Stars Spotlight

Ouseph wins first on the road but ready for the trip home

England’s Rajiv Ouseph won his inaugural match of 2012, ousting former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in the first round of the Victor Korea Open Superseries, one of the five OSIM BWF Superseries Premier events.

Rajiv (Day 1 01)Almost all players this year have an identical focus, but Ouseph is not only London-bound, he is London-born, and once all the qualifying road trips are over, he will also be going home when the time comes for the biggest event of his career.

“This is the first time in an individual tournament that I’ve beaten such a high-profile player,” explained Rajiv after his victory over the Indonesian great. “I’ve beaten Jan Jorgensen a couple of times and Park Sung Hwan, but those were in team tournaments.

“I feel like I’ve been playing better recently. At the Copenhagen Masters last week, it was the first time I took a game off Peter Gade so I think that gave me a bit of confidence to play better here.

“Taufik (pictured left) is very good but if he’s not having one of his good days then there is the chance to beat him. Today looked like he wasn’t wanting to run a lot so I thought that was the best option for me.”

Taufik (Day 1)Compared to his compatriots in mixed doubles, Ouseph is in a rather enviable position in terms of Olympic qualification, with his nearest competitor for the Great Britain sport nearly 15,000 behind him in Olympic ranking points.

“It’s been tough year, getting a lot of tough first rounds and everyone’s playing a lot of smaller tournaments as well,” Rajiv said.

“Now as it’s getting close, I’m a bit more relaxed about it as my spot is more or less assured.  It means I can concentrate a bit more on training and playing.”

The last time around, Ouseph was in the top 3 for Britain but trailed behind then top shuttler Andrew Smith.

“I could have qualified, I think, but at the beginning I didn’t really realize it and didn’t make a big enough effort.  This time around, I was a lot more prepared.

“I’ve been playing the Superseries for a couple of years now and for a player like me, from playing the European International Challenges and then coming to this type of event, it’s quite daunting playing against the big-name players and now I feel a lot more comfortable doing that.”

Born and raised in London, Rajiv Ouseph got into the sport right around the time that the opening of the national training centre was establishing Milton Keynes as the new place to be for English badminton.

Rajiv (Day 1 02)“I was quite lucky. My dad was really into badminton and I had two older sisters who used to play when I was younger so I just wanted to play because everyone around me was.”

Ouseph moved to Milton Keynes to train when he was 18 but obviously, he and the rest of the badminton world will be heading to his home this summer.

“It’s quite exciting for someone like me: it’s not often you get to play in the Olympics, first of all, and one in your own country, again, that’s quite rare and in your hometown, it’s really unheard-of, so for me, it’s quite a big deal.”

“My dad used to watch the All England when it was in Wembley so going back to watch the Worlds last year was quite a nice thing for him.”

Rajiv’s own first trip to the All England was to Birmingham when he was still just starting out as a recreational player, and watching the stars inspired him to try to be like them.

“I was ‘ill’ from school, because my family was quite into badminton and we would all go up for a day each year.

“I’m not sure whether my teachers caught onto it after a while.  Every March, I’d be sick for a day and then back the next day.”

Rest assured that when Olympic badminton goes to Wembley, everyone will be aware that their boy has come home.

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