Long-time England badminton fans will be saddened to learn of the death of former international star Karen Beckman.
Badminton England send their sympathies to husband Bob and her two sons, Ben and Stephen, after she passed away at the end of last week, aged just 60.
Karen was a winner right from the start, lifting titles galore across the National age groups during a career which saw her go on to represent England 83 times. She came from a Surrey badminton family with her brother Duncan (25 caps) and eldest son Ben (7 caps) also representing England.
England’s most-capped player and close friend Gillian Clark led the tributes, saying:
“I am desperately saddened to hear that Karen has lost her brave battle with cancer.
“Karen, universally known as KB (for both Karen Bridge and later, after her marriage, Beckman) was affectionately known within the England team at the time, as ‘Duchess’ not least due to her impeccable conduct both on court and off.
“She wasn’t blessed with the most fluent movement, but what she lacked in raw athletic strength, she more than made up for with great racket skills and the most incredible and astute tactical awareness.
“Because of those attributes, she always seemed to play the right shots at the right time, often producing seemingly impossible winners when appearing to be off balance or out of position. That ability to make the most of her talents made her a hugely respected player and a formidable opponent.
“Although I was a couple of years younger than Karen in the junior ranks, she set the benchmark that the rest of us aspired to achieve. Being close in age, we grew up and progressed into the England senior team at the same time and so we enjoyed many a battle over the years in both the singles and doubles disciplines.
“But Karen wasn’t just a rival, we also played doubles together, winning the silver medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Two years later we were on the opposite side of the net in the final of the European Championships. (Clark and Karen Chapman beat Beckman and Gillian Gilks in the final)
“Karen and I were rivals, on court doubles partners, training and practice partners at Wimbledon Squash and Badminton Club, and over the years we shared some wonderful memories.
“But above all, what I will always treasure the most, was our friendship. My thoughts are with her husband Bob and her two boys.”
Former England manager Ciro Ciniglio also paid tribute, saying: “It was a great pleasure being England manager during most of her playing career. She was always a great player to manage and was always an automatic choice for selection. She was a great fighter and never let England down.
“She won a bronze medal at the 1980 world championships in Jakarta in the women’s doubles, partnering Barbara Sutton, and was member of the Uber Cup team which won silver in Kuala Lumpur, forming a formidable partnership with Gillian Gilks as they beat Korea in the semi-final before losing to China in the final.
“Karen was also a member of the England team which won five gold medals at the European Championships at Preston in 1984.
“She was not only a great badminton player but a great lady. Karen, you were a pleasure to have managed.”
Great friend and former partner, Karen Chapman – Gain said “I was saddened to hear the news that Karen had lost her fight against cancer, my thoughts are with Bob, Ben and Stephen, a wonderful wife and mother.
“I have known Karen for 50 years. We first met at the All England U15 Championships where we played a long three setter game of which Karen won, as she normally did. Our parents were sat together and decided that maybe we should play together that season. The rest is history. We won many titles together and played against each other for many years as junior internationals and then senior. We have shared some historic trips and major events which I will hold as very special memories.
Karen was a great competitor, tactician and superb ambassador for our sport.
‘The Duchess’ will be sadly missed by all and I hope she is now having lots of cups of tea!! RIP”
Karen’s achievements include: 83 England caps
Women’s singles champion 1982-83, women’s doubles champion 1980-81 (with Barbara Sutton)
National Under 21 singles champion 1978 and 1979
National Under 16 girls’ singles champion 1974, 75, 76. Girls’ doubles 1976. Mixed doubles: 1976National Junior girls’ singles and doubles champion 1975-76, 76-77 and 77-78 (this one with Gill Clark). Mixed doubles winner in 76-77 and 77-78
National Under 15: Girls’ singles and girls’ doubles champion 1972-73, 73-74 and 75-76
Other International successes also included:
1978 Commonwealth Games (Edmonton, Canada) team gold medal, women’s and mixed doubles quarter-finalist
1982 Commonwealth Games (Brisbane) team gold, silver medal in women’s doubles with Gillian Clark and silver medal in mixed doubles with her brother, Duncan Bridge.
Photo credit: Louis Ross/National Badminton Museum