Badminton superstar Toby Penty has come a long way on his sporting journey. From disliking the sport when he first started to now eyeing up Birmingham 2022, meet our latest Generation 22 athlete. 

"I started just up the road for a badminton club Elmbridge Eagles which my dad helps run. 

"I was about 9 at the time and hated it at first! I went away and tried some different sports but then came back and I could actually hit it! From then on it was small progressions, gradually improving to where I am now."

Toby is highly decorated at the European level, winning silver in the Team European Championships in both 2014 and 2018. However, it hasn't all been plane sailing for the left-hander.

"My biggest challenge was in 2016 when I lost my funding," he answered;

"I left the national set-up and founded my own practice down in Wimbledon where I had played as a junior. I went for it by myself and was able to work hard enough to get back on funding." 

"That, and the alopecia I was diagnosed with three years ago. That was a different type of struggle."

Toby was diagnosed with alopecia in 2018 but hasn’t let it stop him from competing at the very highest level and has spoken movingly on how it affected his mental health.

"It's taught me when I need to be in what I would call a comfort zone, and knowing when I need to push out of that a bit more,

"I feel like I tried to rush myself into feeling good about myself again rather than letting this process take the time it needed.

"I think nowadays we are always trying to rush everything. I think it's OK to give yourself time, and that's something I have learned - that time is a good healer."

Three years on from his diagnosis, Toby is thriving in the badminton world and the next target he is eyeing up is competing at the Commonwealth Games.

"I've been lucky to represent GB at the Olympics and Europeans but I've never had the chance to pull on the England colours." he says;

"And to do that at home, in front of a crowd, with my family and friends, it's special."

"I didn't have a crowd at the Olympics, or at the All England competition which is the other big tournament in badminton. 

"To have those significant moments without the support and no atmosphere was strange, and the prospect of having that at Birmingham really makes me excited."

Toby has over 200 victories to his name, but can still remember the highs and lows of his first couple of finals playing the sport.

"I can remember the first time I lost in a final! I was 12, and I was crying buckets into my dad's lap, so I remember so clearly winning my first tournament a month later and the pride and excitement. 

"The feeling when you win a tournament, and everything just coming together is one that I love, and again, to be able to feel that, in front of a home crowd with people there who have supported me all the way will be truly special." 

"And hopefully I can inspire a few juniors and the next generation along the way!

We cannot wait to follow Toby's progress this year in the build-up to the Games and fingers crossed the Team England hopefull will be able to feel that same pride and excitement at Birmingham 2022 that he felt when he was 12!