The Mixed Zone’s Susan Egelstaff competed for Team GB in the badminton competition at London 2012. Here she reverts to her day job as a journalist and interviews Gabby Adcock, who makes her Olympic debut in Rio, and discovers the benefits of having your husband as your mixed doubles partner
The secret to a successful badminton doubles partnership is trust. And for Gabby Adcock, she could not have any greater trust in her mixed doubles partner. Because Chris is also her husband. The pair are one of the few husband and wife couples who have made it to the top of their sport, and for Gabby the closeness that they have by being a couple off-court as well as on it, is massively beneficial. “We know each other so well so that absolute trust is there,” she says. “In a doubles partnership that’s very important, so the fact that we have that to such an extent has a very positive impact on us.”
Gabby, 25, and Chris, 27, have been an off-court couple since they were teenagers. However, since they tied the knot in September 2013, their badminton results have taken off. They won Commonwealth gold at Glasgow 2014, and last December became the first British players to win a title at the BWF Super Series Masters event. They are Britain’s only representatives in the mixed doubles at the Olympic Games in Rio, and Gabby believes she and Chris are in a great position to make their mark in Brazil.
Currently ranked seventh in the world, Gabby believes that their badminton partnership is all the stronger because they can say exactly what is on their minds. “We’re able to be very honest with each other and we know that we’ve got the same goals so we don’t take any criticism personally,” she says. “And because we know each other inside out, we know what to say to get the best out of each other.
“Obviously I’ll have bad days and Chris will have bad days, too, but we’re both really good at motivating each other. Sometimes I need to give Chris a kick up the bum and vice versa. But we like that we can be like that with each other – we need to be if we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve.
That Gabby and Chris train together, travel together and live together means that they can often spend 24 hours a day in each other’s company. For many couples this would be somewhat challenging, but Gabby insists that it suits the pair perfectly. “We see being able to spend so much time together as a massive bonus,” she says. “Also, we’re so used to it because since we were 16 we were living together at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes, and so neither of us can imagine it any other way now.
“When we go away on two or three-week tours, it can be difficult for other players who are away from home for so long and miss their partners. But with us both being there we get to take some time out together and just switch off from badminton. It can be really full-on when you’re away, but we can do things like go sight-seeing for a day or go for dinner and just be normal people for a little bit. We get to travel the world together which is brilliant. And when we’re winning, it’s great to be able to share that with my husband.”
Gabby admits that what keeps their relationships strong is their ability to switch off from badminton when they finish training for the day. It would be easy, particularly in Olympic year, to talk about their sport constantly, but being to leave badminton issues on court is, says Gabby, imperative for both her and Chris. “We do think about badminton a lot because it’s such a huge part of both our lives,” she admits. “But when we’re at home, we’re just a normal couple. We’ve got Bowser, our dog, and he’s such a good switch-off point from badminton. So, to be honest, we really don’t find ourselves talking about badminton all that much when we get home because after a long day’s training, we just want to sit on the sofa, watch some rubbish TV and chill out. When we’re at home we have a very normal life.”
Gabby is quick to acknowledge how lucky she is to be a professional athlete, and to be given the opportunity to travel the world playing badminton. For the next few weeks, though, the Adcocks’s focus will be on one thing only: the Olympic Games. The couple are part of an eight-strong badminton squad representing Team GB, and Gabby is both excited to compete in her first Olympic Games and optimistic about their chances.
“We’re both really excited – we’ve been waiting for this to come round for so long, so we’re just looking forward to getting there now,” she says. “Obviously the dream would be to medal and, as every athlete would say, we’d love to win gold. We’re trying to treat it like a normal tournament and take it one game at a time. But we know that if we perform on the day then we can beat anyone.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Egelstaff is an Olympic badminton player who competed at London 2012, as well as representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, winning two bronze medals. She retired in the aftermath of the London Games after a 12-year international career. Having written the occasional article for newspapers while still competing, she decided to try and make sports journalism a job. Susan is now a columnist and sports writer with The Herald, The Sunday Herald and The National and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland. Susan is also heavily involved with the Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity which helps children achieve their goals. Susan’s latest articles.