Ellis channelling Rio memories as he eyes up Tokyo podium

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Huddersfield shuttler Ellis, 31, is gunning for gold in Tokyo alongside mixed doubles partner Lauren Smith
Huddersfield shuttler Ellis, 31, is gunning for gold in Tokyo alongside mixed doubles partner Lauren Smith

Marcus Ellis knows exactly what it takes to win an Olympic badminton medal, so when he says the door is open for further podium success in Tokyo this summer, you believe him, writes Luke Baker.

Team GB have won just three badminton medals in Olympic history but Huddersfield’s Ellis secured one of those at Rio 2016, when he teamed up with Chris Langridge to take a surprise bronze in the men’s doubles.

Five years later in Tokyo, the 31-year-old will go in the mixed doubles alongside his partner on and off the court – Lauren Smith – after officially being selected as part of Team GB’s badminton squad this week.

The duo are currently ranked eighth in the world and with the past year of international competition having been disrupted by the pandemic, Ellis is sensing an opportunity to spring another upset.

“For us badminton lot, the qualification period is so demanding that when you make it to the Olympics, you feel like you’re almost halfway to a medal,” said Ellis, whose exploits in Tokyo will be broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery+.

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

“Based on my experience last time, the Olympics are a completely different competition to any others we play. There’s so much pressure on the people who are right at the top of the tree but you’re the underdogs.

“Almost everyone hasn’t been able to play badminton against foreign competition because of the pandemic, so when we went back to our first tournament recently, it was very, very strange.

“If that had been the Olympics, I would have been upset because we didn’t perform so well.

“We know that for some of the national teams, like China for example, this will be their first international competition for about 16 months.

“For us, that’s an open door because they don’t know what we’re going to be like and we don’t know what they’re going to be like. I think we’re going to see some different results this time around, just because of the pandemic.”

While Ellis is gunning for glory in the mixed doubles, he and Langridge won’t be defending their Olympic medal in the men’s doubles, with Ben Lane and Sean Vendy selected ahead of them.

That is despite the Rio medallists being higher in the world rankings and earning the spot at the Games for Team GB – much to the Yorkshireman's chagrin.

“I’m gutted to be honest with you. I still strongly disagree with the decision that has been made,” added Ellis.

“But now the decision has been made, I’m more than happy to get on with playing just the one discipline.

“When I step foot on that plane to Tokyo, rest assured I’ll be standing side by side with Lauren and ready to play.”

TOKYO 2020 - 'I WANT GOLD EVEN MORE' - BIANCA WALKDEN GUNNING FOR ELUSIVE OLYMPIC GOLD
TOKYO 2020 - 'I WANT GOLD EVEN MORE' - BIANCA WALKDEN GUNNING FOR ELUSIVE OLYMPIC GOLD

Given their relationship off the court, Ellis and Smith have spent almost every waking moment of the last 16 months together.

Working and living together during the pandemic would put unimaginable strain on many couples' relationship but Ellis claims they have made it work with the minimum of drama.

“I don’t think anything has changed on court between us because of the pandemic,” he explained. “Throughout lockdown, every single person struggled at points or throughout the year.

“One thing myself and Lauren have got is one goal that is completely mutual – preparing for the Olympics. So, when I wasn’t feeling so good, Lauren could pick me up and push me in the right direction, or vice versa.

“For us, that was a huge positive. The idea of spending 24/7 in the same house and same job seems quite intense but it worked for us.

“In general, we’re very good. I wouldn’t say we never argue but it’s rare and normally only over the pettiest things, nothing big or important!”

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, The Streaming Home of the Olympics.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting