SHE might be odds on to win the English National Badminton Championships for the very first time but Coventry’s Fontaine Chapman is not going to the ‘favourite’ tag get the better of her.
The 25-year-old is currently ranked as England’s number one singles player which puts her amongst the leading contenders to be crowned 2015 women’s champion in Crawley later this month.
Chapman, who grew up in Binley, is one of over 200 of England’s best badminton players in the hunt for national glory between January 30 – February 1.
And she will be hoping to go one better this time around after finishing as runner-up to Sarah Walker, who missed this year’s event, back in 2013.
“I think as England’s number one I have to expect people to want to beat me but I just have to focus on my own game.” the former Ernsford Grange pupil told the Observer.
“I’m in a position where other players will raise their game against me and I’m expecting every match to be a tough ride.
“There is a gap for the next bunch of players to come through so every player I come up against I have to respect.
“But as long as I give it my very best that’s all I can really hope for and maybe this year it will be enough.
“Last time when I got to the final I felt overwhelmed but looking back now it was a big learning curve.
“Perhaps in a weird way losing in 2013 was a good thing losing in 2013 because it’s made me the player I am today and I’m ready to lift the title.”
Chapman’s rise to the top spot in women’s singles badminton has not been easy.
She admits to being a very active person who struggled to balance her passion with the sport with her studies after turning being selected for England at the tender age of 12.
“That was a proud moment for me but at the time I was very young. I was still at school so I didn’t really appreciate how big of a moment that was.
“It’s been a difficult journey for me. I’m not the type of person that can just sit down and revise – I need to be doing something.
“My mother always used to say ‘get your schoolwork done and then you can play badminton’ and I think that really helped – that was my motivation.
“Then I was able to manage by studies with playing badminton but at times it was vey difficult.”
Chapman was first introduced to badminton by her granddad after years of playing short tennis with her sister at what is now the Virgin Active Centre.
She is currently studying in Leeds but is preparing to move down to Milton Keynes where she will take up the sport on a full-time basis.
And the Coventry kid is hoping to enjoy a successful career
“I’ve been through a lot to get where I am. I’ve come through three serious injuries which could have ended my career.
“I’ve made a lot of tough sacrifices in terms of my social life and being away from family and friends but now it’s all paying off.”
The list of players set to compete at English National Badminton Championships in Sussex includes reigning Commonwealth Games champions Chris and Gabby Adcock, seven-time national champion Rajiv Ouseph and former World Champion and Olympic silver medallist Gail Emms MBE.
Tickets start from just £2 for children and £8 for adults and are available online at badmintonengland.co.uk/nationals.
Fontaine Chapman. (s) Photo courtesy of Badminton England