RAPHOE’s Chloe Magee will this afternoon vie for a place in the last 16 of the women’s badminton competition at the Olympic Games in London.
Twenty-three-year-old Magee is currently ranked 44 in the world and will take on France’s Hongyan Pi at the 6,000-capacity Wembley Arena at 2.17pm, live on RTE Two.
It will be a challenging task for Magee as the Chinese-born Pi, who is ranked 25 in the world, won a bronze medal at the 2009 World Championships, progressed to at least the quarter-finals at the last six World Championships and reached the last eight in the last Olympics in Beijing.
The pair met in the quarter-finals of the Yonex Irish Open last December with Pi only winning in three games - 21-11, 15-21, 21-17.
“I’ve played Pi before and I know what she’s going to come with and she knows what I am going to come with,” Magee said from London yesterday. “I’m just really looking forward to the match and I know I have it in me to win. I really want to put in a good performance and see where it goes from there. Between then and now all I can do is to get well hydrated and get ready for tomorrow.”
Irish number one Magee got the better of Egypt’s Hadia Hosny in her opening match of the Games - 21-17, 21-6 - on Sunday night. Hongyan defeated Hosny 21-11, 21-9 24 hours later.
The Egyptian, who is 113 in the world and a student at Bath University, made light of the apparent gulf in the rankings in a competitive first game when Magee appeared initially a touch nervous. However, a much more fluent second game ensured the good start.
“I was quite edgy all day as it was my first match in the arena,” Magee said of Sunday. “I’d been there to practice but it’s different when you go in there to compete. I was up very early on Sunday and went down to the hall to get a feel for the place.
“I went back for a bit of a rest but was a little edgy eating or sleeping. I was scheduled to go on at 8.20pm and was ready to go then.
“Badminton schedules have been known to run over and they have in the past and I was a little mentally tired as it was almost 9.30pm when I got on court. That’s the way it goes, though, and it was the same for both players so I can’t really complain about it.
“Everyone gets a little nervous and you just have to deal with it. There’s no point in thinking about the media and the crowd and things like that because you can get carried away with it then. It’s important to focus on the player and the tactics.
“I was a little bit nervous in the first game but I played through it and played more like I can in the second. I’m delighted and it was just brilliant to get that first win under my belt.
“After getting the first game out of the way I feel really comfortable now. It was a match I had to win and I have it won so I can look forward to the second match now.”
Magee competed for Ireland at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in China at the age of 19. She became the first ever Irish woman to win a badminton match at the Games when she defeated Estonian Kati Tolmoff 18–21, 21–18, 21–19 in the first round of the women’s singles. She was eliminated after losing her second round match 12–21, 14–21 to world number 11 Jun Jae-youn of South Korea.
“The experience is fantastic,” Magee continued of London. “The feeling that you’re at the Olympic Games is just unbelievable. Any athlete will say it’s the biggest sports stage in the world and it’s just phenomenal.
“I have to say too the support I receive and always receive in London is great and they really got behind me on Sunday and that makes a huge difference as well. My family are here and it’s so nice to play in front of them because I don’t always get the chance to.”
The Magee family are well represented in London with Chloe’s father Sammy, uncle Joe, sisters Naomi and Miriam, as well as her boyfriend Brendan Hennessy. Daniel, Chloe’s brother, is also her coach in Dublin and was at courtside on Sunday night in London.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” he said of his sister’s win over Hosny. “ Chloe started a little nervous but played fantastically afterwards. She really showed she could run Honsy down by controlling the rallies. The match followed the script as I thought might happen. I was happy with her performance.
“I thought it would take Chloe a while to settle and then she could play like she can. Tuesday will be difficult as Pi is a former world number three but Chloe did well against her last time out.
“There wasn’t much in it and Chloe has worked really hard in the last few months and is much stronger and fitter now. It would be great to get Chloe at her best and that would give her every chance.”