Team GB’s badminton ace Toby Penty hasn’t let alopecia stop him achieving his Olympic dream.
The 28-year-old from Walton-on-Thames was diagnosed after his mother noticed a small bald patch on his head in November 2018, but he bounced back and has now been named in the seven-strong Team GB badminton squad for Tokyo 2020.
He finished 23rd in the BWF Race to Tokyo rankings despite having to overcome the obstacle in the middle of an Olympic cycle and said his selection, along with the prospect of making his Olympic debut, made overcoming the obstacle even sweeter.
Penty said: “It means a lot because I was dealing with that through the whole of the Olympic qualifying period so to be trying to deal with both things at once was quite a struggle.
“The first five months of it was kind of okay as it was still a bit of a transition but after that it was quite difficult, but I’ve now got to this point where I feel a lot more content with myself.
“I feel happier with myself than I did through that Olympic qualifying period and through the last few years, it kind of makes going through that battle that more worthwhile I’d say.
“I’ve got to the other side of it and to have that culminate in going to an Olympics is really great.”
Penty stressed that alopecia is not something that will affect him on the badminton court in Tokyo.
He said: “I felt the effects on court for a while as well, but I feel like I’ve worked really hard to get past that in a few different ways and it’s not something that affects me very much daily anymore.
“I have the odd moment where you think about it, you reflect about it, but I feel like I’m a growing version of myself and it’s just a part of me I’ve come to appreciate more than anything.
“I feel like my empathy towards other people, towards myself is far greater. It’s a quality that I’m glad I’ve been able to get, the last year and the time away from court was really big for me.
“I needed that space I think because before that, going through alopecia, going through Olympic qualifying, it was very intense and was good to be able to take a step back.
“To be able to grow and get through that was really important for me looking back and it’s not great it took a pandemic for that to happen, but at the same time I’m grateful I got that space.”
He heads to the Japanese capital off the back of four BWF International Challenge Titles and Penty feels confident about his performance levels in Tokyo.
He said: “I’ve been struggling with a knee injury throughout 2021 but in terms of where I’m at the moment, I feel pretty good about my game.
“I haven’t been unable to judge myself against tournament level, but I feel what I’m getting out of myself every day is really good and really positive
“I think I’m ready to go out and play at my top level, I want to go out and compete against the senior players and see how far I can go.”