Irish badminton has a relatively short but rich Olympic history and women have played a really seminal role in it. Sonia McGinn, a 26-year-old from Howth, was the first player to ever qualify when she competed in Sydney 2000 and she also had a female coach (Mary Dinan). Then came Chloe Magee who was only 19 when she became the first Irish player to win an Olympic badminton match in 2008.

She was still a Leaving Cert student in Royal Prior School, Raphoe (Co Donegal) when Swedish-based coach Tom Reidy (a Limerick native who played for USA) spotted her world-class potential at a training camp and convinced her of it. No sooner was her Leaving finished than she was on the next plane to Sweden where she was based for two years. That paid off with her historic victory over Estonian Kati Tolmoff in Beijing before she succumbed to world number 11 Jun Jae-Youn of South Korea.

Within six months Badminton Ireland had created a customised training system for her in Dublin, the genesis of their current High Performance programme. Magee was ranked 44th in the world (she rose to #32 in 2014) when London 2012 came around, where she dispatched an Egyptian and managed to take the first set off France’s former world #2 Pi Hongyan. In Rio she succumbed to Chinese and German opponents in her group, not helped by trying, in that Olympic cycle, to mix singles and doubles with her brother Samuel and she concentrated on mixed doubles thereafter. They rose to #21 in the world rankings in 2015 when they won bronze at the inaugural European Games in Baku. Two years later they won bronze at the European Championships in Denmark and clinched a third bronze at the 2019 European Games.

They were third reserves for the Rio Games but their dream of being the first Irish Olympic mixed doubles team in Tokyo was unrealised. The three-time Olympian still leaves a rich legacy and continues it still as a coach and Badminton Ireland’s first Women in Sport and National Development Manager.

Magee regards the 2019 European Games in Minsk, where she was also honoured to be Team Ireland’s flagbearer, as her career highlight. “All of the best pairs were there, no one was missing. To come away with that medal was just the best feeling. In a multi-sport event, with the Olympic Federation there, we had great support behind the scenes too. It is a week that I’ll never, ever forget.”

Scroll to Top