Tuesday 8th December 2015, By Phil Gwyther
While Football transfers and pay deals dominate the sports pages of every paper, there are those who are trying hard to get the sport of Badminton featured more heavily. Sky Sports now think that Badminton action is worth their sponsorship and the National Badminton league is their vehicle for getting viewers hooked on shuttle whacking!
Six teams are involved with seven dates throughout the winter when either 4 or 6 teams meet to play on the same date. One match is chosen to go out on Sky and the others are streamed on line for fans to watch. During the season they play each other just once and then have play-offs for the top four teams and then a big final. The teams are Loughborough University; Birmingham University; Nottingham University; Surrey Smashers; Milton Keynes and Team Derby.
The format of matches is unusual with first to nine points only and 5 sets plus power plays where if you serve and play your power play option - a score counts double. Substitutes are allowed (although only for injuries). There are only five individual matches per event:- Mens and Women's singles and doubles and one mixed. There are no stops for coaching, only 60 seconds for warm-ups and short turn around times all designed for the night to be fast and furious and very watchable on TV with big, very noisy crowds. With a team of ten usually only four Men and Four Women play with two reserves on standby.
Which brings me on to Pembrokeshire's very own Jordan Hart. She is very much a part of a strong international group of players who are studying and playing at Loughborough University. Back at the start of the season she had a terrific tournament on the continent achieving a far higher spot than her ranking predicted and was promptly approached by an Italian club who wanted her in their team for their league. A great compliment for Jordan that her talents were wanted. The club was prepared to pay a hefty fee per match, plane flights and hotels for her to fly over on occasional weekends.
However when she quite properly, discussed this offer with her coach at Loughborough, he decided to put in a counter bid for her to stay and be part of the squad in the Sky National League. Jordan is so enjoying the atmosphere of playing with top internationals at the university that she opted to stay put. This is despite the fact that although she is a very valued part of the squad she may not get all that many matches - such is the strength of the women's squad.
Profiles of the other women in the squad show what a challenge she has on her hands, although she would be the first to acknowledge that the high level of training matches is pushing her game to new levels.
Loughborough Ladies :-
Lauren Smith - England international; silver and bronze at Commonwealth games at Glasgow.
Jenny Wallwork - England international; 5 national titles; double commonwealth medalist.
Chloe Birch - England international and 11 Junior national titles.
Jenny Moore - England finalist at National senior level; under 19 title; under 17 European Silver.
Vikki Williams - England finalist at National senior level; Finalist at under 17 and Under 19 nationals.
Jessica Hopton - English Under 17 title and Silver in doubles.
Of course Jordan has a string Of Welsh Junior titles to her name as well; plus a UK Schools title and many senior Welsh successes as well. In fact even though she has had almost a year off with serious injury in her career, she has enough medals to seriously threaten the structure of her bedroom wall if she chose to hang them all up!
But it's not the past which concerns Jordan - she's always looking forward to the next big challenge. So she will be working hard to support the University in this league as well as her Welsh representation matches plus flying off to continental tournaments to improver her world rankings. There's no time for partying and watching the world go by for this talented young sportswoman. "Keep on impressing us Jordan!!"