Hunt and Archer stalk their prey

Andy Martin sees the hard men of British badminton set the feathers flying at the National Championships

When I mentioned to my mate Bruce, a keen football fan, that I was going to the National Badminton Championships in Norwich, he said: "It's just the kind of place that would put on a pansy poofter's game like badminton." In one scything sentence he maligned both the populace of an entire city and the millions of people around the world who follow the sport.

I'd like to see Bruce say that to Simon Archer and Chris Hunt. Archer and Hunt, who won the men's doubles title for the second year running, are two heavy, hairy, hunky, hungry guys. They are the hard men of British badminton.

Both are over 6ft and weigh in at 13st 8lb apiece, and Chris Hunt, rated by his court-side fan club as "player of the year", looks as if he could go a few rounds with Eric Cantona.

If they had had black hoods over their heads and an axe in their hands, they couldn't have executed the opposition, Neil Cottrill and John Quinn, more ruthlessly. They destroyed an awful lot of shuttlecocks, too: there were more feathers on the court by the end of the match than in an average hen-house. No one hits the shuttle harder.

You have to be tough in this game. As David Betts, a physiotherapist, told me, of all the racket sports, badminton - with its deep lunges and explosive overheads - "takes the biggest toll on bodies". Hunt and Archer were massaging their limbs with bags of ice.

Hunt, 26, and Archer, 21, are every bit as lethal as their names suggest. But their real prey is not the national but the world No 1 spot and the Atlanta Olympics. They are veterans of the gruelling world professional circuit, which has given them only four weekends off since June. As Archer said: "Over the last year, I have spent more time with him than I have with my girlfriend."

After winning the European Championship and taking the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, they are third on the Grand Prix ladder and seventh in the Olympic rankings. But they are already anticipating three or four years right on top.

They are very un-English in their brazen self-confidence, and almost arrogant. They expect to win. And they hate losing. But they retain an ironic, mutually abusive, sense of humour.

When I asked Hunt about his past reputation as the McEnroe of badminton, Archer cut in: "Yes, he's mad." Hunt retorted: "And he's psycho." They make a good double act.

At Norwich, Hunt and Archer took away the princely sum of £440 for three days' extremely hard work. But top British players on the tour can make around £60,000 a year in tournament winnings and endorsements. The game has made the Indonesian Susi Susanti, the women's world champion, a millionairess. But in Indonesia, badminton is a collective obsession and winning is a matter of national pride.

Similarly, when Malaysia won the team world championship, not only did individual players net $250,000, a plot of land and a government pension, but a holiday was declared in celebration.

"We'd get a `well done' and a national association pin," Archer said. In Malaysia, potential champions are selected and trained six hours a day as young as 12. "There is massive burn-out," Archer acknowledges. For every 300 kids, 200 are broken but 100 still make it.

Hunt even gets fan mail from Malaysia. Inevitably, players like Hunt and Archer go east not just in search of fortune but to find a greater depth of quality opposition.

During the last Olympics, badminton was, worldwide, the mostly widely viewed individual sport on television. The Sky TV coverage at Norwich was tapping into the huge potential global audience, not just in China and India but in Europe, too. Even in Britain the profile of the sport is changing.There is talk of the National Lottery kicking in more money, and, tangibly, Archer and Hunt are sponsored by Prinz and Carlton respectively and receive funding from the British Olympic Association.

But, for the time being, there is a sense that, in badminton at least, the east is east and the west is west. "Over there," Hunt said, "the top players shake hands with kings and queens." "Over here," Archer shot back, "we wouldn't even get on A Question of Sport."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Corporate Commercial Solicitor

£45000 - £65000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Corporate Commercial Soli...

Year 3 Primary Teacher - Dewsbury

£110 - £155 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: An excellent, last minute opp...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam