Badminton: Team GB's last hope Rajiv Ouseph explains the importance of the poker face


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The Independent Online

Ahead of his match today Great Britain's Rajiv Ouseph says that a having a poker face is useful in badminton.

In the world’s fastest racquet sport, mind games are just as important as physical ability — and Londoner Rajiv Ouseph is relying on that for his final group stage badminton match today.

Ouseph, England’s No 1, is Great Britain’s last badminton hope after mixed doubles partners Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier crashed out of the tournament. He was playing his last Group M match today against Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon at Wembley Arena after beating Swede Henri Hurskainen on Sunday.

Ouseph, 24, from Hounslow, said: “I’ve got quite a good poker face. I’m known for being able to keep my emotions very much in check, no one knows how I’m feeling, I can be winning or losing but keep it very much the same.

“There can be a lot of mind games going on between the players. When you’re about to serve, people will try to throw you off your rhythm by taking a walk. If you’re tired you can’t show that at all to an opponent.”

Adcock said “aggressive shouting”, making competitors “worry” when they serve, encouraging the “yips” and time-wasting were all part of the game’s strategy. Adock, 23, a professional for five years, said: “It’s a very aggressive sport and there’s lots of gamesmanship that goes on.

“There are cases of people being hit in the eye and they’ve been blinded so you have to be very aware.” China has some of the world’s best players and the fastest match smash — using a jump for extra power —  belongs to Fu Haifeng, also playing tonight in the men’s doubles. Fu, silver medallist at the Beijing Games and now the world No 1, hit the shuttlecock at more than 206mph, close to Euro-star’s top speed.

Ouseph, who has won two championships this year, added: “One of my junior coaches got hit in the eye and he had to stay in hospital in Indonesia for two weeks.”

Ouseph’s parents will be in the crowd today. He said: “It’s very special for the Olympics to be in my home town and have all my family and friend in the crowd — I only live half an hour from Wembley Arena.”