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03-14-2013, 09:30 PM #1
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From Singapore to Milton Keynes, Mills is making the most of every minute of his time
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
FLOATING out on a boat in the tranquil, blue waters in south-east Asia is a far contrast to navigating your way round the many roundabouts and concrete cows of Milton Keynes.
But this is the reality of life now for Peter Mills, who could never have imagined the adventures he would go on when he first picked up a badminton racquet at the age of eight.
Now 24, the doubles specialist and newly-crowned national champion first honed his skills at Southwell Junior Badminton Club, after "tagging" along with his older sister and mother before showing a "natural eye" for the sport himself.
Life has since taken Mills away from the Nottinghamshire area, with MK now his home along with all the other England and GB Lottery-funded squad members at the National Badminton Centre.
This is where the unassuming court talent hones his skills each day – although that is, of course, only when he's actually in the country to grace the all-purpose facility with the likes of close friend, fellow Notts ace and Olympian Chris Adcock.
Ranked number 27 in the world in men's doubles alongside partner Chris Langridge, the duo have blossomed as a pair in the last few years – culminating in winning the nationals last month.
This has enabled them to travel the world and, while on-court matters are first in Mills' mind, he does admit to savouring each and every moment when he gets to visit new countries.
"Going to places like Singapore, Indonesia, Korea and Japan are places you would never go on holiday usually, so it's a different experience to see so many different things on these trips," he said.
"Obviously you are there to play badminton, but seeing the huge cultural differences is great.
"I remember one trip to Singapore that was pretty special. After the tournament had finished we had a spare day and we all got to go out on a boat and it was all just another world, you never dream of things like this."
Having lost in the first round of the men's doubles at the prestigious All England Championships last week, Mills' adventures keep coming thick and fast – with tournaments scheduled in Switzerland, France and India in the next month and a half.
First up is a Grand Prix event, starting today, in Switzerland – where the duo take on a Malaysian pair in the first round.
"It's hard to keep tabs on it all at times," he added. "Finding time to do anything outside of badminton, like relax or play some golf, is not easy.
"But you get used to all the travelling and, personally, I really enjoy that side of things. There are not many jobs where you get to fly around to some of the best places in the world to do something you love."
This is not to say that it's all been easy for Mills, as he worked his way up from his first international cap as a junior at the age of 12 and then won European gold at under-19 level.
A cruciate knee injury, suffered just one year after stepping up into the seniors, kept Mills out for 18 months and it was a long, hard road back to full fitness from there.
So how did he cope? "Honestly? Lots of Xbox," said Mills.
"It took me a long time to get back to where I wanted and I only earned my first senior England cap last year.
"I was very lucky as I was able to move back home with my parents and they looked after me.
"They even had to help me in and out of bed for the first six to eight weeks as I had to keep my leg dead straight.
"They were great, as were the physios in Notts and also the facilities I got to use at the English Institute of Sport at the University of Loughborough – as everything was there for me that I needed.
"The mental side of it was the hardest bit, but I've always been really driven. That's something people have always said about me and my parents knew how much I wanted to get back.
"I went down the National Badminton Centre after about a year, but my coaches told me I had to do at least four or five months training before they would send me anywhere to compete. So that took the pressure off and I was able to get my head down in training.
"It was a real learning curve and it all helped me appreciate things a lot more and made me know what I want from the sport and what I need to do to get there.
"I'm 24 and I'm older than I'd like to be at this point of my career. The injury put me way behind in terms of missing tournaments but now I feel I'm getting to where I want to be."
Where he wants to be is the Olympics in Rio in 2016. But first a lot of ground work is needed by Mills and Langridge, who are continually improving their on-court relationship and their world ranking – this is all thanks to the amount of stamps they are getting in their passports, due to the high-profile tournaments they are regularly being invited to play in.
For Peter Mills' photo: