Badminton star Birch backing fiery northern connection to power Team GB to women's doubles glory

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By Will Jennings

Preston's Birch, 25, believes her candid relationship with women's doubles partner Smith can fire them to victory in Japan
Preston's Birch, 25, believes her candid relationship with women's doubles partner Smith can fire them to victory in Japan

Proud northerner Chloe Birch reckons inter-team fireworks and honest conversations can propel her and women’s doubles partner Lauren Smith to Tokyo 2020 glory.

Preston badminton ace Birch was this week officially selected in Team GB’s squad for this summer’s Olympics alongside Smith, Marcus Ellis, Toby Penty, Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.

Birch and Smith have racked up a raft of titles on the globetrotting BWF Tour and will be gunning to go one better than their silver medal at this year’s European Championships.

Smith, from Carlisle, and Birch have endured a rocky relationship since first joining forces but the latter believes their collective quest for success can haul them onto the podium in Japan.

Birch, who is ranked world No.14 with Smith in the women’s doubles, said: “We’ve definitely grown as a pair over the past few years. 

TOKYO 2020 VIDEO - ‘I'VE LEARNED A LOT ABOUT MYSELF' - LAUREN SMITH GUNNING FOR DOUBLES SUCCESS IN TOKYO
TOKYO 2020 VIDEO - ‘I'VE LEARNED A LOT ABOUT MYSELF' - LAUREN SMITH GUNNING FOR DOUBLES SUCCESS IN TOKYO

“There have been challenges, don’t get me wrong – and nothing’s perfect 100 per cent of the time. We don’t get on 100 perc cent of the time and there are little things we have to get over, but we both have that end goal, which is Tokyo – and the end goal of performing to the best of our ability.

“We’re both northern, we’re both feisty and we’re both a little stubborn at times. Some things happen, but you work through it. 

“You always know that you’re both putting in 100 per cent together to the best result and as long as you always have that, you can get through pretty much anything.

“You can get through the challenges when you are both together in that. The last few months have really brought us closer together as a pair and as people.

“We have that combined drive for the same thing and always come back to that when there are disagreements or things that have happened. That shared goal is a massive thing. 

“That’s something we’ve developed over the last 12 months – things did get brushed under the carpet but you have to learn, and it’s not easy.”

Birch and Smith navigated their way all the way to final of the European Championships in May before going down to Bulgarians Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva with the finish line looming.

TOKYO 2020 VIDEO - 'WE WANT TO PAVE OUR WAY' - MARCUS ELLIS HOPING FOR DOUBLES SUCCESS IN TOKYO
TOKYO 2020 VIDEO - 'WE WANT TO PAVE OUR WAY' - MARCUS ELLIS HOPING FOR DOUBLES SUCCESS IN TOKYO

That silver in Ukraine followed up pre-pandemic titles at the Kharkiv and Azerbaijan Internationals as Birch and Smith continued to emerge as two of the leading light’s on the women’s doubles circuit.

Birch is ranked world No.76 in the singles and is a self-professed doubles specialist alongside partner-in-crime Smith.

She’s relishing the prospect of a first Olympic Games and thinks her Commonwealth experience in 2018 will stand her in perfect stead for adapting to life in Japan.

“I think we all know a bit about what to expect – I’ve done quite a few multi-sport events so know about the whole village environment,” added Birch, whose exploits in Tokyo will be broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery+

“I’ll adapt to that – it’s on a bigger scale and will be a little bit different, but we’re there to compete at the end of the day. 

“We’re not there to enjoy it too much – although you do try to enjoy it. We’ve got a job to do and a performance to put in, and the restrictions that are in place are for the best of the athletes.” 

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