OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Clark can exploit counter-attack: Badminton: James Leigh reports from Barcelona

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The Independent Online
GILL Clark has a paradox to resolve. She is the outstanding personality in British badminton yet remains unfulfilled. Clark has won 30 grand prix titles and four European titles with different partners. She is chairperson of the International Badminton Players' Association, a television commentator and, with 117 appearances, the possessor of the record number of England caps for a woman.

Yet she has never won the world or All England title which her courage, intelligence and startling skills at converting defence into attack have deserved, and which she has always craved. A medal on badminton's Olympic debut, which begins today, would do a great deal to make up for it.

Repeated injuries and operations to both knees have stopped her scaling the final ridge to the summit of her profession. These required her to spend as much time warming up and preparing to train as many players actually spent in training itself.

She did this so meticulously that now she and her latest partner, Julie Bradbury, are one of Britain's two hopes for a badminton medal. Clark has been written off constantly. Therefore at the age of 30 she will relish her one and only chance of Olympic fame.

Clark's story has been unusual even from her birth in Baghdad. The most publicised chapter has been that of the spell she had at Wormwood Scrubs. Each day she visited the prison to rebuild her fitness with her trainer, Trevor Leahy.

'I sometimes used to see the inmates as I crossed the quadrangle,' she said. 'It didn't take much to realise they were a great deal worse off than I was.' But Clark could empathise. Her own tedious regimen, of warming up, stretching, and remodelling her footwork to cope with injuries, was an incarceration of a kind. Her disciplined acceptance of it made possible a rehabilitation many thought beyond her.

It has been widely to badminton's benefit that she has. Ebulliently articulate, she has been a voice for progress. She was a leading critic of the system used for Olympic qualifying and has always been a strong-willed campaigner for better treatment for women players.

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