Zika? I don’t think if there’s a big threat, we’re going to go. But I don’t think it will be a big problem
Q: Why does the ‘ball’ in badminton have such a bizarre name like shuttlecock?
A: I don’t know. It’s made of feathers…
Q: And not just any feathers you tried to tell me before.
A: They come from the left wing of a goose.
Q: That’s real?
A: Yes! Google it.
Q: I did and am struggling to get my head around it. Why so specific?
A: I have no idea… maybe they just make the shuttles fly better. I must look it up.
Q: You had to play 22 tournaments to make the Olympic cut and starting the last one, there were plenty still in with a chance of picking up enough points to make it.
A: Olympic qualification dragged on a bit and I had to take two weeks off after. I needed it mentally more than physically. There was a lot of travelling, a lot of ups and a lot of downs. I needed to clear my head and get back to wanting to play badminton again. There were so many different things happened in the year. In 12 months it changed about 500 times. I’m glad that I qualified but I could have done it an easier route but that’s the way it goes.
Q: What were the problems?
A: We went for mixed, with Sam, and singles for the first seven months. The tournaments that we were going for in mixed, I wasn’t getting into in singles, and the tournaments I needed to go to for singles were no use to the mixed.
So it was like being between a rock and a hard place for a while. We decided at Christmas we were always going to be up against it in the mixed and I needed to get back on track in singles. I was hitting good results but then there’d be a really bad result and I needed four good results and wasn’t getting them.
The pressure was on, the weeks were ticking by and everything got really tough mentally but that’s all part of the challenge. Now I can look back and go ‘Yeah, I did it’ but at the time, I can assure you, I was very stressed out.
Q: It must be very gratifying to know you can pull it out when the gun is put to your head?
A: The first game was three sets and it was shaky. I won the first and I shouldn’t have. The second, I should have won but she won. And then the third, 21-12, it seemed an easy scoreline but that game, every point was hard-earned. Every one of those 21 points was a marathon.
The second game, though I knew I’d won, I couldn’t have told you the scores. Just that I’d gotten 21 in both games. I didn’t know until I looked that night. I was just so focused on getting to 21. Next point, next point, next point.
There were so many people watching that game. If I’d won I was getting in and others were going out. It was very hard not to focus on them. Normally that’s okay but in that situation you can be very easily dragged away from what you should be doing. There was a real roar of relief when I won that. I was so happy.
Q:What if you hadn’t made it?
A: What was in my head was ‘Imagine telling my Dad that I hadn’t qualified for the Olympics.’ That was my initial thing chatting to that psychologist. I couldn’t imagine that conversation. I wouldn’t care about anybody else. That would’ve been tough.
Q:What are your memories of the previous Olympics?
A:London was unbelievable, the best time of my life. There are such good memories. The venues, having my family there, the social part of it. I actually don’t know if Rio can top it. You’d never know, it could be the best one ever but London was a really good time.
Q:Any sports star you were excited to see?
A:You see so many of them floating around, just acting as normal people. Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Usain Bolt… They’re in there, having the craic, taking photos. It’s different and nice to see.
Q:Let’s talk Zika.
A:We’re being well briefed on it. The doctors have talked to us. I fully trust the advice that they’ve given to us. I fully believe it and don’t think they’ll send a team if there’s a problem with the virus. Those guys are so good, they’re working every single day, sending different information every day, so I know they’re well ahead of the game and I don’t think if there’s a big threat, we’re going to go.
But I don’t think it will be a big problem. The rowing and people that are outdoors are more at risk obviously. We’re indoors and the halls will hopefully be well prepped, the Village too. When you’re out walking you’ll have your long sleeves on. Just different things to do to avoid it. But those in the water will probably have to be extra careful.
Q: Did you get caught up in the Euro 2016 fever?
A: I love the buzz, I think it’s brilliant. It brings the best out in people. I was driving for physio when the (Sweden) game was on. It was around normal rush hour in Dublin and I could drive. Not a car in sight. All the pubs were full, people standing outside and I was just thinking ‘Holy shit, the whole place has come to a standstill.’ I love that about Ireland. People come together and really support their team.
Q: What represents success in Rio?
A: The big day is the draw. If you’re hitting the top seed or the second seed it’s going to be very tough to win.
If you’re hitting the lower down seeds you’ve got a very big chance. If I’m playing my best I can win games and that’s what I want to do. It just depends what you get in the draw. If I’m playing well against the top seeds in the world that’s good for me. If the games are winnable, you want to win them and get out of your group.
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