FOLLOWING the battling performance of the Olympic badminton team, hundreds of potential players across Oxfordshire have been signing up for training sessions.

The Oxfordshire Badminton Association can direct players to their nearest club, advise them what level they should be playing at and then enter them for tournaments.

At their junior trials in September, 168 children competed for 100 places.

One of the association’s brightest stars is Ethan Rose from Thame, who at the age of nine is top of the under-11 age group in the UK.

He said: “I started playing when I was three. My mum and dad hit a few shuttles at me and I just kept hitting them back.

“I love to play – it is really good fun and it feels really good to be the best in the UK in the age group.

“It takes determination and you have to be willing to put the effort in and never give up.

“I went to the Olympics and I got to see Lin Dan, the world’s best player.

“It was amazing – he makes it look so effortless.”

Maisie Boyd, 11, from Chalgrove, has been playing since she was six, and is in the top 10 for her age group.

Her dad John said: “She enjoys the friendship of the girls she plays with.

“There is real camaraderie but she is also very competitive – her coach says she has got nerves of steel.”

The woman fielding all the association’s enthusiastic enquiries is Nicki Gilder.

She said: “Before the Olympics I was getting one call a week, now I am getting at least one a day.

“The reason I sell it to other people is that it is a sport you can play at any age, and any level of fitness right up to your 70s.

“It is enormous fun and very competitive, and it is a good challenge of your physical fitness.”

Badminton is technically the fastest Olympic sport.

The fastest recorded badminton stroke during gameplay was Chinese pro Fu Haifeng’s 206mph smash in 2005, 50mph faster than the equivalent record for tennis.

OBA coach James Barclay started playing on his school team when he was a pupil at King Alfred’s in Wantage, and is now one of the top coaches in the UK. He said: “It is such a quick sport – the best players are very fast, very agile and they train very hard.

“For me as a coach, the whole Olympics was just inspirational, and it was great to see how excited the children got.

“A lot of them managed to go down and see the games, and are now even more passionate about the sport.”

The London 2012 badminton contest was dominated by the Chinese team, while team GB failed to win any medals.

Members of the OBA get discount entry to national games.