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As we head into the Asia leg of the HSBC BWF World Tour, the 2020 season is set to culminate with three consecutive tournaments taking place in Thailand.

We spoke to England doubles player Lauren Smith as she made the journey to the first international tournament of 2021. 

“Against all odds I’m writing this from my hotel room in Bangkok as we prepare for three weeks of competition!

It has been far from business as usual so far but we’re certainly being kept safe and with two rounds of negative covid tests (we’re getting nasally invaded every three days!) for all 800+ players and staff it looks good for play starting on Tuesday.

We all had PCR tests before leaving so we could get a fit to fly certificate, to add to the multiple other pieces of paperwork required for travel, and headed to Heathrow on the third of January.

Donning our masks and hand gelling at every opportunity we made the flight to Bangkok (via Doha), one upside of less travel was definitely the extra space on the plane.

On arrival the badminton players were separated from other travellers and placed into a queue of chairs while the last forms were checked. We then collected our bags, which then got sanitised, got our bus seat number (to stay socially distant) and headed to the hotel.

The drive was about 40 minutes, the wait to be tested outside the hotel was a good hour and a half! Fair to say we were keen to make it into the comfy hotel beds!

When our turn came we headed in and got our first Thai covid test, I still haven’t got my head around how far a cotton bud can go into your nose! Then went straight into our room where we had to wait for the results.

From that point on we’ve had meals delivered to the room three times a day, it’s been a real hot topic of conversation for all the players. It’s not always the hottest or what we’d like to be eating but catering for a whole hotel of hungry (sometimes even hangry) athletes can’t be easy.

We left our rooms for the first time to practice on Wednesday, reception calls the room and we head down to the bus (twice a day).

Fair to say the walk to the bus is a highlight of the day for a lot of us!

So it’s far from what I remember of tournaments, but it’s great to be here and hopefully be competing again and means that more events can continue to go ahead through 2021.”

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