Lauren Smith believes England’s badminton mixed team should not be disheartened despite falling short in their quest for a Commonwealth Games bronze medal.
The 30-year-old from Carlisle and her boyfriend Marcus Ellis were part of the team that claimed bronze in the event at Gold Coast 2018, but they were unable to repeat the feat in Birmingham.
Sean Vendy’s illness meant the hosts had to switch up their pairings for the podium clash with Singapore, with Ben Lane joining Smith in the mixed doubles rather than usual partner Ellis.
But the pairing lost a tight opening contest before Toby Penty and Freya Patel-Redfearn went down in the singles rubbers, meaning England had to settle for fourth at the NEC.
“We are really disappointed to be fourth,” said Smith, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“We came here for a medal. But we left our heart and souls out there, supporting and playing.
"We lost against Singapore quite comfortably in the group but came back and beat Canada. We had a tough semi-final against Malaysia, but I feel every time we’ve played, our performances have improved.
“Our attitude on court has made it hard for the players on the other side of the net, regardless of the result. Disappointed but not disheartened, this team was incredible this week in performance and character.
“This is the first time we’ve ever played on a show court with that kind of atmosphere. It was unbelievable, the energy in that hall and the lift it gave the players was something I’ve never experienced before.
“Hopefully, we’ll get the same in the individual. Everyone on this team can achieve a medal and if we can have that same support, I don’t see why we can’t come home with silverware.”
Smith and Lane pushed Hee Yong Kai Terry and Wei Han Tan Jessica all the way in the match-opening tie before going down 21-17 25-23 and Smith was satisfied with their display.
“Considering that is the first time Ben and I have ever stepped on court together I feel that was a pretty good level,” said Smith, who also won silver at the mixed team event at Glasgow 2014.
“Obviously, there's bits in there we’re not used to, a few tactical things that we're not used to that were difficult to master, but we fought as hard as we could and gave it everything.
“Unfortunately, the Singapore pair came out on top, they played the key points better than we did and it’s just disappointing for the team, but we did what we could.
“Sean is a little bit under the weather so that affected the men's doubles and they decided it was best for Marcus not to play two matches in one tie, so Ben then stepped up to partner me.
“It was the coaches' decision, every player made themselves available for every game, we all wanted to be out there today fighting for the team. But yes, it was a surprise for everyone really.
“We didn’t manage to get enough runs of points on our serve, and we were kind of usually two or three points down and we would fight back to level and go down a couple of points again.
“It always means your opponents are playing a bit freer and with more confidence. If we could have got a point or two ahead and put the pressure on, it would have made a big difference.
“Playing from behind, it’s hard to play the positive style you need in this hall.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.