Asian nations' rise denotes benefit for world of badminton

Asian nations' rise denotes benefit for world of badminton

Japan's historic triumph in this year's Thomas Cup, which had previously been dominated by the Chinese in the last five editions, could be a sign of things to come as more Asian nations come to the fore.

And the greater diversity of winners will benefit the sport, said Badminton World Federation (BWF) president Poul-Erik Hoyer.

"They (China) have lost a few major tournaments which is not so normal," said the former Olympic champion yesterday.

"They still produce the best players and are the strongest... but the gap between them and the rest of Asia is narrowing and that's good."

China, winners (from 2004 to 2012) of the biennial Thomas Cup - one of the sport's most prestigious team events - only reached the semi-finals in this year's edition in New Delhi.

The last two women's world champions have hailed from Thailand (Ratchanok Inthanon) and Spain (Carolina Marin), while South Korea prevented a hat-trick of victories by China in the men's team event at the Asian Games in September.

India's Kidambi Srikanth also sent shockwaves through the sport when he upset home favourite and superstar Lin Dan in straight sets to win the China Open last month.

"These countries now believe that they can win the big tournaments," said Hoyer. "There's more money and resources being put in and we're seeing fantastic development in Thailand as well as in Korea and Japan.

"They are producing high-level players who are able to compete with the Chinese."

The 49-year-old, who won the men's singles gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was a two-time All England champion (1995- 96), was in town as part of the Singapore Badminton Association's (SBA) distinguished visitors' programme.

Launched in January, the initiative allows local shuttlers to learn from the game's biggest names. Hoyer shared his experiences with about 40 national and youth players in a one-hour dialogue session at the Singapore Sports Institute yesterday.

But the Dane declined to comment on badminton's hot topic - the doping controversy surrounding world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, who has been provisionally suspended by the BWF and is awaiting the final verdict.

But with the 32-year-old Malaysian and his 31-year-old arch-rival Lin approaching the twilight of their careers, Hoyer sees a void waiting to be filled by the next generation.

The likes of Dane Jan Jorgensen (age 26), Korean Shon Wan-ho (25), Japanese Kenichi Tago (26) and Srikanth (21) are all ranked inside the top 10, and the next two titans could emerge from this quartet.

Hoyer sees the power base is slowly shifting and the Chinese can be beaten if the players have the self-belief.

He said: "My mindset when I was playing, I said to myself I just want to beat the Chinese. By beating the Chinese I can be the best in the world."

This article was first published on December 2, 2014.
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