29 January 2024
Harper Leigh, 17, who is from Rogerstone and is part of the Talented Athlete Scheme has been sponsored by Whitehead for two years. He’s currently ranked 105 in the Junior World List and 1133 in the senior world rankings.
We met up with Harper, just back from competing in Estonia, to find out more about his amazing achievements, how the partnership came about, and what his plans are for the future.
“Two years ago, my Dad and I were looking for support from local businesses, for help with training and travel costs. We saw that Whitehead had supported the local community – and reached out for help. We were lucky enough to get a yes and two years later we’re still working together and it’s been an incredible help” explained Harper.
Harper, who tends to train twice a day inbetween his A-level studies at Coleg Gwent, says that his goals are to keep training effectively, improving all aspects of his game and become as good a senior player as possible.
“I have short, medium and long term goals which I want to achieve” added Harper. “At the moment my focus is on developing my game to ensure the transition from junior to senior is a successful one”.
Two years ago, in 2022 – the partnership with Whitehead enabled Harper to attend tournaments across Europe (Spain, Belgium, and Croatia). At the time, he didn’t realise the significance of this because attending (and medalling) at all three of these events meant he was selected for the European Youth Olympic Games in Slovakia as Team GBs Boys representative.
“To an athlete like myself who relies heavily upon my family to cover the costs of badminton the generosity of Whitehead has been integral to my development.”
Harper also attributes his success to a huge network of people.
“For an individual sport like badminton I think having a strong support team with you is vital” he explained.
Harper’s support team is made up of – family, coaches (Raj and Devi at Newport Badminton Academy), training partners, sports psychologist (Louise Jones), Badminton Wales, DTR Clinic, Cardiff Met Physiotherapy, Talented Athlete Scheme, Bassaleg School and Coleg Cross Keys for their flexibility during his studies. He also includes mention of the excellent facilities provided by Newport Live, Cardiff Met and Welsh National Sports Centre.
Harper admits that some days it’s challenging to get up so early and train so hard – but says that his motivation comes from the fact that he wants to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given.
“My tips for anyone looking to start playing badminton competitively is to start playing as soon as you can – younger the better. Play other sports too until you know this is the one for you. Most of all enjoy playing and listen to your coaches – they are your biggest source of wisdom/experience.”
Harper is also a big fan of being based here in Newport, because it’s super convenient for both tournaments in England, and also airports!
“Unusually, my next tournament is in Wales – the Senior National Championships are being held in Deganwy this coming weekend (Feb 3-4th)” adds Harper.
Best of luck to Harper for next weekend, and the rest of the year – from the whole team at Whitehead.