Chloe Magee, Ireland’s highest ranked badminton player, is an experienced Olympian and one of the longest-serving athletes in the entire Irish Olympic team.
Chloe, who hails from Raphoe, is currently ranked 15th in Europe and 58th in the world. This will be her third Olympic Games, the first of which was Beijing 2008 where she became the first ever Irish woman to win an Olympic badminton match. A repeat of this feat in London 2012 has further cemented Magee’s place in the history books of Irish sport.
As she embarks on her third Olympic Games, Chloe describes her excitement for the event and the pride she feels about flying to Rio and flying the Irish flag.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of badminton, for anyone in different sports it means different things but for badminton the Olympics is everything,” she said.
“It’s the biggest part of our sport and for me to get there it means everything. It’s the highest achievement in terms of qualification. I’m just glad to be there and to represent Team Ireland is always such an honour. To go there as one of a select few in your country is a real privilege,” she said.
There are many important factors in an athlete’s build-up for a tournament. Given the stature and competitive nature of the Olympics, one of the most crucial parts of Chloe’s tournament is the draw. In this year’s draw, Chloe’s group will be made up of the world number two seed, Wang Yihan from China and German player, Karin Schnasse. The former won a silver medal at London 2012.
Yet, Chloe’s spirits are high and her self-belief and confidence are admirable as she heads into the games. Chloe has the ability to mix it with the very best in the world, and this is exactly what she is aiming to do in Rio.
“I couldn't have asked for a tougher draw,” said Chloe.
“Even the girl form Germany is ranked in the top 20 in the world. It's not what I wanted but at the Olympics, anything can happen. Regardless of the draw I want to go there and I want to perform the best that I can and if I do that then I’ll have no regrets,” she said.
Chloe, along with her brother and mixed doubles partner, Sam, took the Irish badminton scene by storm at a very young age. Together, they achieved great success and Chloe’s individual game continues to go from strength to strength.
Magee is currently a member of the Irish elite training group and she is based in the National Training Centre in Dublin’s Blanchardstown IT. She claimed her first European medal last year when she and her brother Sam won bronze in the mixed doubles at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Along with Sam, Chloe’s brother, Joshua, and niece, Rachael Darragh, are members of the Irish panel who train in Dublin. Having her family close by is of great importance to Chloe, as she explains.
“Sport is so competitive and intense all of the time so to know your family always have your back 100% of the time and genuinely want you to do well is fantastic support. Sometimes in sport it becomes so closed and the environment gets so small so when you have people around you that you’re close to and want you to do well no matter what, it’s definitely a big plus for me. I think any athlete would agree with that.”
With a wealth of experience behind her, Chloe has grown somewhat accustomed to preparing for tournaments and this year she claims to be feeling better than ever. Chloe explained her preparations and how she feels in the run-up to her third appearance on badminton’s greatest stage.
“I think as you get older you become more professional as an athlete. Everything feels right now, everything is the way it should be.
“I’m working very closely with the Institute of Sport, I’m doing good strength and conditioning, I’ve got full time physio and I’m just a better athlete overall I think. In badminton, because it’s so tactical and technical, as the years go on you become a smarter player the older you get,” she said.
“I think, in general, my preparation has become a lot better. I’m playing better, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in and I think I’m a more professional athlete than I was since competing in Beijing and London,” she added.
This year also marks a significant milestone for Donegal and Irish sport as the head of Athletics Ireland, and Finn Valley native, Patsy McGonagle, leads the country’s athletes to the Olympics for the final time. Chloe was full of praise for McGonagle and hailed the work he has done for local and Irish athletics over the years.
“I know Patsy very well. I’ve seen him at both the Olympics that I’ve been in and he’s always been someone that’s asked ‘how are you getting on?’ and is a fantastic supporter of the Donegal athletes. I know he’s highly respected in Athletics Ireland and it’s quite sad actually that it’s his last games,” she said.
“I know that all of the athletes hold him in high regard and he manages them all so well so I know that they’re all going to miss him. I know Patsy will do his job and be professional as ever this time round, regardless of its significance, and he leaves a great legacy behind him in athletics in Ireland,” she added.
With a whole host of Irish athletes attending this year’s games and representing the country across an array of different sports, Chloe said that she will be keeping a close eye on many of the competitors and hoped Team Ireland would fare well over the coming weeks in Rio.
“I’ll keep an eye on a few sports over there. I like watching hockey so I’ll definitely be following the hockey team and I have a good friend in the pentathlon so I’ll be following that to see how she gets on.
“I have a general interest in most sports and I follow all the Irish sport on a regular basis, whether that be on Twitter or TV wherever I can, so yeah, I’ll be following a lot of the Irish athletes and teams throughout the event.”
Chloe leaves for Rio tomorrow (Friday) and the women's singles is scheduled to start just under a week later on Thursday, 11th August.
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