IT’S A CLEAR sign of the times we live in that Scott Evans first learned about his Olympic qualification while scrolling through his news feed on Facebook.
Ranked number one in Ireland, eighth in Europe and 74th in the world, Evans came agonisingly close to an automatic qualification place for the men’s singles badminton at London 2012, missing out by just one spot at the end of a year-long ranking process.
The Dubliner’s near miss guaranteed that he would be the first reserve for the tournament and at the top of the queue if any National Olympic Committee turned down a place.
While the whispers on the grapevine suggested that Evans would get a golden ticket to London this summer, he had to wait until yesterday morning for official confirmation. When it arrived, he wasn’t even expecting it.
“I kinda knew all along to be honest that I would be going but I was waiting for the actual day to come where it was official,” Evans told TheScore.ie from Copenhagen where he now lives and trains.
The guy who is in charge of Badminton Europe came on Facebook earlier and put a link on their page. I didn’t even know, I hadn’t heard anything. I was just waiting for a mail and it popped up in my news feed, so I clicked on it.
For the whole last month, every time you’re training you’re thinking “am I actually training for something or am I not going to be in it?” There was always that little bit of doubt, even though I was pretty sure I was getting in, and I found that very hard to deal with. I’m delighted that’s gone away and now I can just focus on training.
The congratulations flooded from Ireland to Denmark via the same digital media as the initial news broke — through tweets from his old school mates and teachers; through friends, families and supporters liking his status updates on Facebook. Two of Ireland’s other Olympians, 200m runner Paul Hession and walker Olive Loughnane, were among the first to offer their congratulations on Twitter.
“It’s so cool to just sit here and see old school friends liking the status on Facebook. There was a teacher from Wesley [his alma mater]; my brother’s friends who I got on with in school have tweeted me as well. Loads of people who I haven’t talked to in ages. It’s just amazing to have these kind of people sending a good luck message or whatever.
The Irish team is going to have a lot of support and that really does mean a lot. People think that athletes just say that but it really does mean so much to go in to a hall and then have support from Irish people and Irish fans.
This summer will be Evans’s second Olympic Games. Four years ago, he travelled across the world to Beijing where he played himself to the brink of a first-round shock against Marc Zweibler of Germany before letting it slip away in the final few points.
The whole Olympic experience, and the lessons of that cruel defeat, have only strengthened his resolve to perform in London this summer.
“The whole morning I’ve been thinking back about Beijing. I’ve been through it all before so I think I’ll be able to deal with it a lot better this time.
“Last time, I had a great chance of winning in the first round against a guy who was top 16 in the world and ended up losing in an unbelievably close game. I just hope that it’s going to be different this time around now that I have a bit of experience and know how to deal with things better.”
Much depends on the luck of the draw, he agrees, and avoiding the world’s top eight players in the preliminary group round will boost his chances of progressing.
“That would give me a great chance of qualifying through to the latter stages of the tournament. But I could get [defending Olympic champion] Lin Dan in the first round, then it’s going to be really difficult. But I’m not going to really focus on that, I’m just going to focus on getting myself ready.”
I don’t want to be a guy who just goes to the Olympics and thinks it’s great. I want to do something, I want to perform well. I want to win matches, beat people in the top 10 in the world. I want to do all of these things. I want to win medals, that’s what I’m after. I don’t want to be the guy who just went to the Olympics, that’s not who I am.