Badminton's bronze medallist is at the peak of a career which started in West Sussex

Olympic star Jo Goode hit the headlines yesterday when she won Britain's first badminton medal. But her road to stardom in Australia started in a leafy West Sussex town at the tender age of seven. Nigel Galloway reports.

The news of Jo Goode's bronze medal triumph at the Olympic Games was met with little surprise by her family and friends.

Everyone who knew her had high hopes for her ever since she first picked up a badminton racquet with her parents at her local club in Littlehampton, when she was just seven.

She was described by former teachers and colleagues as bright and able but her overriding passion was badminton from an early age.

Her friends were delighted that her devotion has paid off with the bronze which she won with mixed-doubles partner Simon Archer.

Excited youngsters at Jo's old school, who cheered her on at the games, are hoping to get a glimpse of the medal which won after a nail-biting match.

Kim Purvis, assistant head of the sixth form at Felpham Community College said: "I hope she might like to come back, meet the pupils and show us her medal.

"The students have been following her progress and we have had the television on in the common room during non-teaching periods, so that we could follow her matches. Teachers who knew Jo when she was here have been telling the pupils all about her."

Mrs Purvis said it was already obvious that Jo had a special talent for badminton and the school often arranged exams and tests around her playing commit-ments. "Everyone knew she would go far and, when she was here, she was already playing for the under-16 England team.

"She was also a very able and bright student particularly at maths but badminton was always very important to her."

Jo's brother-in-law, Nick Goode, who lives near Jo in Hertfordshire, said winning a medal had always been her dream.

He said: "I am totally relieved. I do not think anyone could have trained harder than she has. She really wanted a gold but I am sure she will not be disappointed with a bronze."

He said he still has not managed to speak to her since her moment of triumph but did speak to her husband. "He was absolutely shattered after suffering from jet-lag and everything. Then he went through the mill again, because of the tension of the match.

"He said he had not slept for three days and he was worn out. He was also very relieved by her win."

He said Jo had been training for five days a week at Milton Keynes and her strict regime included playing competitive matches, stretching, running and weight-


He added: "It is also great news because she has recovered from a back injury and had to have an injection.

But this has always been her dream, this is what she wanted. She came runner-up in the World Champion-ships and now third in the Olympics."

He said Jo is travelling to New Zealand over the next few days to see her sister for a few weeks to celebrate her win.

He said they would be having a party to toast her win when she returns in October.

Jo's parents Chris and Jenny Wright, who still live near Bognor in a quiet cul-de-sac, were in Sydney to share their daughter's moment of triumph and her slice of British badminton history.

Neighbours said they were thrilled for the Wrights and their now-famous daughter. One woman said: "They are a really nice couple and everyone will be so pleased for them."

Also at the Games was Jo's husband, Andy, with their three year-old son, Jack, who nearly caused problems for mum's game.

Jo picked up an injury was getting Jack out of a child safety seat in the back of the family car, but she recovered in time for the Olympiad.

Jo, who is now 27, is a member of Little-hampton Badminton Club. She has had a string of successes in the sport, including three Commonwealth gold medals and a silver in last year's World Championships.

But her bronze medal is expected to spark an upsurge of interest in the sport.

Before leaving for Sydney, Jo told the Argus that she was highly-motivated to do well. She summed-up her philosophy as: "I love to win and hate to lose. It's that easy."

At the Littlehampton club, where Jo first hit a shuttlecock, members were delighted at the news from Sydney.

The centre has many pictures of Jo on display, as well as trophies she began winning from the age of seven. Manager Kev Cooke, said: "There is a real buzz going round the place."

He added: "Jo has worked really hard for this because over the years there have been highs and lows.

"She had injury problems and then packed up for a while to start a family."

Mr Cooke, who has run the centre for two years, said people who knew Jo well had always felt there was something special about her and she was beginning to compete at county level when she was seven or eight.

Now staff at the centre believe that the triumph will create an upsurge of interest in the sport and Mr Cooke says he hopes more youngsters will want to take it up.

He said: "It is a very easy sport to learn, it is fun and can also be very competitive.

"Badminton has not been in decline. Quite a lot of lottery money has been put into it, but it has suffered a little bit at club level.

"I also hope it will give the sport a lift in our schools."

Jo's first badminton coach Karen Chapman said she was "over the moon" with delight and pride at the bronze medal.

Karen coached Jo from the age of ten until she was 16 and played the sport at county level with her.

She said: "Jo is a smashing girl who has put in a lot of hours into the game and I am so pleased for her."