The 16-year-old Welsh badminton sensation

Daniel Font has been playing the sport for 11 years and has achieved phenomenal success, both at home and abroad
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The Independent Online

Winning, among other things, the British title three years in a row, three USA and Canadian Opens and a number of European internationals, he has applied for British Airways flights to take himself and the rest of the Wales badminton team to the 2011 World Championships in Asia.

“I enjoy badminton because it’s fast,” he says. “I love the way you can either play singles or in a team for doubles or mixed and I have made some great friendships with people all over the world through the sport. I also like the fact that badminton can be played by anyone at any level – I still try and support my local area and encourage people to play.

“Every day, I get up early to train by doing gym work and running before school. After school, I train four nights for two hours and have to travel 100 miles to train with the best coaches. At weekends, I compete, train or catch up on the schoolwork I’ve missed. In the summer holidays, I play in places like India, China and Singapore – it sounds great but it’s really tough because it’s six hours a day, six days a week.

“I’m currently doing my A levels – my school has been very understanding, but thanks to badminton events, I’ve only had two Thursdays and one Friday in school since September, which means a lot of work to catch up on. I would like to see my mates more, too, but it’s something I have to sacrifice and they seem OK about it.

“There’s very little funding for the sport – even professionals rarely earn enough to make a living out of playing. For example, the winner of the All England, the world’s most prestigious badminton tournament, gets less than someone in the qualifiers at Wimbledon and yet badminton’s one of the UK’s most played sports.

“Competing is expensive because you have to travel internationally. To do well in a major tournament, you need to be seeded and to be seeded you have to get good results at earlier competitions.

“Since the start of the season at the end of August, I’ve been to seven internationals and three UK competitions. Even if you fly with a bargain airline and stay in a cheap hotel, it all adds up. This year, it has cost my parents around £12,000 and that’s with us being careful. Next year will be even worse. Only my mum works – my dad has to look after my sisters because they both have special needs – so it’s a big strain on the family finances.”

Explaining why winning Great Britons flights to the 2011 badminton World Championships in Asia is so important, he says: “Our little Welsh team supports each other through thick and thin and I want us all to go and compete as a team. Without free flights, we won’t be able to go.

“Wales has such a small population, but we have number of players who are of international standard, close in age, willing to train and determined to win. I would love for us to achieve a team medal at a major international, as we have the talent and drive to do that. There has never been a group like this before and may never be again – this may be our only chance for many years, so it’s essential that we grab it and go for it.”