Jenny in happier times alongside Nathan Robertson

Jenny in happier times alongside Nathan Robertson

Jenny Wallwork in badminton terms has been one of GB’s most succesful athletes in recent years. Jenny is not a person I know very well on a personal level but I have always found her very approachable and willing to talk and give interviews at any tournaments and always with that cheeky grin on her face.

Jenny’s first word to me was ‘No difficult questions please’ so I always made it my business to try and get one in that challenge her to deviate from her media trained responses. Even with the odd curve ball Jenny always answered with a smile which always impressed me.

It was with sadness that I learned of Jenny’s resignation, not retirement, from GB badminton this morning which follows hot on the heels of Imogen Bankiers less public return to Scotland after the London Olympics and is sure to rock the GB high perform mance programme to its core.

On top of this the great Kenneth Jonassen returns to Denmark in the summer and the more cynical of us would jump on the band wagon and claim all is not well in GB badminton.

In a week that saw Poul-Erik Hoyer announce his official candidacy for the top role in the BWF with the slogan “Without players there is no BWF and as administrators we must never lose sight of that.” maybe some federations also need to adopt this slogan before all is too late.

Below is Jenny Wallworks official resignation letter and reading between the lines all is clearly not well in-house. I look forward to a response for GB badminton.

No voice, no choice!

It is with regret that at the age of 26 and entering the prime of my career I feel the necessity to submit my resignation from the GB Badminton Programme.

As the most successful female player with 42 Caps and the highest World Ranked player over the last 4 years I feel I have no voice or direction in the way my career is going and find myself in an impossible situation other than to remove myself from the World Class Performance Programme.

It is an athletes’ career and not the Performance Directors and an athlete should have a say in its direction. Having spoken to a number of our most successful players over recent years it is clear that they have been strong minded, highly motivated and independent individuals prepared to take ownership of their own development.
It will certainly not be a tick box exercise and an on going chase to secure funding that will determine success.

I know my dreams and aspirations were achievable as my results and achievements so far will testify but in my attempt to move forward in my development my views have been discounted. “Continue with the programme given to you or submit your resignation” was an ultimatum recently given to me.
I feel this indicates insecure, untrusting and incapable leadership and I am not prepared to be dictated to and therefore feel I am unable to continue with a programme in which I have no confidence. An unhappy player in the training environment has little or no chance of success. This sounds somewhat similar to Imogen’s situation several months ago.

I am clearly not the first to resign and under the current regime I suspect will not be the last.
I am also aware that when the system is challenged there can only be one outcome, nevertheless feel it important to make a stance for what I believe in and to express my views and concerns for the future of the game in this country.

I should mention that I will always be most grateful to my personal Coaches Julian Robertson and Andy Wood and the excellent EIS support staff in whom I have benefitted greatly over my eight years at the National Badminton Centre. Thank you to the physiotherapists who got me back to full fitness following my first serious injury so I was able to compete at last weeks European Team Championships.

I wish all my fellow players, friends and colleagues every success for the future but it is now time for me to look back with pride at my accomplishments and to move on.

Jennifer Wallwork
25th February, 2013.

Photos courtesy of BE & Badminton Photo

Likely stars in Moscow

It’s time to pack up the camera equipment once again after a long layoff and put on the snow boots as I head to Moscow as part of Badminton Europe’s media crew for next week’s European Mixed Team Championships.

The road to Moscow has indeed been a bumpy one and I have not even left home. Once again the process of getting a Russian visa has been exhausting and expensive.

All that aside I am really looking forward to the trip as this trip brings some new fresh challenges. Badminton Europe recently signed a deal with Total Sports Asia as their new media partner which means next week’s tournament will be broadcast in Asia, well at least for the semi-finals and finals that is.

The week coming will see me behind the lens once again but this time it will be more video than stills camera. A slightly new brief from BE where I will be conducting and compiling a 5 minute round up for Total Sports Asia for each of the days play. This is something I am really looking forward to. I love video and I love capturing those epic moments which to me is vitally important in relaying the excitement of our sport

Apart from that I will still have my usual commitment which I love doing especially post match interviews but there will be less photographic work this week as I just cannot do it all and we will have the great team from Badminton Photo on site to look after the still images. Of course I will still shoot any pictures I can but my time will be limited.

There is nothing like the excitement of a team badminton event and I count myself fortunate to be attending and working at this event as I will be at the European Junior next month in Turkey. I am looking forward to supporting team Ireland in Russia and seeing can any nation out there give the Danes a run for their money.

On the lead up to the Championships I have written a preview piece for Badminton Europe which you can read by clicking HERE and remember to follow BE on Facebook and on twitter (@EuropeBEC) for the latest news and gossip from Ramenskoe and don’t forget the hashtag #EMTC13 with all your tweets.

Let the games begin.

Top step of the podium at last.

Top step of the podium at last.

In general the perception of us Irish around the world is that of a beer guzzling bunch of happy go lucky fly by nighters living on an Island which for most part acts as a windshield for the rest of Europe.

Being Irish I know that in many ways we are the orchestrators of that perception ourselves and in an even more twisted way we have prospered with that Identity for decades. In the same way that the fairytales and fables of fairies and leprechauns are myth so too are these perceived views of my homeland.

However one thing I can say we are with my hand on my heart is that we are a nation of begrudgers. It has been inbuilt into our DNA to scorn fellow Irishmen that are seen to be doing well or achieving success in their field both home and away unless of course there is something to be gained from the obligatory hand shake that always makes for a good photo opportunity.

With all the doom and gloom of the global recession and the press that Ireland has got over the past 6 years anything that we achieve as a nation or indeed any of us achieve as individuals personally should be applauded and if nothing else be a source of great national pride. This goes for any nation around the globe but as a Irishman success comes to the very few and knowing someone who has achieved something is even more rare.

That is why last Sunday, when the majority of Irish people were eating Sunday dinner and even worse the majority of Irish people who claim to love badminton were doing whatever they do on Sundays, one of Irelands own finally achieved something great that he has dreamt about since he was 14 years old.

The headline for this article pretty much gives the scenario away but Scott Evans achieved what was fated to him by winning his first International title and more so he did it on home soil.

For those of you that don’t know Scott had been for so many years the nearly man of the European circuit. 6 previous final appearances and only 6 runners up spots to show for it. Many have questioned his attitude and after what was probably the worst 18 months of his career many doubted he would ever get the chance again.

I was fortunate or unfortunate to witness three of those losses and there is not much that can be said or done to console any player that has failed at the final hurdle. I particularly remember the instance in Lithuania in 2011 where Scott lost in the final to Kestutis Navickas and the podium photograph itself tells the whole story. Another near miss was in Manchester at the European championships when Scott was within one point of winning a medal. These occasions are stamped in my brain forever.

But that was a different Scott Evans on that occasion. Any time I have seen Scott before a final there has been so many nerves and almost a niggling agitation. This time in Dublin there was calmness and in a way I have never seen before Scott was the guy who was more relaxed than anyone else in the hall.

Picture tells the tale. Lituanian loss.

Picture tells the tale. Lituanian loss.

Prior to the finals I had interviewed Scott in each of the victories and he was the one talking me through the interview and giving off the calming vibes when usually it is the other way around.

The final itself was not a classic and it is fair to say the Scott pretty much dominated the match as he had dominated his side of the draw for the whole tournament. The Dundrum man took his time to put young Frenchman Lucas Corvee away in the end but as the memory of Lithuania and Manchester are etched in my mind forever so are the scenes that followed Scott’s match winning shot in Dublin last Sunday 9th December 2012.

Immediately Scott turned to his mum, who has been there and seen it all with Scott, as she ran onto the court to embrace and congratulate her son in only the way a proud mother can. The release of emotion was immense and it was difficult for me to hold my emotions back while commentating on TV. (watch the winning point by clicking HERE)

Scott had finally done it; he had finally won a tour event and won it with style.  In a strange way the six defeats could only have served to have been a motivation and catalyst for the win and made this victory all the more sweet.

My only regret on the day is not to have been in the position to shoot the photograph of that epic moment but I can say I was there and witnessed his greatest moment to date. If anyone is in doubt about how much the win meant to Scott Evans take a look at his post match interview where I had to literally cut the discussion short as Scott struggled with his emotions.  Click HERE for interview

All that is left for me to say is that from a person who has witnessed so many bad moments in Scott’s career to be there to witness his maiden victory was a heart warming experience. Maybe now this can be the catalyst for Scott to go and add more titles and leave a legacy as a multiple tour winner. I hope he does this and I believe he can. This victory can only serve to be a watershed and the monkey that has been on his back for so long has been set free.

A proud Irish badminton nut.

Hostess’s with Mostess

Monday after a circuit tournament for me usually mean tying up some loose ends and thinking ahead to the next trip doing the job I love to do. Today is somewhat different as I find myself still engaged with the tournament I have just come from and thinking to myself how lucky I am to have been involved in what is now the new benchmark in circuit tournaments.

I had never been to the Scottish International before but I already knew about the Scott’s attention to the finer details in tournament preparation. This trip had added excitement as all the pre tournament grapevine chat was about the new Emirates Arena, only opened last month, which was to host the Scottish International for the first time.

Upon my arrival at Glasgow Airport I was instantly hit with the impression that this tournament was going to be special. There to meet me were two of the immaculately turned out hostess team in matching uniforms and the smile to match their appearance.

Arriving at the arena it was hard not to be taken aback by the sheer vastness of the brand new Emirates arena. To try and give you some impression of the size of the complex it can be summed up by the hall for practise which itself had 12 badminton courts.

Immaculate Court Presentation

They say first impressions last and as I entered the tournament hall I was immediately struck by the attention to detail, and more importantly for me as a photographer, the expansive lighting rack above the courts that would not have been out of place at the All England’s. Finally a hall with a lux value that allowed us photographers take some photos that would stand the test of time and not have our cameras groaning as they struggled to autofocus on athletes playing the fastest racket sport in the world as we do 90% of the time.

I love conformity of colour and the Olympic hand me down pink carpet nestled beautifully with the blue and white advertising A boards akin to a multimillion dollar tennis event. It really was a stunning sight and something that I have wished to see in all my years as a badminton photo journalist.

As with everything the Scott’s do in their flagship event the playing schedule ran according to the schedule which is a rarity in Badminton these days. The catering and transport service was impeccable. It was interesting to see that the bus drivers, in order to start their buses, had to blow into a breathalyzer to turn over their engines. Scott’s leave absolutely nothing to chance. I even witnessed a bunch of volunteers spend a good hour mulling over the presentation of the podium and affixing Badminton Scotland stickers to maximise the advertising exposure for the federation. Normally podium presentations are an afterthought at the majority of events.

Finals day was out of this world. I have no idea of the actual attendance figures at the finals but given that the arena holds 8000 people I estimated that there had to be in the region of 3000 people there which again is a first for a badminton Europe circuit event. Even the

Getting a section of the large crowd going

layout of the hall meant that these 3000 people actually filled the areas around the centre court; I have to call it centre court as that is exactly what it felt like. 3000 spectators did not look lost in the 8000 sweater venue.

The fan fare, the expertise of the stadium announcer, the interaction with the crowd and the ‘bangin tunes’ all served up a fantastic Sunday in Glasgow.

It even pleased me is a sort of odd way that the organisers were not happy with our set up as BEtv as they did not want the tournament floor to look anything but exceptional throughout the tournament and I suppose when I look at it we stuck out like a sore thumb which is something we need to address.

All in all it was a tournament to die for, not only was it a badminton tournament but it was quality entertainment and that, in my opinion, is what we need to do with our game. Yes budget is everything and the Scottish Federation have obviously benefited from the impending arrival of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Figures bandied around suggest that there was in excess of 200,000 Euro spent on the lighting alone.

Clyde – Glasgow 2014 Mascot

But outside of this the Scott’s pulled it off. Yes they were given the resources but they had the drive and commitment to pull it off and go far beyond excellent. The only small drawback was the drift in the hall. We all know that this can be the Achilles heel of big arena’s but like everything else this organising committee ,under the directorship of Anne Smiley, will fix this and they have two years to do it ahead of the Games in 2014.

It was a real pleasure to be there for this first badminton extravaganza in the Emirates Arena. Badminton Scotland can be proud of what they and their volunteers achieved. I can only image what the Commonwealth Games will be like in this arena but one thing is for sure no stone will be left unturned.

Well done Scotland and thank you for a great week.


Back on the Road and Glasgow Bound

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Fantastic Emirates Arena

With the Commonwealth Games only 2 years away the Scottish federation are making use of the fabulous Emirates Arena, adjacent to Celtic Park, the site of the badminton tournament for the games. By all accounts the arena is state of the art and even more important to me I hear there is a full lighting rig installed which will hopefully lend itself to some good photographic opportunities.

I will be attending the Scottish International as part of the crew as well as photographer and journalist for Badminton Europe. There is a strong entry for the tournament and I am particularly looking forward to seeing how Scotland’s own Kirsty Gilmour deals with the home pressure after such a good start to the season plus its a chance for me to see a player whom I rate as world-class, if injury just stayed away for a while, that player being Olga Konon of Germany who is sure to figure at the business end of the tournament.

So bags packed for Glasgow and you can read daily updates on as well as a daily photo gallery at the Badminton Europe facebook page. To read my tournament preview just click HERE