SOLENN PASTUREL – The ambitious Jersey girl

Any of you who have ever been to the Channel Island of Jersey will know it is hard to find a more peaceful and tranquil island. And as the island’s […]

Any of you who have ever been to the Channel Island of Jersey will know it is hard to find a more peaceful and tranquil island. And as the island’s website explains, Jersey’s landscape and the character of its people have been forged by centuries of battles, exploration, struggle and reinvention. Solenn Pasturel epitomizes all these historical qualities as she paves her path on the road to fulfilling her dreams and ambitions in badminton.

By Mark Phelan. Photos: Badmintonphoto.com (archives)

Solenn Pasturel was born on 8th January 1979 and as a youngster growing up in the Chanel Islands badminton was well down the order of both her personal and sporting priorities. Pasturel was a multi talented athlete in her informative years and excelled at swimming, synchro, gymnastics and ballet.

As a badminton was not really a priority for me. I loved to play but it was by no means the sport at which I had most success. I trained a lot during the week, but in a variety of sports.

By the time Pasturel reached 15 she started to find more excitement on the badminton court than anywhere else and she drifted away from all the other sports and her attentions began to focus predominantly on badminton.

There must have been something in the water in Jersey about this time as there seemed to be an abundance of female badminton talent to draw on as current world number 28 Elizabeth Cann also hails from Jersey and is indeed a close friend of Solenn Pasturel.

Pasturel continued to work on her game but all the time her education was in the back of her mind. At 18 years of year it was a natural progression for Solenn to embark on her University career in England. Pasturel, being an all round sportsperson, decided to take a Physical Education teaching degree.

Commonwealth Challenge: While in university, it was decided that Jersey would enter a team into the Commonwealth Games and Pasturel qualified for the team that was to travel to Malaysia for the games. Pasturel was only 19 at the time and to travel to Malaysia to compete was like something out of a fairytale.

The Commonwealth Games were a phenomenal experience, a culmination of people from a variety of countries, backgrounds and sports brought together to compete in the sport which they love and for the honour of their country. At the time I was simply in awe. Then, the realisation hit me, the majority of these athletes were full time professionals. They were doing what they loved with their lives. The passion for this sport was already there, but after the Games, I started to wonder what I could actually achieve in badminton, if I were to commit to it professionally.

From Jersey to Denmark: After the experience of competing in the Commonwealth Games it became clear to Pasturel that the badminton life was for her. It became her dream and passion to play badminton professionally but she was also conscious of her education and she was committed to finishing her degree at the University College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth. At the age of 22 Solenn finally finished her degree and graduated with first class honours and she was now ready to embark upon her journey in pursuit of her badminton dream. With the full support of her Mother Monique and brother Cardin and armed with two rackets and one pair of badminton shoes she boarded a plane to Denmark not really knowing how she was going to achieve her burning ambition to become a professional badminton player.

Like a lot of players who find their way to Denmark, Solenn Pasturel landed on the steps of the IBA run by Michael Kjeldsen. She originally went to Denmark at Easter 2001 to lay the foundations for the move and instantly knew that Michael Kjeldsen was the coach to guide her towards her dream. In the summer of that same year she landed in Copenhagen and immediately started training and played in the Danish league for Hvidovre Badminton Club.

When I landed at Copenhagen Airport Michael Kjeldsen and Bob Milroy (Canada) came to meet me at the airport as Liz (Cann) was away playing in Asia. I stayed with Liz for a while until I found a place to live.

Solenn spent two years playing for Hvidovre before moving onto play for Hillerod in 2003. She spent 4 seasons there before making the decision to move back to the club where she started her Danish career. Hvidovre had been promoted to the Danish 1st division and Pasturel was drawn back there lured by the incentive of playing first singles in the first division and ultimately improving her game. This season Pasturel has moved club to play for Solrod Strand.

I moved to Solrod this year as they have given me the flexibility to both play and coach. They also compete in the Danish 1st division and when I’m not playing for them I can get out and work as head coach at another club in the evenings. All in all it works out for both of us.

The Next Step: As she says herself her biggest ambition is to be the best player she can possibly be. Throughout Denmark she is known as probably the hardest working tour professional and it is that work ethic and will to achieve that has got her to where she is today. At the age of 29 she believes she is now is a position to push on to a new level in her career. Solenn will compete again on the European tour this year and a short term aim is to break into the worlds top 50 and push her long time friends Liz Cann and Anna Rice (Canada) for a place in the worlds top 20.

Pasturel believes that she is only now starting to realise her true potential in the game and come 2010 she burns with the desire to once again represent her place of birth at the Commonwealth Games which are to be held in India and if everything goes according to plan to represent her country at the London 2012 Olympics.

Pasturel sees no reason why she should not firstly have such ambitions and secondly why she should not achieve them and she uses the achievements of Zhang Ning as an example of what exactly can be achieved once you set yourself a goal and apply your mind to achieving that goal.

Zhang Ning (China) has shown that you can be the best in the World (at thirty three years of age) through grit and both mental and physical determination, even if the odds are stacked against you. She is a great performer with so much passion for the game – to me, this was so clear when she won the Olympics both in 2004 and 2008. For a few moments, we, (the audience) got a glimpse of what it must feel like – the culmination of emotions soaring through her body at one moment in time (I rarely feel that encapsulated and emotional about an event, however, I remember the goose bumps all over my body and the shiver down my spine and I was only a spectator!). It is in the quest for these short moments in time that I as a player continue to put in the effort, in the hope that one day my passion and achievements shall meet.

Reaction Time: Pasturel has recently signed a sponsorship deal with a new Danish sports equipment manufacturer called ReeAct which is run by fellow badminton professional Kristian Mitgaard of Denmark. Solenn is excited to play with this new brand of badminton equipment and hopes it can help her in her quest to break into the worlds top 50.

In the meantime you will see this ‘Jersey girl’ who is currently ranked as England’s 4th best female singles player, behind Tracey Hallam, Elizabeth Cann and Jill Pittard, compete on the European badminton Tour as she attempts to climb the ladder of success and forge her way up the world rankings. Her tournament schedule sees her travel the highways and byways of Europe with visits to Cyprus, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Ireland and Greece on the cards before the end of 2008.

About Mark Phelan