“I feel I’m playing my best badminton at the moment with my recent results along with training camps in Denmark and Canada and I’m definitely ready,” she explained.
Her confidence comes from almost winning her first tournament singles title on the international circuit last month. In the OCBC Yonex US Open Grand Prix in Los Angeles, Magee lost an agonisingly close match against local favourite Lili Zhou 23-21 21-16.
The 19 year-old from Raphoe in Co. Donegal has had to sacrifice much to get to her first Olympics and it hasn’t been an easy ride.
“It was crucial for me to move to away from home if I wanted to make it, training in Sweden was essential if I wanted to be serious about badminton and get to the Olympics. To be surrounded in such an atmosphere that is simply concentrated on badminton and having a top level coach who I can trust and depend on in not just badminton but other things as well, is what has made it for me,” she says.
At her club in Sweden, BMK Watterstad, Magee came under the watchful eye of Tom Reidy but in the last few months it has been Jim Laugesen looking after her.
“Unfortunately training in Ireland just doesn’t compare to it, which is disappointing for me as I feel everyone trains better in their home environment, being able to go home to your family and not have any expenses that living overseas brings. These are the major things that I have had to sacrifice in order to get where I’m today. I do think sport in Ireland and Irish badminton would improve greatly if they put the funding into a system that will benefit all players like other countries have but right now if you want to make it and get to the Olympics you have to move elsewhere,” added Magee.
In the first round she’ll take on Estonia’s Katie Tolmoff. At 46th in the world, Tolmoff is ranked 28 places above the Irish number one.
“I’ve played her once before and I got very close to her losing in three sets but it’s the Olympics and you don’t get any easy draws in the Olympics and this is quite a good draw for me. I’m playing my best badminton at the minute so the timing is good and I’m confident,” explained Magee.
Qualifying for the Olympics at the age of nineteen is a tremendous achievement but it was not always a certainty. “I always knew that I had the ability to qualify but there was a time where my chances were fifty-fifty. When I found out that I had made the games, it was probably the most excitement I’d felt in my whole life, this is what every athlete wants and dreams about, I couldn’t have been any happier.”
So from playing church badminton in Raphoe to an Olympic athlete in Beijing, Magee has come a long way in a short time and she hasn’t done it alone.
“My Dad has done everything possible for me, he got me into the sport when I was so small, took me to places to play that where miles away from home as Donegal always seems so far from everywhere. He’s done so much for me and I am so happy now, to be where I am, for that reason.”