Chloe Birch is taking inspiration from both her compatriots’ exploits in Rio and the rise of European players within women’s doubles as she prepares for her Olympic bow.
The 25-year-old will partner Lauren Smith in Tokyo with the pair looking to become Great Britain’s first Olympic medallists in their discipline.
Birch and Smith claimed silver in this year’s European Championships and the pair that beat them in the final, Bulgaria’s Stoeva sisters Stefani and Gabriela, are blazing a trail for the continent’s badminton stars to follow.
Birch hopes to do just that in Tokyo, while she doesn’t have to look any further than the achievements of two of Britain’s Rio heroes to realise what could be possible this summer.
“The shift in Europe has been massive in women’s doubles and the Europeans are really pushing, a very different scenario to five of ten years ago,” she said.
“It’s great when other Europeans do well as it pushes you on.
“The Stoeva sisters have motivated everyone else as we’ve thought ‘if they can do it, why can’t we?’
“We’ve been so close to beating some of the real top pairs in the world, so why not? Why can’t it be us?
“Why can’t we be the ones to step up at an Olympic Games, do the best we can and claim a medal?
“We saw with [men’s doubles bronze medal winners] Marcus [Ellis] and Chris [Langridge] last time, anything can happen. You get into the Games and you get as far as you can.
“I’m really excited to try and cause an upset against some of the best pairs in the world.”
While this is Birch’s first Olympics, she has become accustomed to competing at multi-sport events – dating back as far as 2013, when she represented Team GB at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
A place in the England squad for the Commonwealth Games – and a bronze medal in the mixed team event – followed and Birch believes those experiences stand her in good stead ahead of her debut on the biggest stage of all.
“I’ve done quite a few multi-sport events, like the Commonwealth Games, so I kind of know the whole village environment and I’ll adapt that on a bigger scale,” she said.
“It will be a little bit different but we’re there to compete at the end of the day. We have to enjoy it but we’ve got a job to do.”
Born in Preston and raised in Sheffield, Birch’s badminton adventure began at Abbeydale Park Badminton Club and she forms one half of a proud northern duo with Carlisle’s Smith.
The pair’s frankness has helped bring out their best on court and Birch believes that transparency will be key as the world no.14-ranked stars, who won the Orleans Masters in 2019 for their maiden BWF World Tour triumph, go for glory this summer.
“We have definitely grown as a pair in the past few years,” she said.
“There have been challenges. We’re both northern, feisty, a bit stubborn sometimes, but you get through it and work together and you always know the other one is putting 100% in to get the best result.
“We both have that end goal of performing to the best of our ability in Tokyo. As long as you have that, you can achieve anything.”