SAM and Chloe Magee got their Olympics qualifying campaign off to an almost perfect start last week when they earned the bronze medal in the mixed doubles at the European Games in Belarus.
For both it was their second such success at the event. At the inaugural Games in Baku, Sam partnered his younger brother Joshua to win bronze in the men’s doubles, while Chloe and Scott Evans did likewise in the mixed.
And while he admits there aren’t too many sports people to have won two bronze medals in two different events with two different siblings, he was delighted to have achieved the feat.
“I think I’d have taken that any day of the week! It was mad because the whole thing was crazy,” he exclaimed.
It wasn’t an easy route to success for the Raphoe brother and sister in Minsk, however. They were in a group with two other pairs – from France and Russia – who are similarly ranked as them and who are also battling for one of the few remaining Olympics spots in 2020.
“Just getting out of our group was so hard because the three pairs were so evenly matched and we all played at a high level. Every match went down to the wire in the third set,” Sam observed.
They opened their campaign against Dremin and Dimova of Russia, fighting back from a first game loss and 18-15 deficit to win the match 21-15 in the third. They then fell to a narrow 22-20, 21-18, 21-16 defeat to Gicquel/Delrue from France before beating Aliaksei Konakh and Krestina Silich of Belarus 21-9, 21-11, to get through to the last eight.
“We were down and out in the first match but it was just mad to be able to turn that around on the first day,” Sam explained.
“The first match is always the hardest because you’re only settling into the tournament. The whole group was crazy but to get through that was really good.”
In the quarter-finals, they faced highly regarded Dutch pair, Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek, who they ousted 21-19, 21-17, to guarantee them a bronze medal.
Unfortunately their campaign came to a close in the semi-finals when losing 21-8, 21-18 to England’s Gabrielle and Chris Adcock.
“To draw the Dutch in the quarter’s was really good for us because we knew the two English pairs would be really hard to beat, but the Dutch are only starting out,” Sam observed.
“They have done extremely well so we knew that would be extremely hard as well, but they aren’t as experienced in these big tournaments and I think that was the biggest factor.
“The problem against the Adcock’s was we didn’t start well enough, but it’s more credit to them that they brought that speed they have at a world class level and even at the start of the second we were still getting up to speed but once we got there we could match it.
“It was pretty even towards the end, but we ran out of time. It would have been lovely to get it to a third set because that’s when anything can happen.
“That was disappointing because these opportunities don’t come around very often.”
Next week, Sam and Chloe continue their Olympics qualifying campaign in Russia, before heading to Japan, Thailand and the Premier Super Series in Indonesia.