Hart attack! Welsh badminton champ Jordan Hart sacrifices Olympics to play for Poland, saying ‘In Poland it’s better’
A Welsh badminton player has given up her spot in the Olympics to switch flags and play for Poland.
Jordan Hart, professional badminton player from Pembroke Dock in Wales, made the astonishing switch despite it meaning sacrificing her ambition to play in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
The 26-year-old told TFN: “It was a difficult decision to make, especially with COVID and Brexit travel restrictions.
“I knew the sacrifices were big but this is the correct decision for my career long term. I would have qualified for the Olympics this year if you look at the rankings and the Commonwealth Games is gone too but there are other tournaments to win.”
Despite not having citizenship or any Polish ancestry, under the rules Hart is able to perform under the Polish flag at tournaments and be part of the Polish team.
According to the rules, you can play under whichever flag you like as long as the country association agrees but you can't play in tournaments like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
Hart said: “If I wanted to be a full time professional athlete then I had to move away from the UK. I couldn’t train there every day and the facilities were not like what we have here.”
The Welsh lass now trains at the national Badminton Training Centre in Józefosław, just outside Warsaw, one of five facilities open to badminton players in Poland who are part of the national team.
Hart began playing badminton at eight years old and representing Wales professionally from 11 years old.
But it wasn’t until coming to Poland in October last year that she had access to professional staff to support her daily such as physios.
The training centre has 12 badminton courts and a gym, so the athletes have access to facilities they need to improve their skills and endurance.
Hart told TFN: “It would have been hard to move if I didn’t already know some of the people in the set-up here. I had great success in Poland winning the Polish International in 2019 and seeing how things are done here impressed me. The team have helped me settle in and have been a massive help with everything.”
Two ex-world number ones Robert Mateusiak and Nadieżda Zięba are also part of the coaching staff and Jordan’s existing relationship with them was part of her decision to move to Poland: “I knew the Polish system worked because of the success Polish players have had in the past and knowing these team members from the circuit really helped convince me to move.”
The move might appear odd to some as Hart had her most successful year in the sport in 2019 before the pandemic struck.
Having seven Welsh National titles to her name between 2016 and 2020, Hart was used to competing and winning at the top level of the sport, with 2019 seeing her win five international tournaments.
But this helped Hart realize what she could achieve and moving to a team where she could fulfil her potential was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
She said: “I have begun to realize what this lifestyle means, how lucky I am to be part of something so special. I always thought that when I finished playing badminton I would become a PE (physical education) teacher but now I know I can pass things on that I have learnt, things I wish I knew when I was younger.”