February 10 - The battle to reach London 2012 is heating up for four British badminton stars hoping to represent the country at this summer's Olympic Games.
Imogen Bankier and Chris Adcock are currently ahead of Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork as the two pairs fight for the one mixed doubles slot available.
They are preparing for the All England Open Badminton Championships, being held at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham from March 6 until 11, a key tournament as the pairs gear up for London 2012.
The final decision on who goes to London will be made in May and based on world rankings, with Bankier and Adcock currently 14th and Robertson and Wallwork four places behind.
"It's tough, obviously it's a stressful year for everyone trying to qualify," Bankier told insidethegames.
"There's a rivalry as we're both competing for the one spot but on the other hand we train together every day, we're pushing each other and that's really helping.
"They help us, we help them, but at the same time we're competing for same spot."
Bankier and Adcock have the benefit of having reached the final of the World Championships last August at Wembley Arena where they lost to Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China, picking up significant ranking points as a result of their showing.
Bankier says that having Robertson, who won silver in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and Wallwork so close to them is pushing them to achieve more.
"If someone is snapping at your heels you know you have to keep your head down and work hard.
"I think that's the case with both pairs – everyone comes in and out of form.
"[The World Championships] raised our expectation for ourselves.
"We've improved and are better players than in August and that keeps us confident."
Robertson feels the rivalry too, but told insidethegames that having been an Olympic competitor before he is more relaxed about the battle for London 2012.
"For me I'm maybe not as stressed as other players as I've already been to three games but it is still not a nice position to be in, knowing one pair will go and one will be sitting watching on television – that is sport," he said.
"It's become a close rivalry regarding who gets the place at the games as it's become a close shoot-out between the two pairs.
"It's definitely friendly but as partners both pairs are desperate to get to the games.
"There are two-and-a-half months to go so there are still plenty of ranking points."
Robertson says he has had to adjust to a new partnership with Wallwork, having competed with Gail Emms at previous Olympics.
"It is a very different partnership.
"With Gail we played together when we were 16 so had a long history and developed into a world-class pair.
"With Jenny we were initially a development project.
"We had to work on our partnership to get up the world rankings and towards the top 10 so it's been a different mindset."
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February 2012: British Badminton gets tough in London 2012 build-up
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