EXCLUSIVE: Badminton junior national champion on UK Sport funding cuts
On August 18th 2016, Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis won Olympic bronze in the badminton men’s doubles, securing Great Britain’s first medal in the sport since 2004.
Six months later, on February 20th 2017, badminton was confirmed as one of seven sports to lose their UK Sport funding after a failed appeal, losing all £5.7m of funding it received for the last Olympic cycle.
The fall out from UK Sport’s controversial decision has been huge, with GB Badminton saying it was ‘staggered’ by the funding cut, and many current and former pros have come out and lambasted the decision.
While there are dozens of professional players whose careers will be massively affected by the cuts, perhaps the most devastating effects will be felt by junior players such as Johnnie Torjussen, whose career is yet to get off the ground.
“It really means that everything in my career is just uncertain now. Before, when we had the funding, I knew where I wanted to go and that there was going to be something for me in [badminton].
“Now there’s just uncertainty on what I should do and how I can go about improving my badminton career if it’s not being supported as well,” Torjussen told Sports Gazette.
The funding from UK Sport helps players with everything from training and equipment to accommodation and entrance fees, and players will now have to find this money for themselves.
17-year-old Torjussen is one of England’s most promising young talents, having won seven junior national titles – three in singles and four in doubles. He has just been named Junior Player of the Year by Badminton England.
Only a month on from confirmation of the cuts, Johnnie is already feeling the effects. “Sometimes I train with the senior team, obviously that’s now been diminished. There are a lot less people there for me to train with.
“At the moment we still have some funding but after that the number of tournaments I’ll be playing will go down a lot, and all the tournaments I would be looking forward to in the future, I now don’t know whether I will be able to go,” he explained.It really means that everything in my career is just uncertain now.”
While Torjussen will still receive some grassroots funding from Sport England for a few more years, this is not enough to sustain the senior badminton career he is looking to build, and he’s now having to make contingency plans.
“My main goal is still to be a badminton player but I am thinking of going to university. I’m taking a gap year after school this year to see how the badminton turns out but if there’s nothing for me then I will be going to university and trying to train there,” he said.
Torjussen’s aim is to play at an Olympics, and while that target may now seem further away than ever, he is confident that the junior national set up will help the sport bounce back from these tough times.
He said: “We have a strong junior set up so I think the players that we produce will hopefully encourage everyone from UK sport to hand us the funding back.
“We’ve kind of accepted it now. The general feeling is that it’s just very disappointing. Everyone’s a bit down but we’ve accepted it and we’re trying to do the best we can with what we’ve been dealt.”