After taking the world by stealth and storm last year, British badminton pairing Imogen Bankier and Chris Adcock reckon they could have some of their rivals running scared at the London Olympics.
The unseeded mixed doubles shuttlers bagged a silver medal at last year’s world championships at Wembley Arena, the same venue that hosts the Games tournament, after reaching the final against top seeded Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei.
The Chinese, who won three Olympic badminton golds at home in Beijing four years ago, ultimately swept all five titles at Wembley and are very much the favorites, with their men and women dominating the world singles rankings.
Bankier, preparing for her first Olympics, told reporters at a Team GB preparation camp on Monday that she and Adcock should not be underestimated even if they had lost the element of surprise.
“A lot of pairs are prepared for us and they’ve done their homework and that’s something that we found the rest of the season [after the championships],” said the 24-year-old Glaswegian, whose father, Ian, is chairman of Scottish league soccer champions Celtic. “Now we’ve trained harder and become a better and more three dimensional pairing. I think that’s where we can hurt people now rather than the underdog factor, the surprise factor.”
Home advantage could play a big part in their progress, with the crowd likely to be behind them at a venue that holds so many special memories.
“People don’t want to play us in London, people know how well we performed in Wembley before, they know how much we love the home crowd and these are things which hopefully will make people fearful of us, apart from the fact we are a better pair than last year,” Bankier said. “I think when people look at the draw ... we are a pair they will want to avoid given our track record.”
Left-hander Adcock and his right-handed partner make a tricky combination, a pairing that has beaten some of the world’s best since last year, including the Chinese, who had defeated them in that final.
They have also had to battle through a year-long qualification period that ended the hopes of 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2006 mixed doubles world champion Nathan Robertson.
The duo, who have been at a training camp in Denmark and head for the Olympic Village on Monday, know how to handle the stress and see no reason why they cannot hope to go all the way.
They say they are feeling sharp and ready for action.
“We’re not one of the top four seeds, so there’s not that real weight of expectation,” Bankier said. “If things go our way, and with the home support I think things could go our way, we could get a medal.”
“The home crowd last time really was what lifted us that extra few percent and spurred on our performance,” she added.