David will be youngest line judge at London Olympics

A GREAT Staughton teenager has been confirmed as the youngest badminton official at next year’s Olympics.

David Shepherd, 18, has been selected to be a line judge after impressing officials at competitions ranging from school championships to national championships.

He told The Hunts Post: “It’s an amazing feeling to be given this opportunity. I don’t know how to describe how it, really. It’s a great honour.”

The teenager, who is on a gap year between college and university, enrolled on the young officials award course, run by the British Badminton Association [CHECK] and has officiated at competitions ranging from school to national championships.

He said: “I officiated at the UK Schools Games in 2009 in Cardiff, where I did some line judging, and I said then that I really wanted to do more. Six months later, I found myself doing the All England Championships, which is the badminton equivalent of Wimbledon. It was amazing and it has literally gone on from there. I started doing more and more, building up my experience.”

David added: “I will be the youngest line judge at the Olympics. It’s overwhelming to be a part of something that big. The first time I was a line judge, I was really overwhelmed but you soon feel part of the family environment. You get to interact with players that most people only get to see on the TV, I get to shake their hands!

“Being a line judge is completely voluntary. Unfortunately, there’s no money in officiating in badminton. You do it for the love of the sport. The ridiculous thing is, badminton is the second most played sport in England after football but it hasn’t got the recognition. Over the years we have been one of the best countries in the world and we have recently had a pair in the finals of the mixed doubles competition. Hopefully the sport is growing and I think Nike are now putting money into the game.”

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David, who was recently selected for the Cambridgeshire senior county squad and was a Hunts Post Sports Awards winner, said: “I love badminton and my dream is to be playing at the Olympics in 2016.”

Mum Helen Critchell, 52, who runs the Cambridgeshire Badminton Academy with her husband Neil, 47, said: “I’m terribly proud, although I was expecting it – he is so reliable and he gets such great feedback when he has been a line judge. He is always there when anybody needs anything. I am very, very proud.”

Mrs Critchell has a double celebration because a team of six youngsters from her academy have been selected to be court attendants at the Olympics.