By Ian O’Riordan
From their first conception to their swift fruition Scott Evans has been eyeing up these European Games, and now we know exactly why. In a game where medals are the only currency, Evans is getting increasingly desperate for some just reward.
The 27-year-old Dubliner has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to badminton. Already a veteran of two Olympic Games, he’s found himself ranked number one in the men’s singles in Baku, and judging by his opening match, he’s not about to let that medal opportunity pass him pay.
Indeed Evans only needed 24 minutes to defeat that first opponent, Georgios Charalambidis from Greece (21-7, 21-9): there are two more group matches before the knock-out rounds, and so far Evans is justifying his ranking in every sense.
Because he’s also got the ambition. The Beijing Olympics were to be the beginning of a learning curve, only London, three years ago, proved another lesson in itself, when Evans lost his first-round match to eventual gold medallist Lin Dan of China.
He certainly won’t have it all his own way here, but from the very beginning, Evans has been talking up these games, particularly when the Asian Games are so highly rated on the badminton circuit.
“The Asian Games are huge,” he says, “so I can’t see why the European Games can’t get as big. I see a huge future in it, especially for the smaller sports. It’s also good to have something like the Olympic Games that is not the Olympic Games. Then when the athletes go to the Olympic Games everything isn’t new to them.”
Just before coming to Baku, Evans reached his highest world ranking at number 23, but there are some tough opponents lying in wait in the other groups, such as Pablo Abián from Spain and Petr Koukal of the Czech Republic.
Next up for Evans is today’s second group match against Yuhan Tan from Belgium, and also looking to continue their winning start today are the sister and brother pair of Chloe and Sam Magee, who got the better of Jakub Bitman and Alzbeta Basova from the Czech republic in their mixed doubles. It wasn’t quite as straightforward for the Donegal pair, also top seeded, as they progressed 21-11, 19-21, 21-14.
Earlier, Chloe Magee has lost her opening singles match in her group against Estonia’s Kati Tolmoff, 21-18, 21-17, and she’ll want to get back to winning ways today, too, against Lianne Tan of Belgium. She’s also a veteran of both the Beijing and London Olympics, and will definitely want to make the knock-out stages.
Indeed it was a typically busy start for the Magee family, with Sam Magee and his brother Josh Magee also beaten in a tough men’s doubles game to Danish Top seeds Boe Mathias and Carsten Mogensen, 21-17, 21-16.
Two further Irish pairs in action in the women’s double were Sara Boyle and Rachel Darragh, who lost out to Mathilda Lindholm and Jenny Nystrom from Finland, 21-15, 21-15.