Penty banishes Commonwealth demons with opening win

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Penty banishes Commonwealth demons with opening win
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Toby Penty admitted to nerves on his first Commonwealth Games appearance as the badminton ace put his Gold Coast heartbreak behind him at Birmingham 2022.

The Walton-on-Thames star prevailed 21-5 21-9 against Kennie Maarten King as part of Team England’s 5-0 win over Barbados in the mixed team event on day one at The NEC.

His singles rubber victory was the perfect antidote to the disappointment Penty - who was diagnosed with alopecia in 2018 - felt after just missing out on the team four years ago.

And while it has been a rollercoaster journey for the 29-year-old since then, he relished every moment of his first taste of Commonwealth Games action in front of a home crowd.

“There were a few nerves to try and contend with at the start,” he said.

“It was really nice to play in front of such a big crowd at 9am on a Friday morning so I’m just happy to get started and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.

“This is my first Commonwealth Games. I was so close to going to the Gold Coast last time out so to be here now after the ups and downs of the last few years and be here in Birmingham in front of a home crowd, it’s everything you can ask for as an athlete.

“I think really if you’re lucky you might get two home Games, like maybe some who are here have with London 2012 as well, but just to have one is a special experience.

“I feel good, I feel good with myself mentally. I think that’s the big thing when you come to tournaments like this, mentally I feel physically prepared and okay.

“I’m just going to keep it rolling and see where it takes me, keep believing.”

Penty revealed he struggled with his mental health after being diagnosed with alopecia four years ago, a condition which caused him to lose every hair on his body.

But the left-hander, who has won silver in the Team European Championships in both 2014 and 2018, showed his true potential with a stunning run to the last 16 at Tokyo 2020.

That Olympic experience has clearly buoyed him ahead of his Commonwealth Games bow and he made it two wins from two with another singles rubber victory in the evening session.

Penty defeated Georges Julien Paul 21-14 21-7 in another Team England mixed team event whitewash against Mauritius to ensure his country qualified for the next round.

And Penty believes Team England are more than capable of being in the medals on again as they look to improve on the six they won on the Gold Coast in 2018.

“The squad is definitely going through a transition, but we’ve still got a few older, senior players in the team and a lot of younger players coming through,” he added.

“We’re normally always there or thereabouts with the medals at the Commonwealth Games and I don’t see any reason why we can’t be this time around as well.”

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