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In the run-up to the Olympics, we caught up with Toby Penty to find out how he was preparing for his Games debut.

Now back from Tokyo after a memorable campaign, Toby gives us an insight into his fantastic victories, the Olympic experience and building on his impressive performances on the biggest stage.


We flew out to Tokyo on July 15 and spent the first three days in a prep camp at Keio University, which was really well put together.

Those first few days training alongside other sports, like the table tennis, taekwondo and boxing, were unique and made for a really enjoyable environment and experience.

We then had five days to practice in the main hall, both amongst ourselves and with the other European players, which gave us a lot of time to settle.

For me, Ben [Lane], Sean [Vendy] and Chloe [Birch], it was our first Olympics so it was nice to have that time to get used to that feeling. Of course, you can’t replicate that feeling of being out there but spending quite a lot of time in the arena made me feel more comfortable when I did play.

Accommodation-wise, we were lucky to have a block right on the edge of the village, looking over Tokyo Bay. To have that view to wake up to was pretty nice!

We didn’t just have the British team, we had the Australian and US teams near us so it was a nice mix of cultures. Sometimes you can get stuck in the badminton bubble but to be around other performers and see people at the top of their own sports, bumping into them in the lift and having a quick catch-up, there was a really nice feel to it all.


Even before going out, I was really happy with how I trained and got my body in to the shape I was hoping for. I’d had a few injuries and hadn’t played much competitively in the build-up but I felt confident.

I think that showed on the day of my first match, which was against Kai Schäfer. Even though there were a few butterflies, I didn’t feel as nervous as expected. I even mentioned to my physio that I thought I should feel more nervous than I did!

I was just focused on delivering the performances I’d been doing in practice and that helped me settle down. It wasn’t perfect but for my first match in my first Olympics, to get the win [21-13, 21-15] gave me a lot of confidence.

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I knew I was favourite for that first match and in my head, a lot of the focus was being at a level to compete and win the second match, against 14th seed Kantaphon Wangcharoen.

I had never played him before but I watched some videos beforehand to come up with some tactics, which I felt comfortable carrying out, so it was just about taking that same mental approach as the previous match.

I’d watched him in his first match and thought he looked a bit nervous. I know that feeling – in the European Games in 2019, my first multi-sport event, I felt nervous, so I tried to use that experience of knowing what he was going through to put pressure on him.

I got better throughout the match and the second set was the perfect style I wanted to play. It was what I’d been practicing in training and I put it together.

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To get a win on the biggest stage against a seeded player who won bronze at the last World Championships was the statement performance I’ve been waiting for a long time.

I’ve come so close on so many occasions to getting a really big win but it’s never quite fallen the way I’ve wanted to. To finally do it on the biggest stage meant everything to me as I’ve been working towards it for so long.


My phone after that second match was going absolutely mental. I had to turn it off for a little bit just to have a bit of normality!

There were messages from close family and friends but also people I’d played against along the way, from when I started as a nine and ten-year-old, who remembered me and sent me a message on Instagram, which was really nice.

The round of 16 game against [third seed] Anders Antonsen was another step up and in hindsight, the emotion and mental energy I put into that second match, combined with not having quite as much experience in big stage matches, maybe cost me a little bit.

He was just a bit sharper and better than me when it mattered. I was proud of how I came back in the second set to be at 15-14 and even though he got away in the end, that gives me confidence I can compete against the very top guys.

Overall, though, I’m really satisfied with my performances. It’s one thing to get to an Olympics and that will always stay with me, but I was delighted to perform above myself in terms of what I’d done before.

I probably shocked a few people along the way with my performance level, especially in that second match, and hopefully there is more to come now.

That could be the start of something and hopefully I can repeat those performances on a more consistent basis.

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I’m a huge sport fan generally and one of the disappointing things was not being able to watch other events – the tennis was five minutes down the road and I’m a huge boxing fan, so I’d have tried to see some of that.

But I understand that is the way it had to be in this Olympics and I’m just proud I had the opportunity to be involved in it and play on the biggest stage.

The restrictions also meant the different sports kept themselves to themselves a bit more but I did bump into one of Team GB’s stars before my match with Wangcharoen.

My game wasn’t until the evening, so I went to the performance lodge – solely for Team GB – just to use the gym and get away from the hustle and bustle of the village.

The only two people on the bus there and back were me and Adam Peaty, who had already won one of his gold medals. We had a bit of a chat and he joked that we had the same haircut!

He still had his relay to come, so he was fully in performance mode, and to see him in the gym was something else – his strength is crazy.

Just to watch these guys and see their professionalism, how they approach being that superstar at the top of their sport, I find really interesting. Things like that are really cool.


Mentally and physically, with the work I’ve put in not just in Tokyo but in the weeks and months leading up to it, it has been a lot. I felt absolutely shattered after I lost – there was a bit of a comedown and it all went quite fast.

I’ll take a few weeks to let the body and mind settle, though I’m a bit of a gym rat so I’m sure I’ll be back there by the end of the week!

I’ll enjoy some naughty food and a couple of beers with family and friends before getting back to it and plotting what’s next.

There’s a World Championships in Spain later this year and also the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year. I’d love to get to an event my parents can watch – the last thing they properly got to come and watch me in was the World Championships in 2017, which feels a long time ago now.

I don’t want to look too far ahead. I feel in a good place on and off court and I won’t put too much pressure on myself. I just want to enjoy performing at the level I showed at the Olympics.

This training block leading up to Tokyo, even though it was hard, was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had. I just want to keep that going now and see where it can take me in terms of making more big moments.

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