Photo Credit: Badminton Photo
Few athletes can claim qualification for five consecutive Commonwealth Games.
However, New Zealand’s Oliver Leydon-Davis has achieved the mean feat as he prepares to wear the fern once again in Birmingham at the end of this month. His impressive record started at the Pune 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games, followed by Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014, Gold Coast 2018 and is about to compete in the Birmingham 2022 edition.
His greatest achievement was the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games where he became a men’s doubles quarterfinalist with Henry Tam, knocked out by the legendary duo Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia) in two respectable games 21-16 21-13.
This year, the 19-time Oceania Championship medalist will take to the courts with mixed doubles partner Anona Pak – the only two badminton representatives from Team New Zealand.
While it may be a familiar environment for the experienced 31-year-old, the feelings of pride never age when it comes to wearing the fern. Hear what Oliver has to say about his journey in the lead up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Upon being handed the Silver Fern to represent your country in Birmingham, were the emotions, thoughts and feelings any different this time round, compared to the many previous occasions?
The pride doesn’t change, these occasions are rare and to be part of the wider New Zealand team is always special. I’d say this time feels more meaningful, knowing what goes in to performing at these bigger events you understand more what it’s like and your obligations to do the fern justice by leaving everything on the court and help pave the way for those coming through as well.
If you could go back in time, what advice would the ‘2022 Oliver’ give to the ‘2008 Oliver’?
On court, it would be to keep the bigger picture in mind and measure yourself on building new skills and developing, rather than results.
Off court, don’t sweat the life decisions like university etc… There’s no harm in making mistakes and changing things up. Oh, and you’re singles days are basically done, don’t worry about those anymore!
You’ve played with a variety of different partners/teammates across the Games. How does this play a part in your Commonwealth Games experience?
I don’t think it changes too much from a Games experience point of view, playing with different team mates is always a different experience in itself so it’s more about knowing what works, or doesn’t work for each of us and making sure we keep that top of mind once we get to the Games, as there’s usually a lot more going on there. Plus you’re able to learn from others over the years as well, so I’d like to think a few of those lessons have stuck with me from previous games.
Are there any standout moments or memories from a previous Games or the build up to this one?
The build up to this one has certainly been a bit different to others given how the last couple of years have been. Thinking back, there was a time where we left New Zealand to compete with no guarantees we’d be able to get back, which I’d quite happily never do again. It’s definitely been more difficult for us (as I’m sure it has with many athletes as well) but we did what we had to.
How do you hope this Commonwealth Games may be different or unique than your other experiences?
I’m sure it’ll be unique, being in Birmingham is already special as my dad is from there and it’s home for most of his side of the family. So I’m looking forward to playing in front of them. Plus it will be my last Commonwealth Games, so I want to make it a memorable one!
While the badminton gets underway from 29 July with the Mixed Team event, Oliver and Anona will only be competing in the mixed doubles discipline of the individual competition which begins on Wednesday 3 August 2022 at The NEC.
You can follow the schedule and results on the official website here.