Shaky Giants vs Steady Tiny
The first of 3 Badminton World Tours 2020 is finally over. As the first tournament after a long while due to Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a lot of surprises even before the tournament began. For safety reasons, China and Japan decided to withdraw. As the tournament progressed, there were some surprises from young players that defeated seasoned players.
When we talk about surprises in badminton, we often focus on the individual player or pair. But what about them as part of a group representing a country? Do countries with more players perform better? Since the game has no spectators, fellow athletes and officials are practically the only supporters any athlete can have. In that case, countries with a larger group have stronger support. Or do they?
Our summary of players says otherwise. Here are 7 countries that made it to the final and the journey of their team members since the beginning of the tournament.
Less than half of the players from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Denmark, the badminton giants, made it to the quarter-finals. Of course, we have to consider the possibility that a lot of young players joined the team to get exposure at a Super 1000 tournament and also that for Malaysia and Indonesia the geographical situation is in their favor in terms of team logistics.
During post-match interviews, a lot of experienced players admitted that they were nervous given that this is the first tournament after a really long while.
It became more interesting noticing the ability of three Chinese Taipei players reaching the final of the Yonex Thailand Open 2020 because they arrived in Bangkok with a minimal squad of only 5 players.
In the women’s singles, there’s Tai Tzu Ying. The current #1 in world ranking has been in the world’s top ranking for a long time, including holding 3 All England Open titles from 2017, 2018, and 2020.
Unfortunately at this year’s Yonex Thailand Open finals, she failed to repeat history. In the final round which was held in Bangkok on Sunday local time, Tzu Ying lost two straight games 9-21, 16-21 to Carolina Marin from Spain.
Fortunately, the loss in women’s singles was relieved by the success of Chinese Taipei in men's doubles. Their players, Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin, who were seeded sixth, beat Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong, 21-16, 21-23, 21-19.
The other two Chinese Taipei players at Yonex Thailand Open 2020 were stopped by Hong Kong’s own Ng Ka Long Angus at different rounds. Ng Ka Long Angus defeated Wang Tzu-wei in the round of 16 in three games 21-15, 15-21, 22-20. Ng then continued through to the semi finals and defeated Chou Tien Chen 17-21, 21-18, 21-15.
With 3 out of only 5 players made it to the final round, it is undeniable that they’re skyrocketing on the badminton stage but this cannot be separated from the coaching they’ve had and the competitions they’ve done.
Fung Permadi, former Indonesian badminton player who once represented Chinese Taipei, told us in an interview that coaching in Chinese Taipei begins at school where the students are grouped based on their age. Several schools in the same city create joint training to develop players according to their school level and they hold tournaments between the schools -- elementary school level, middle school level and high school level.
Permadi, who is now the manager of a big club in Indonesia, also said that in Chinese Taipei the clubs also coach adult athletes, and have national ranking matches twice a year. They also divide it into amateur and professional. Amateur semifinalists will then rise to professional status.
It’s this solid system that makes Chinese Taipei capable of becoming the new world badminton power. But is it possible that there’s something else?
Does coming in a tiny group give the athlete a stronger drive despite being nervous, knowing that they’re the only ones their country relies on for this particular tournament?
Or is this just a warm-up for the giants?
There are still 2 more tournaments coming ahead of us and there are so many possibilities for things to turn around. Let’s hope for the best and see if more of the giants can reach further into the finals.
However the rest of the tournaments turned out, Chinese Taipei showed us once again that it is possible to be small yet powerful.