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Chris & Gabby Adcock: Badminton's golden couple


Chris & Gabby Adcock

They spend every working hour together, share triumphs and disappointments and depend on each other absolutely as the tension rises. 

That's simple, says 23-year-old Gabby who married Chris, 25, last year. The first husband and wife team to win a Commonwealth Games gold since Cyril and Dorothy Wright did it in the sailing classes in 1920, Chris and Gabby rely on Bowser to help them relax and bring them back to earth after the stress of world class competition.

"We take Bowser for a walk in the evening and really switch off," says Gabby, who with Chris recently won a succession of top tournaments to send them soaring up then world ratings.

"International badminton is such a high pressure world that you've got to be able to get away from it and chill out doing ordinary things and Bowser really helps to keep us grounded. He's an important part of the team!"

Ironically, although Chris and Gabby had been sweethearts since their teens, Gabby has only been Chris's regular mixed doubles partner since 2012. Before that Chris played alongside Scots champion Imogen Bankier, but then Imogen dramatically quit the Great Britain team to join Scottish Badminton.

"Gabby and I had partnered each other a lot in the past so it seemed logical to try it again," Chris said. "Winning Commonwealth gold certainly showed it was the right decision and now we have high hopes for the Rio Olympics.

In fact Gabby was the tournament's most successful English badminton player, winning silver in the team event and bronze in the women's doubles. She jokes:  "I'd like Chris to buy me a gold medal for our anniversary to remind us of what we've done. This is what we've dreamed of for so long and it's very surreal."

The dream actually started when the couple began playing badminton together when they were 15 and 17 and romance soon blossomed. As Gabby says: "We have that drive and ambition in common and that's something that brought us together both on and off the badminton court.

"We're used to spending a lot of time together because we've done it from such a young age. We're lucky that we get to travel the world together because there are a lot of people on the badminton circuit who miss their partners while they are away.

"Chris is a lot more laid back than me and he keeps me chilled, which is good because I need that. We are so lucky to work so well together, both when playing and training and in our off-court life. We are both very ambitious and have big plans to be successful and win medals, but it's just as important to have the right balance in our home and private life."

Everyone in badminton is glad that this is a love-story with a happy ending – but at one time it could have been very different.  For the sake of his career, the game's authorities told Chris to give up Gabby as his playing partner in favour of Imogen Bankier - in order to increase his chances of qualifying for the London Olympics - which he did with his new partner.

As one badminton insider explained at the time: "Imogen had a little bit more experience than Gabby at top level; and the couple went from strength to strength – and Gabby was obviously devastated." Even Chris's mother Denise got involved, saying: "It was Badminton England that made the decision to split up Gabby and Chris's playing partnership. As far as I know it didn't cause any difficulties in Chris and Gabby's relationship. They stayed as close as ever."

And after a disappointing display with Chris Adcock in the 2012 Olympics, Imogen Bankiern broke up the partnership saying she wasn't satisfied with the GB training programme and had decided to join Badminton Scotland - leaving the door open for Chris and Gabby to get together again.

Thrilled to be back on court with Chris, Gabby was also realistic. "We haven't played regularly together at the top level since 2011 so of course we're going to be rusty," she said. "It's vital that we're singing from the same hymn-sheet!

"But the moment we got back on court together in mixed doubles, everything worked and the on-court chemistry returned really quickly. Now we're going for the world championship and have really high hopes for Rio.

"It's all about getting used to how the other plays again and feeling comfortable on court together." She said she was genuinely sad that her fiancé and his Scottish partner failed to win a game at the London Olympics and that made her more determined to take up the challenges that lay ahead.

"I know I can learn a lot from Chris and he wants to help me improve as much as I can. We have played junior and senior levels together in the past and had some really good results and that should stand us in good stead for trying again. Obviously we know each other pretty well so it should work out just fine."

It has. They've won the Hong Kong Super-series and the Swiss Open Grand Prix and now have their eyes on the game's number one rating. Says GB Performance Director Jens Grill: "The new line-up with Chris and Gabby gives us a really solid platform to establish a world class mixed doubles team ready for Rio. The prospects are really exciting." It looks as though Bowser will be having plenty of walks in the near future.

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