As the new badminton season draws nearer, young player Zach Russ is dreaming of being the first British badminton gold medalist at the Olympics.
The Surrey Smashers player and world number 521 is trying to qualify for the Junior Olympics in Argentina next October and will undertake a full tournament plan which will involve travelling around the globe.
The Haywards Heath star is also hoping to be selected for the BWF World Junior Championships in Indonesia, which runs from 16-22 October this year.
Zach qualified for last year’s championships in Spain and competed in the boys’ singles and mixed doubles, where he reached the first and third rounds respectively. He plays at the Horsham Arun Performance Centre, which was the first Badminton England Performance Centre in the country.
He has enjoyed considerable success throughout various junior competitions, picking up medals at the under-19s National Championships last year as finalist in the men’s doubles and won bronze in the singles.
Guiding Zach throughout all this is former England international David George. The men’s doubles specialist retired in August 2016 after playing with the Surrey Smashers for two seasons and has since taken up a full-time role as coach with the young starlet.
He said: “He has definitely stood out in his age-group. He’s picked up a lot of medals at junior level but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make a successful transition to senior badminton. The positive thing is that he knows that, he’s not resting on his success as a junior. He’s keen to work hard and he knows that the journey has just begun.”
Russ is currently being home schooled to fit around his commitments and training and George added: “Being away from school he loses that social interaction but the reason he’s done it is because he is so keen to achieve his goals and become an Olympic medalist in badminton in a single’s event, something that Britain has yet to do.”
Zach added: Russ said: “There is a lot of pressure on me (to become the first British badminton gold medallist) as it has never happened before. But the pressure does drive you to want to succeed.
“I hope to improve this year in the World Junior Championships in Indonesia, and it is a privilege to play in such competitions. I’m always looking to improve my game, so hopefully I can start there.
“Dean has helped me on a lot. He is a close friend of mine and we have played with each other many times.
“He has loads of experience in terms of playing and since coaching has taken on a lot of experience and knowledge from other coaches so it can only benefit me.
“I now get to travel the world and compete in the highest junior competitions, so to be able to do that now is a privilege.”
Older brother Jonty, however, has had to retire from badminton due to knee problems, but will instead focus on a career in coaching mentored by George.