Ahead of the European Games in Minsk, Badminton England starlet Chloe Birch is a woman on a mission, relishing the opportunity to pull on an international jersey for the first time.
Despite having been a mainstay in England teams for several years, the 23-year-old will compete under the British flag for the first time after being named in the eight-person squad for the event which gets underway on Friday.
Team GB are taking a badminton team to the European Games for the first time and Birch is seeded eighth in the women’s singles, while she will also line up in the women’s doubles alongside Lauren Smith.
Having competed in last year’s Commonwealth Games, making her debut for Great Britain represents the next milestone in Birch’s career and she can’t wait to get going in Belarus.
She said: “I’ve been representing England in the senior squads since I was 17 or 18, but Team GB is something really special.
“I’ve obviously watched the Olympics and watched the other guys compete for Team GB, so it’s really exciting to be involved and another step in my career.
“I’ve got a big family network up in Sheffield and they’re all massively proud and behind me.
“I’ve done a World University Games and a Commonwealth Games now, so this will be my third big multi-sport event.
“Each one is a little bit different, but I’m really excited to be around everyone else and I’m really looking forward to competing.
“One of my main aims last year was to compete in Minsk in two events. It was a little bit tight, but I made it and hopefully I can do well in both.”
While Birch predominately made her name in the individual ranks, she is largely focusing on her doubles partnership with Smith who she has only been working with since September.
Despite the pair going into the tournament unseeded, a recent victory over Denmark’s top-ranked duo of Sara Thygesen and Maiken Fruergaard in May’s Sudirman Cup has given Birch hope of success.
“I play two events most of the time so it’s something I’m quite used to,” she said.
“I played a lot of singles as a junior, but in the last 18 months I’ve played the majority in doubles.
“It’s good to take things from both disciplines and apply them to each other, and it gives you another dimension to the game.
“Not many doubles players play singles and not many singles players play doubles, so it gives me a few skills that maybe other girls don’t have.
“In the singles, I’m quite chilled. I’m seeded eight, but there are a lot of the girls at the top that I’ve beaten.
“I’ll definitely go into every game thinking I can win and compete with the best players that are there.
“In the doubles, when we put the partnership together we were aiming for the big tournaments.
“We knew we had eight months or so to really get on top of our game for the European Games and I think we really bought into that.
“You don’t want to get too wrapped up in one event because you always have another one to play.
“I’ll take it step by step, but it’s definitely exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
With world ranking points available at the European Games for the first time, success at the tournament could help Birch on her way to qualification for Tokyo 2020.
The World Championships in August are also just around the corner, and the three-time reigning national champion admits now is an exciting time in her career.
She said: “We’ve got these European Games, we’ve got the World Championships, and then we’ve got a trip to Asia and obviously all the build up to next year in Tokyo.
“I’m only 23 so to get these experiences is great and I think my game is really improving, especially in the doubles.
“It’s going to be a really exciting summer and I just can’t wait to get going.”