Gilmour handed tough Olympic draw

Team GB’s badminton stars have learned the identity of the international rivals awaiting them at Tokyo 2020 in the BWF’s Olympic draw.

Returning Olympian Kirsty Gilmour has been handed a difficult task and faces fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi in her own backyard in Group L.

She has played the Japanese three times, most recently in 2019. Despite losing all three matches, two of them have been tough three-game battles so Gilmour will go into the contest knowing she can cause her higher-ranked opponent some problems.

The group is completed by Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad, who Gilmour has faced only once before, winning their women’s singles tie in the 2018 Commonwealth Games Team event 21-6 21-10.

In the mixed doubles, world No.8s Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith were drawn into a challenging Group B for their first Games as a partnership.

Ellis and Smith will face third seeds Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, who won both BWF Super 1000 events held in Bangkok in January.

Completing their box are in-form European rivals Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue from France and Canada’s Josh Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu, who they have never played.

In the women’s doubles, Smith and Chloe Birch face Japanese top seeds Sayaka Hirota and Yuki Fukushima in Group A.

They met in the semi-finals of YONEX All England Open in 2021, with Hirota and Fukushima prevailing 21-14 12-21 14-21 and going on to win the tournament.

Birch and Smith will also take on Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Apriyai Rahayu and Malaysia’s Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean.

In the men’s doubles, Ben Lane and Sean Vendy were handed a Group A assignment featuring Indonesia’s ‘Daddies’ Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon.

The Olympic debutants, seeded 13th in a competitive draw, will take on Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin and India’s Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.

Toby Penty will face a familiar foe and a new opponent in Germany’s Kai Schaefer and Thai seed Kantaphon Wangcharoen in men’s singles.

The 28-year-old has beaten Scheafer, ranked 74 in the world, four times in their five meetings and will meet 2019 world bronze medallist Kantaphon for the first time.

The badminton competition begins on Saturday 24 July.