Badminton duo under the radar (pic)


If I asked you to name me three of the six British badminton players going to the Beijing Olympics, I reckon you would get stuck at two.


Most people could quite quickly come up with Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson, Britain's mixed doubles silver medallists from four years ago in Athens.

British badminton players


But arguably Britian's best medal prospects for Beijing are the other doubles pairing of Donna Kellogg and Anthony Clark.

Donna and Anthony who?

Kellogg and Clark, 2008 European champions and 2006 world championship runners-up to Emms and Robertson, that's who.

You are forgiven if you weren't aware of them because, by their own admission, the pairing, who are ranked two places lower than their rivals at eighth in the world, don't court the spotlight and say that is how they would like it continue.

Clark told me: "Nathan and Gail have had to go through a lot of outside interference with their training while we've just slipped under the radar.

"We've achieved as much as they have in the last 12 months but we wouldn't want to be in the limelight as much, we just like to go along and do our training."

But the duo could be thrust firmly into that limelight if they live up to their potential in Beijing and win a medal.

"I'm not going just for the experience," said Kellogg.

"This is my third Olympics and Anthony's second, although our first together as a pairing.

"We know what to expect and the goal is to win a medal and we'll be a little disappointed if we come away without one."

Three Chinese pairings and two Indonesian couples dominate the top five in the world rankings, but Clark and Kellogg are expecting the most open Olympic mixed doubles competition there has ever been.

"Everyone's beating everyone this season, so it's not clear cut," said Kellogg.

"And we've beaten all the top pairings this season," Clark interjected.

"No one pair has dominated the entire season, as has happened in previous years.

"All the pressure is on Chinese to perform in front of home crowd and they are expected to win gold.

"That's good for us as it takes the pressure off and we'll just go out there, more prepared than we've ever been before."

Part of that preparation was the knock-up among the tourists in the heart of central London's Chinatown to mark the official announcement of the Olympic team (which also includes singles players Tracey Hallam and Andrew Smith).

Emms and Robertson joined the fun some 20 minutes after Kellogg and Clark, such was the demand for their attention at the press conference.

They had remained remarkably cheerful while fielding oft-repeated questions about Robertson's recent ankle surgery and what that means for their medal prospects.

Chatting for her regular column on the 606 website, Emms told me: "It was a nervy few days waiting for Nathan'soperation and results, but when I heard all was fine, I felt so relieved.

"I want us to win a gold medal, but because of Nathan's injury we've not had the best 18 months performance-wise, so any medal will do."

Emms and Robertson may be usurped as the darlings of British badminton this summer, but it was no surprise that when they began playing with Kellogg and Clark, the crowd swelled appreciably.

I wonder how many realised they were watching the potential warm-up for the Olympic final?


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