Hallam issues warning to China's finest
BADMINTON star Tracey Hallam insists she is more than capable of upsetting China's big guns this summer after having her Olympic berth rubber stamped by the BOA on Thursday.
The 33-year-old, from Hanbury, knew she had done enough to book her place on the plane to Beijing when the qualification period closed at the end of April, but had to wait until last week to be confirmed as Britain's sole representative in the women's singles.
Hallam reached the quarter finals in Athens four years ago but will have her work cut out to improve on that display in Beijing with her world ranking of 14 not enough to earn her a place among the top seeds.
But despite the prospect of facing double world champion Xie XingFang, Athens gold medallist Zhang Ning or rising star Lu Lan in the early rounds Hallam is confident she can expose some weaknesses among the Chinese stars.
"I got to the quarter-final last time and I'd love to improve on that," said Hallam. "But the Olympics are not like any other competition so it completely depends on the draw and the day.
"I'm in a position where I won't be seeded but also in a position to challenge the seeded players - I'm hoping to run them close and force cracks in their armoury.
"I also have the Athens experience and when you have been through the Olympic experience before it gives you an advantage."
Hallam has come a long way since she first picked up a badminton racquet as a seven-year-old, with three national singles titles as well as this year's doubles crown and a Commonwealth gold amongst her many honours.
But with National School Sport Week, a government initiative managed by the Youth Sport Trust and supported by Norwich Union, set to kick-off on Monday June 30 the Burton-born star wasn't about to forget where it all began.
"When I was seven years old, a teacher, Mary Winn, said I had good hand-eye co-ordination and she convinced me to join the badminton club in my local village," added Hallam.
"She still bumps into my parents at the bowls club and is always asking after me and I owe her a lot. The school has closed down now which is a shame but she's long since retired."