London 2012 - Clark misses out on final
Anthony Clark came out of retirement for one weekend only, but fell short of a final place at the English National Badminton Championships in Bolton.
The 34-year-old two-time world silver medallist hung up his racquet towards the end of last year as it became clear that he and men's doubles partner Chris Langridge were losing their uphill battle to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.
It capped a tough year for Clark who had originally hoped to team up with Olympic silver medallist and long-standing partner Nathan Robertson, only for the cash-strapped selectors to deem otherwise.
And so had Clark, and Kristian Roebuck - an old friend and handy badminton player - reached the men's doubles final in Bolton, he would no doubt have taken great satisfaction, seeing as he had barely swung a racquet in anger for three months.
But while Clark and Roebuck, seeded fourth, eased their way past Alex Fowler and Harley Tower in the second round after a first-round bye, and then saw off Rajiv Ouseph and Marcus Ellis, they ultimately met their mark in Peter Mills and Langridge, who prevailed 18-21, 21-8, 21-16.
And even if it was one last swansong for Clark, the competitive fires still burned brightly.
"I'm frustrated because I think we really could have won that semi-final and made it to the final," said Clark.
"I didn't play well in those last two sets and that cost us. Kristian has been great, he hasn't really played for five years either so it was two guys who were very rusty coming here and giving it a shot and I think we did really well.
"I think the racquet skills were still there and I had a feeling they would come back OK but moving around the court was a struggle, it was an enjoyable run-out though and on another day we might have made it into the final.
"It was nice to play again but I've enjoyed my time off this Christmas so much, I'm convinced I made the right decision and there's no chance you'll be seeing me again next year."
Langridge and Mills were the second seeds in Bolton and went on the finish as the runners-up, but they had their work cut out against Clark and Roebuck, who had their chances in the deciding set.
And Clark believes that is a damning indictment of the lack of strength in depth in England.
"This is the National Championships and those guys had to use some pretty poor tactics, delaying in between points to make sure they got the win," he said.
"This isn't the place to do that. They should be using competitions like this as warm-ups for the big tournaments that really matter.
"They are England's second-best pair and we've given them a really good run for their money and for us two to come here and do that really does tell you something about the standard that England are at currently.
"Those guys should be worrying about competing with the Koreans and the Chinese and the Japanese on a regular basis, not worrying about making sure they get into the English Nationals final with those kind of tactics.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the English Nationals and I had some great wins here and it helped me go on and win some big titles in my career.
"But you have to use it as a springboard and not as the be-all and the end-all."