Lauren Smith: Serving Up Olympic Dreams

British badminton player Lauren Smith discusses her chances of Olympic gold in Paris for 2024.

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwain

Last Updated: 2024-02-06

Umaima Saeed

Former Olympic badminton player Lauren Smith sat down with SportsBoom’s Wade McElwain to discuss her career, partnership, and arduous journey to qualify for the 2024 Paris Games.  Having competed Tokyo 2020 with her partner Marcus Ellis, Smith knows firsthand the challenges of securing a spot. “Badminton is a bit of a crazy one in terms of Olympic qualifying. We started the 1st of May, 2023, and it goes all the way till the end of April this year,” she explains.

The Path to Paris

With her mixed doubles partner Marcus Ellis, Smith is currently ranked outside of Olympic qualification. “Our goal is to qualify, like any Olympics, we know it's gonna be a challenge. The hardest thing is qualifying. Once you're there, almost, that's the easy part,” she says. Rankings are based on players’ best 10 tournaments out of the year.  With 5 events left before the April 30 cutoff, Smith and Ellis are focused on peaking at the right times.

The duo especially wants to excel at March’s All England Championships, considered the most prestigious event beside the Olympics and World Championships. “For me and for a lot of players, that is where you want to peak throughout the year,” Smith states. A strong result there would give their ranking a significant boost toward Olympic selection.

Injury Prevention and Recovery

Now in her 30s', Smith is proactive about injury prevention. This includes weight training multiple days per week - her “least favourite part of training” but crucial for robustness. She also emphasises nutrition, hydration and sleep. “I eat 5 as a minimum portions of fruit and veg a day...I drink about 7 litres of water a day on a training day,” she notes.

Smith says listening to your body becomes even more important as you get older. “Having to sort of say, no, no, just, just do 60 minutes, you don't need to do any more than that today - that was a hard adjustment,” she admits. Periodisation allows her to maintain intensity rather than overtraining. When injuries do occur, discipline around rehab exercises and treatments gets her back on court safely.

The Strength of Asia

Asia dominates badminton, led by powerhouse China. “They seem to be born with a racket in their hand, how sort of natural they make it look,” Smith remarks. She explains how visiting a normal club in China impressed her with the incredible skill on display. Denmark leads Europe, while North America has fewer top players. To boost Europe’s competitiveness, she suggests more collaboration and combined training camps “Ryder Cup style”.

Lauren Smoth Badminton.jpg

Growing the Sport Through Social Media

During the pandemic, Smith started creating social media content for fun and visibility. Filming her normal training and engaging with fans helps showcase badminton. “In the UK...people don't necessarily know what it looks like at a high level,” she notes. “If we are gonna compete with the likes of China, who have got all of these people playing, people need access.” She enjoys the interactions but stays organised so content creation doesn’t become stressful or interfere with training.

With the entry deadline approaching, Smith is laser-focused on sealing her spot in Paris. Her journey embodies both the thrill and grind of Olympic qualification. “The hardest thing is qualifying. Once you're there, almost, that's the easy part,” she reiterates. With resilience and preparation, Smith aims to Return to the pinnacle of her sport this summer.

Best Career Decision

Lauren is quick to mention that the best decision she and Marcus have made for their professional lives is to get a dog. ‘Because you walk in the door at home and she's so happy to see us and she's just a little ray of sunshine and you kind of go, oh, that stuff doesn't really matter, does it?’
 Smith also admits her dog helps in her mental and professional motivation as well, ‘You know, normally I'd have could have a bad day training and I'd sit on the sofa and I wouldn't move and I couldn't be bothered to do anything and I'd just wallow. Whereas now it's like, no, you've got no, she's gonna tell me she's gonna come up and start patting me on the leg until I take her out for a walk. And, and that is just, just a really good reset. Yeah, it's heaven.’

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwainSenior Sports Writer

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.