Here Pedersen, a Dual Career athlete who is supported by a Trendell Sports Scholarship, looks back on a memorable experience – and tells us why he would recommend the experience to all student athletes…
One week before the deadline for the application to the World University Games I had never even heard of the Universiade.
Fortunately my coach, Pete Bush, had personal experience of training Great Britain badminton teams at the Games and told me about the scale of the competition and what an amazing experience it was.
Badminton is an invitational sport at the Universiade, so it was fortunate that this year’s games were hosted in South Korea where badminton is a highly regarded sport
The competition was split into a team and individual tournament, with the team event being played first.
We were drawn against Uganda and South Korea in the group stage, with the hosts fielding their senior national team which included Olympic and World Champions!
I was selected to play men’s singles in the first match against Uganda – I won in straight sets and the team went on to win 5-0. Next up were South Korea who fielded their strongest team. Unfortunately I was not selected to play but watching some of the best players in the world was a great experience and Britain put up a valiant effort, with our women’s singles player nearly beating the current number seven in the world! However the score ended 5-0 to South Korea, who later went on to win the team gold.
Our competition did not end there, though, as teams play off for their final position. Next up were Canada who had some strong individuals but Britain managed to win comfortably 3-1.
Russia were the next opponents and favourites to win due to the strength and depth of their team but we managed to pull off some big wins and progress to the final of the L2 division with another 3-1 victory.
That put us in play-off for ninth and tenth places with India. The match was by far the most closely contested of the whole tournament, with many matches going to three sets. In the end India prevailed 3-2 meaning Britain finished a very respectable tenth out of 25 teams.
We had a brief interval between the team and individual competition to take in some of the local sites of Gwangju – known as the city of light. The cultural customs in South Korea are very interesting with respect to elders a very important aspect and the country itself always seems to be on the move with the younger generation of Koreans heavily involved with technology on a day-to-day basis.
Once our respite was over it was time for the individual tournament with my nerves running high as I had been struggling to find form and adapt to the tough conditions of the competition hall. These nerves showed through in both singles and doubles where I exited the competition in the second round, which I felt very disappointed with.
The doubles match was closely contested and was there for the taking but the lack of doubles training my partner and I had leading up to the Games showed and we were knocked out of the competition.
I could not dwell on my personal disappointment as fellow team-mates were still in the competition and needed support. In the end all British players were knocked out, many by top Asian players who regularly compete on the senior international circuit.
We took the chance to go and watch other sports and cheer on other members of the British team, as well as take in more Korean culture and sample some of their food!
The moment that will stick with me the most from the Universiade would have to be entering the opening ceremony among the British team with 50,000 spectators cheering from around the stadium. This was a surreal experience and incredible to be a part of, something I will never forget.
Living in the athletes’ village alongside 11,000 other athletes from across the world was also amazing, especially since many will go onto compete in Rio 2016 and some may even medal.
The next Universiade is taking place in Taipei and I would highly recommend anyone thinking about entering it to do so – I certainly will!
I would like to say thank you to the University of Bath for funding my travel expenses and part of my accommodation, and my local council – Haringey – for also supporting me financially and making all of this possible.