Badminton: England hunt for new talent

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The Independent Online
England won the final match 4-1 against China at Maidenhead on Monday but lost both the series, 4-2, and the services of their most-capped player, Gill Clark - emphasising the need to find new talent and to develop the existing young players before the Oriental nations open up a bigger gap between their rapidly advancing standards and our own.

Clark departed after 145 international appearances with two messages for the English game - market it more professionally and make more use of the services of the outstanding Korean coach, Lee Jae Bok, who has already played a significant part in the progress of several players currently enjoying success, especially Chris Hunt and Julie Bradbury.

Bradbury and Joanne Wright, who remained unbeaten through the series with China, are part of a six-person English group flying this week to the Hong Kong, China and Thailand Opens, and great hopes will travel with the women's doubles pair, who appear to have the talent to develop a challenge for a medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

The others in this group are Hunt and Simon Archer, the European men's doubles champions, whose form on their last trip to the Far East was poor, and another promising men's doubles pair, Nick Ponting and Julian Robertson.

Gillian Gowers is going to tour the tournaments without funding because she has Danish partners.

Arguably as important as the fates of these leading players round the other side of the world is the progress closer to home of the six new caps blooded during the China series, all of whom are taking part in the second tournament of the Friends Provident Grand Slam - the first British domestic circuit - which begins in Perth on Friday.

Julia Mann, Sarah Hardaker, Tanya Groves, Nicola Beck, Ian Pearson and James Anderson have all been given a feel of the limelight by the England manager, Ciro Ciniglio, in the hope they may make a big leap forward, though in the past week only the Pearson and Anderson pairing showed signs that they might.

However, Mann will be watched particularly carefully in Perth, for it was she who caused the sensation of the Grand Slam's first tournament last month when she beat the English national champion, Suzanne Louis-Lane, to win the Belfast event. England will need more results such as that if they are to learn the right lessons from their encounter with China.