years. More actually, because I’ve been playing tournaments since I was seven or eight years of age. It has been my life since a very young age.

I’m sure I’ll miss it but I’ve no doubt staying involved in the game will still give me that buzz. It might not be the same buzz, but it’ll still give me a buzz that I’m doing well in the coaching game and helping other people achieve their dreams. I’m sure it’ll hit me at some stage, though.

Q: Has there been a come-down since the Rio Olympics, going back to the regular circuit away from the mass audience, that’s influenced your decision to retire?

A: Absolutely. I learned a lot from the first two Olympics I went to. From the moment I found out I was going to qualify for Rio, I used a lot of time for planning mentally how I needed to be beforehand, when I was out there and what I needed to do after the Olympics.

In Beijing, I left three days after I lost, landed on the Thursday morning and went training on the Thursday night. I went straight back into it because I was so devastated. You go back into a four-year cycle without thinking about it or having any break.

The same tournaments, back into training twice a day, every day. After London, I’d a couple of nights out and went straight back into training and tournaments again. That’s 10 or 11 years where I haven’t even had 14 days off in all that time.

I took time off after Rio, said yes to things I wouldn’t normally say yes to — interviews, visiting clubs and schools — and enjoyed myself a little more. After that, it’s been very difficult for me to get back into the right mindset. Rio was such a high and such an incredible journey, the body and the mind need to take time off after something like that.

Q: You mentioned “the highest highs” and “hitting rock bottom” in your retirement statement. Could you talk me through that?

A: Rio was by far the biggest highlight for me along with winning the Irish Open in 2012 — that was huge for me as well. But then again I’ve had tons and tons of tournaments where I’ve lost to players I shouldn’t lose to and really been struggling. I got a black card in November 2011 and there’s only been four or five of those given in badminton ever.

After that, I literally hit rock bottom. I didn’t know what was going on, I was in a terrible place and I knew I needed to make some changes if I was going to continue playing and if I was ever going to get to the level I knew I could get to. But coming out of that tough three or four months has defined me in many ways. I put my success in Rio down to how I came out of that situation.

It’s a crazy, crazy experience to have incredible highs like that but also have periods where you’re just in a terrible, terrible place.

Badminton has been the only thing I’ve had for so many years and when that’s not going well, it’s extremely difficult to come out of bad periods. You love it and it’s something you think about every single minute of every day, so these periods are horrible, really terrible.

Q: If you were talking to yourself aged 16, about to leave family, friends and school to move to Denmark, would you say it was all worth it?

A: Absolutely. I wouldn’t change anything. I gave it the best shot I could. It’s always more difficult being the first to do certain things because you can’t go off what other people have done. A lot of the things I did were off my own bat, what I believed in myself.

I took a lot of chances, did a lot of things differently and found my own way of doing things. That’s good for the junior players in Ireland because they can use me, my career and the things I’ve done as a stepping stone for themselves to get to the next level.

I’ve done incredibly from where I’ve come as a 16-year-old to what I’ve done in my career. . Every athlete always believes they can do a bit more but overall, I’m delighted with my career. I’ve done things I never thought I could do.

Q: Will we see one more ‘Full Evans’ celebration next week if you get a win in Russia?

A: If we beat Denmark, I might pull it off, but that’d be a big, big ask.

Q: Revenge for the World Cup play-offs too…

A: (Laughs) You need to keep the big celebrations for the big ones.

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