PROFILE – Richard Vaughan: Beijing or bust

Richard Vaughan could be one of the first shuttlers in men’s singles to participate in his third Olympic Games in a row, should he qualify. Under the limelight for his […]

ImageRichard Vaughan could be one of the first shuttlers in men’s singles to participate in his third Olympic Games in a row, should he qualify. Under the limelight for his strong position over the Darfur Issue, the Welshman still hopes he can make it to Beijing, relying on his own private funding to do so.

By Mark Phelan, Badzine Correspondent. Photos : Badmintonphoto

Most sport professionals dream of Olympic participation, and only a few are ever lucky enough to get that chance. Following up a debut Olympic appearance with a second is both a mental a physical challenge in itself. To achieve a third Olympic Games is very rare, in any sport. Richard Vaughan, the flamboyant Welsh badminton player, is within an arm’s reach of achieving this most rare of Olympic feats and if he makes it to Beijing it will be made all the more remarkable as the Welsh wizard has had to fund the complete campaign himself.

Vaughan, who hails from Caerphilly in Wales, is proud of his roots and like all professional sportspersons his ultimate ambition is to represent his country at the Olympic Games. Vaughan has been fortunate in the past to have competed in both the Sydney 2000 and in Athens 2004 reaching the quarter-finals on both occasions. Most players would settle for that but not Vaughan as he wants to make history and be among the first ever men’s singles badminton players to participate in three consecutive Olympic Games.

ImageAge No Barrier but Funding is!!!

Vaughan, who turns 30 in April, sees no reason why he cannot continue competing and challenging for major titles for some years to come. Both Peter Gade and Kenneth Jonassen are performing consistently inside the world’s top ten and both are above 30. Unfortunately, while age might not be an issue to the Welsh wizard, the issue of funding is. Vaughan reports that while he is from Wales his home federation just cannot afford to give him much financial support. Knowing this, he turned to Badminton England to see if they could support his Olympic bid, in vain. This had left the Welsh shuttler in the precarious situation of travelling from tournament to tournament on a shoestring budget, which is less than ideal for such a high profile and proven Olympian. The last year has seen Vaughan splash out 20,000 of his own hard earned Euros in a bid to maintain his world , which at one point was as high as number 7 in 2002.

Olympic Tunnel Vision

If Vaughan is to qualify for the Olympic Games this summer, he must be Great Britain’s number one on May 1st, 2008 as the qualifying rules state that only one position is available if the qualifying athletes are ranked outside the world’s top 16. Vaughan is currently ranked 36th and to break into the world’s top 16 in such a short time period is almost impossible. All is not lost, though, as Vaughan’s main challenger for the spot behind the GB flag in the opening ceremony on August 8th is Englishman Andrew Smith, who is ranked just six places ahead of him in the world ranking list with just over 2000 points between the two. In essence, the hard-hitting Welsh native has a 50/50 chance of booking his seat to Beijing as it is a straight shootout between himself and the English number 1 for the sole men’s singles spot. The difference between Vaughan and Smith is that Smith has financial backing from his home federation. Given that the percentages are stacked firmly against him, Vaughan still has one goal in mind: to make that spot – and a piece of Olympic badminton history – his.

ImageNo Pain, No Gain

Not only is Richard Vaughan experiencing firsthand the difficulties of funding his Olympic dream, but the past few months has seen him dealing with one injury after another, which has limited his tournament participation. An old recurring hip injury reappeared at the most inopportune moment as it forced him to withdraw from the Danish and French Super Series events at the back end of 2007. As with all Super Series events, there are Super Series world ranking points at stake and right now they are points that Vaughan cannot afford to be leaving behind on the treatment table. Just when the hip injury cleared up, a niggling hamstring injury prevented Vaughan from travelling to the opening Super Series event of the year in Malaysia and from gaining more ranking points.

Tournament Overload

Vaughan is leaving no stone unturned in his attempt to secure that precious Olympic berth he so strongly desires. A hectic tournament schedule has seen Vaughan travel to 10 tournaments in 16 weeks, including the German Open, the All England in Birmingham, Switzerland, Poland, India and Holland as well as a trip to the Super Series event in Korea earlier in the year. And with the European Championships and the Thomas Cup sandwiched in the middle, one can begin to appreciate the lengths that Richard Vaughan is going to fulfil his dream. If Richard Vaughan makes it on to the plane to Beijing, there is not a soul out there that would begrudge him his place in badminton history.

ImageTeam Darfur : Recently, Vaughan has publicly voiced his support for the Team Darfur project and at the recent All England Championships he spoke to Badzine and outlined his and the Team Darfur’s position on the ongoing crisis in Sudan.

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net