Chloe Magee: "My body wasn’t letting me go to the next level"

Three-time Olympian Chloe Magee on leaving behind her singles badminton career and making history in Denmark

Chloe Magee

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Chloe Magee knows more than most that a good draw can be the difference between medaling at major championships and bowing out in the group stages.

So, when the Donegal native was drawn against former world number one and Olympic silver medalist, Wang Yihan, at last year's Games in Rio, she knew her work would be cut out for her.

Soundly beaten in her opening game in Riocentro, she was unable to bounce back against German, Karin Schnaase. There ended a third Olympic Games. Having made it only as far as the second round once in her career, the 28-year-old took some time after last summer's showpiece to reassess her options.

"After Rio, my singles game wasn’t where I needed it to be," she tells Newstalk.com. "I was always 30th or 40th in the world. I was picking up small injuries and my body wasn’t letting me go to the next level.

"That’s not where I want to be. I want to be competing with the best in the world."

It was a case of weighing up her options. Continue to plug away with singles in the hope that she would eventually hit that next level or leave that part of her career and make a change.

She sat down with her coach and decided it was time to pursue a different path. 

"I didn’t want to spend my whole career stuck where I was. I decided I’d stop the singles and focus on the mixed doubles for the last couple of years, just to see how it goes.

"Now I can say that it was a good decision to make."

Last week, Chloe and her brother, Sam, secured Ireland's first European Championship medal in Denmark. The pair came from behind to beat Dutch pair Jacco Piek and Selena Arends to secure a quarter-final berth.

From here, they beat French duo Bastian Kersaudy and Lea Palermo to move within a win of a medal finish.

A hard-fought win over Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba guaranteed their bronze medal.

Siblings Sam and Chloe Magee made history in Denmark by winning bronze at the European Championships. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

"It still feels really, really good to be a European medalist. It’s something that we both wanted to achieve in our career. 

"We’ve trained our whole career to get major medals. Going into the week we were in good form, but we also knew we had a very tough draw. When you go into the week not thinking you can win a medal and then you get into a good position, you just have to keep the head down.

"We went better and better from there and to win a medal when it’s not really what you expect, it’s special."

Letting go

The victory signalled the end of one part of her distinguished career and the beginning of another. Magee admits it wasn't easy letting go.

"Sometimes it is difficult because you’ve trained for so many years and you don’t feel like you’ve fully reached where you want to go.

"But myself and Sam have had some good results. The pairs that we beat last week were both in Rio. They made it and we didn’t. It was nice to go out and beat them, to show them that we’re good enough."

In Sam not only does she have a partner who knows her "inside out", but someone who has known all her life.

"Sam and I grew up playing badminton and since the two have us turned professional, we’ve done a lot together.

"Of course when you’re family, your fights can go worse than if you don’t know each other that well. 

"We’ve done a lot of work with a psychologist to see if we can work with each other better. That helps us on court too because it means we can accept each other’s mistakes."

She adds: "To win a European medal with your brother is something not a lot of other people can say they’ve done."

With the transition now complete, she travels to Germany next week for a team event and will also compete in the US Open in July.

"Of course when I look back, I’ve had some really good results in singles and have won some international titles - made the Olympics.

"It was definitely good and I will look back at is as a good time, but right now it’s not where I want to be in my career. I want to be competing with the best in Europe and the best in the world.

"That’s always where I’ve wanted to be and that’s where my mind is. I felt I could do that in mixed doubles.

"Sometimes a change is good and it’s gone well so far."