Rajiv Ouseph is ready to pass the mantle onto the next generation of badminton players.
After announcing he will retire after this year’s World Championships, the 32-year-old former European champion, who is England’s number one singles player, has also ruled himself out of Tokyo 2020 qualification with Team GB.
The two-time Olympian was the first British man to reach the last eight of an Olympic badminton men’s singles competition when he made the quarter-finals at Rio 2016.
As he prepares to bring the curtain down on a glittering career, Ouseph will, of course, miss the thrill of the court but is looking forward to having the opportunity to spend more time with his nearest and dearest.
“It was a few different reasons – I just felt like it was the right time for me,” said Ouseph.
“I’ve got a young son who is 10 months-old, so it was getting harder to travel away to tournaments and miss him growing up.
“My body is starting to feel the effects of playing competitions for over ten years and I just felt like it was the right time.
“I can see Toby Penty, the next best singles player; he is really progressing and I feel he’s got a good chance of doing well and the opportunity for him to go to the Olympics was a good one for him.
“Everything together combined to make the decision.”
Ouseph has had a career spanning nearly 14 years since winning gold at the 2005 European Junior Championships in the Netherlands, the first Englishman in 20 years to complete the feat.
The English number one established himself on badminton’s world tour and has won 12 international titles but competing on the Olympic stage in London was one of his standout memories.
“Individually, my best moment is probably winning the European Championships in 2017 [in Denmark] but I’ve always felt representing Team GB at the Olympic Games; that’s something that every person or kid who plays badminton wants,” Ouseph explained.
“When they start, their dream is to go to the Olympic Games. I’ve managed to go to two and been very fortunate.
“Those experiences at those Games, the Commonwealth Games, multi-sport events – they’ve really impacted me and I’ve enjoyed them.
“London was surreal. Badminton crowds are usually very respectful and very quiet in this country but London was totally different.
“Everyone was clapping and cheering for me and it was something I’ll never forget.
“It was a ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moment for me.
“To have a home Games, which many people don’t get to have, and being from London; it was very special.”
With the 2019 World Championships taking place in Basel at the end of August, Ouseph only has a few weeks left of his longstanding career.
He believes that by making the decision to retire before the start of the tournament, he will be able to play with freedom – but Ouseph would still like to finish on a high.
“I’m going to miss the everyday training; being around the rest of the squad and being with the team,” he added.
“I’ll miss that camaraderie you get on a day-to-day basis and I’ve made quite a few friends over the years on the circuit, so I’ll miss competing with them.
“You come through a lot of ups and downs playing professional sport but you don’t get those ups without a few downs, so I think the whole journey will be missed.
“I don’t have any particular aims for the worlds and because I’ve decided what I wanted to do, it’s taken the pressure off me a little bit.
“I haven’t done as well as I would like to have at World Championships, so as a last finishing point, it’ll be good for me to try and do as well as I can without putting too much pressure on myself.”