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EDITORIAL Tokyo 2020 will forever be remembered. We had been waiting too long for the Tokyo Olympics, but it was worth waiting for. I think we have seen excellent performances from many European players. With a bit more fortune at the right moments, more medals could have been possible, but I do see good promise for the future. Everybody, who has been following the Olympics, knows that the Tokyo Games was a historic one. Viktor Axelsen’s win was well deserved. He has put his heart and soul into achieving this gold medal, and it could not happen to a nicer guy. Viktor Axelsen is a role model on and off court, and I am very happy on his behalf. Huge congratulations to Viktor but also to the team around him, Badminton Denmark, and of course his family. Viktor made so many people proud and it was perhaps the most emotional moment I have witnessed in badminton, when Viktor realised that his childhood dream was now reality. His win shows that we still have players that can compete against the Asian powerhouses. It however also shows that it does take a tremendous effort, self-discipline, and a willingness to explore own limits to always become better. I am sure that Viktor’s success will serve as inspiration for many European players and will motivate them to pursue their dreams. The Tokyo Olympics is in the books, but another chapter of badminton history is just about to be written. The Paralympics kicks off soon, and I am confident that the European Para badminton players will perform to the level which is required to secure medals. I wish them all best of luck in Tokyo. It is their time to shine. The Olympics and Paralympics are about the current stars, but it is also important to keep an eye on the future of European badminton. I was pleased to see that in 2021 we were able to organise our RSL BEC Summer School, which was cancelled in 2020. Seeing the young players and coaches eager to learn shows me that not only high performance badminton but also the grassroots level of our sport has a bright future. The same goes for many of the players participating in the 2021 European U17 Championships, which will take place in Slovenia in early September. Looking at the list of previous winners, names such as Olympic Champions Viktor Axelsen and Carolina Marin are displayed. Performing at a good level at the European U17 Championships creates the base for a future at senior level. I hope you will all enjoy this BEC Magazine, the Paralympics and the upcoming European U17 Championships.

Brian Agerbak General Secretary

Imprint: Badminton Europe - Published by Badminton Europe Confederation, Brøndbytoften 14, 2605 Brøndby, Denmark.•Responsible editor: Rasmus Bech•Layout & Design: Laura Martí Diez •Journalists: Alan Raftery, Sara González Martínez, Bobby Griffin•Coverphoto: Badminton Photo •Photos: Badminton Photo & Badminton Europe

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Written by: Sara González Martínez

Surrounded by countries known for its historic and natural beauty, Slovenia has nothing to envy as it has that and so much more to offer. Here is what you need to know about the host of the 2021 European U17 Championships.

Those with a sweet tooth can also enjoy a wide variety of desserts that include many baked goods. Wine connoisseurs will also be happy to visit Slovenia, as the nation is home to countless historic vineyards.

The castle is, perhaps, the main

A country that embodies the best of two worlds — the old-world charm of Central Europe and a rich Slavic culture — it could be argued that Slovenia is one of the continent’s most underrated destinations. From its famous castles and bewitching folklore to the myriad of possibilities of outdoor fun that the landscapes engulfed The regions of Kozjansko and Obsotelje have earned by greenery grants to its visitors, this country is not just the UNESCO status of a biosphere reserve. However, made to be a host for sports events. it is not just the ravishing nature that make them special. Traditional wooden barns and houses of folk archi Its geography adds to its appealing nature. It boasts a tecture dot the landscape, and an oasis of tranquillity central location within Europe, with a sunny part of the can be found in one of the many picturesque villages. Alps and a coastline bathed by the Adriatic Sea. The Podčetrtek is one of them. result of this is a diversity that surely has something for everyone’s taste. Podčetrtek is a spa village in eastern Slovenia. It’s located in a municipality of the same name. Among the lush scenery, one can find many exclusive spa hotels that benefit from the natural thermal springs of the region. This location of calmness is where the European U17 Championships will be taking place this year.

attraction of Podčetrtek

It is somehow a meeting point between the Western and Eastern Europe, and its history proves this just as much as its culture

The castle is, perhaps, the main attraction of Podčetrtek. The historic building dates back to the 17th century, but it was later renovated in the 18th to create a tasteful combination of different architectural styles. The Olimje Its location has contributed to the richness of its culture. monastery, an imposing structure that still serves as a Slovenia has historically been a meeting point for the Franciscan monastery is another perfect example of the different cultures and empires of the old continent. It is iconic Slovenian castles. somehow a meeting point between the Western and Eastern Europe, and its history proves this just as much The European U17 Championships will be taking place as its culture. in Podčetrtek, more specifically in the Multisports hall of the village. The sports centre is located in one of the The snow-peaked mountains are great for skiing in the leading spa hotels. winter months, while these same spots harbour countless hiking trails that afford fantastic views. Immersing The 2021 RSL BEC Summer School has also been hostoneself in nature is therefore a no-brainer in this country. ed there, so it is bound to be a success. Far from the mountains and the deep green valleys, where one can also find extensive lakes, the picturesque coastal towns are the perfect spot for those looking for a sun-drenched getaway. Besides its natural wonders, Slovenia is also a great destination for foodies. Visitors can indulge in flavourful traditional meals such as the famous bograč, a typical stew or kranjska klobasa, a Slovenian type of sausage.

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2021 EUROPEAN

MIXED TEAM

CHAMPIONSHIPS

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A CHAMPIONSHIP DURING COVID-19 Written by: Alan Raftery

Every single person reading this will have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. Life was turned upside down. Borders were closed, day to day life changed, loved ones were held closer and the sport that we adore brought to a halt.

REMEMBERING HOW IT STARTED CAPTURING THIS MOMENT As is tradition, Badminton Europe is always present to In early 2021, the idea of capturing this moment was cover the All England Championships in Birmingham, put forward by Laura Martí Diez, BEC Video & Graphic one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Design Officer. The idea blossomed into a full-fledged project targeting the upcoming 2021 European Mixed This was the case in March 2020 – the week when lock- Team Championships in Finland. down began. BEC Communication Officer Alan Raftery was at the event when it all unfolded. - COVID-19 has been very frustrating and being able to do this project was something that, besides being - There was certainly a different vibe throughout the necessary in my opinion as we are living a unique moweek. We were all checking the fast-moving devel- ment in our life, it was a chance to highlight the great opments and were unsure if the tournament would be team and the huge effort Badminton Europe is doing to finished. Players were anxious and media staff were bring badminton back, Laura Martí stated. awaiting news that came on quarterfinals day. Viktor Axelsen’s title-winning shot on Sunday would be the last - Personally, this was an amazing opportunity to do badminton action we saw for quite some time. something different that I truly enjoyed working on. It definitely brought us closer to our colleagues. We were It may seem like a distant and blurry memory now, but able to express ourselves through a process that chalthis was the reality of the situation for our sport. Health lenged us professionally on a whole new level, said came first. There was an understanding and acceptance Laura Martí. of this – but the road was always going to be long and one thing was known for sure, future tournaments would Badminton Europe felt it was important to document all look completely different. the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a major tournament happen during a pandemic. A tournaFor Badminton Europe, the freezing of the tournament ment that like all tournaments was never certain to take calendar meant postponements and cancellations of place! our events. It was a tough time for all staff and in the face of adversity, everyone rallied together as best they The tournament of course did take place in the end and could. the documentary captured it all. You get to see what it means for players to be playing again, however, it Adaptation and perseverance were key if we were go- was not all plain sailing and the events team and local ing to be able to organise a tournament under the many organisers had to deal with many situations that were new restrictions. touch and go whether teams would be disqualified and even if the tournament could carry on. In amongst the drama, some big calls needed to be made under significant pressure. Watch to find out how it played out.

“ A TOURNAMENT THAT WAS NEVER CERTAIN TO TAKE PLACE”

It is a must-watch sports documentary for anyone who wants to see the incredible effort that made the return of the first major badminton event on European soil possible.

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Written by: Bobby Griffin

History is in the making when badminton makes its de- Para badminton inclusion but at the Paralympic Games from 1-5 September In late January 2015, the IPC announced the final Paralympic sports programme for Tokyo which included Badminton is making its debut after a yearlong delay 22 sports, with badminton and taekwondo featuring for due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the International the first time. Olympic Committee (IOC) having made the decision in 2020 to delay the world’s biggest multi-sport event, with Since the first Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy, in 1960, a statement which read: they have continued to grow in size and stature. The first Games featured 400 athletes from 23 countries compet- These new dates give the health authorities and all in- ing in eight sports — archery, athletics, archery, snooker, volved in the organisation of the Games the maximum swimming, table tennis, wheelchair fencing, and wheeltime to deal with the constantly changing landscape chair basketball. and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At London 2012, the Games involved a record 4,237 - The new dates, exactly one year after those originally athletes from 164 countries who took part in 503 medplanned for 2020, have the added benefit that any dis- al events across 20 sports. This was a cumulated globruption the postponement will cause to the international al audience of 3.8 billion watched the Games, whilst sports calendar can be kept to a minimum. 2.78 million tickets were sold, making the Paralympics the third-biggest sporting event in the world behind the IOC President Thomas Bach added: Olympics and FIFA World Cup. - I am confident that we can master this unprecedented challenge. Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. The Games in Tokyo can be a light at the end of this tunnel.

In 2010, Para badminton, intellectually impaired basketball, para-golf, powerchair football and para-taekwondo all applied to be part of the Rio 2016 Paralympic sports programme but were unsuccessful with the Governing Board instead choosing applications from President of the International Paralympic Committee para-canoe and para-triathlon, and so badminton must (IPC) Andrew Parsons said it was fantastic that new wait until the next cycle until it can be considered once dates could be found so quickly. again. - The new dates provide certainty for the athletes, reassurance for the stakeholders and something to look forward to for the whole world. When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo, they will be an extra special, he said. 24

Sir Philip Craven, IPC President, said in 2015: - I would like to thank all 24 sports for applying for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and pass on my congratulations to the 22 sports that have been approved by the IPC Governing Board.


In particular, I’d like to pay testament to the sports of badminton and taekwondo for the work they have undertaken in securing their place at a Paralympic Games for the first time.

One doubles pair, which provides either a mix of sport class or a mix of gender, means that if both players qualify for their singles, the two players are entered into three events. Arguably a clever move to streamline participation and maximise events.

The IPC Handbook states only team sports widely and regularly practised in a minimum of 24 countries and three IPC regions will be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games and for individual sports a minimum of 32 countries in three IPC regions.

However, 90 athletes into 14 events means draw sizes of six to eight players, that is of course the compromise. And with doubles being the priority, the singles draws will feature the first 4-6 players who qualified via the doubles ranking list, which has provided us with some The 22 sports that will be included in the Tokyo 2020 interesting outcomes. Paralympic Games are: athletics, archery, badminton, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, football 5-a-side, In addition, a National Paralympic Committee (NPC) goalball, judo, powerlifting, rowing, shooting, sitting has a limit of 11 male and 10 female qualification slots, volleyball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, triath- where two eligible athletes per singles medal event can lon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheel- be entered. Exceptions are in SH6 men’s singles where chair rugby and wheelchair tennis. only one can be entered per NPC, and both SL4 and SU5 women’s singles where three can be entered when Para badminton events at Tokyo 2020 two are already qualified via a doubles ranking list. Unlike able-bodied tournaments with five separate events, Para badminton has been allocated just 90 ath- As stated above, doubles events take priority and each lete slots across 14 medal events for the Tokyo 2020, NPC, or country, can enter one pair into a medal event. showcasing the six sport classes which mix at times to Once those slots have been allocated from the doubles facilitate certain doubles event criteria. This provides ranking lists, typically between 0-3 slots are then given spectators with an exciting array of disabilities on show. to the highest ranked players from the Race to Tokyo singles rankings. In Tokyo there will be six wheelchair events taking place, including singles for men and women in both WH1 and Finally, bi-partite slots are then available for application WH2 classes and men’s and women’s doubles, but no to fill the remaining places, if any. This might include topmixed doubles. ranked players whose countrymen are already qualified and whose NPC feels they deserve a place. Two The standing classes will include men’s singles in SL3, of these are reserved for the Host Nation and one is SL4 and SU5 whilst the women will showcase only SL4 reserved for each continent if either does not already and SU5. Standing doubles are included for women have a player qualified. and mixed, but not for men. The pinnacle of sporting achievement Short Stature will feature only the men’s singles and no Now only days away from the biggest landmark in Para doubles which means that the only class not to feature badminton’s history, this moment marks the pinnacle of in this inaugural Paralympic Games will be female SH6 a sport with humble beginnings. players. Years of hard work and dedication have gone into makQualification for every medal event has been complicat- ing this happen and whilst policy makers can begin to ed. The 15-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandem- sit back as spectators, holding their breath as the world’s ic added some pressure and uncertainty to an already best step onto this massive stage; players, coaches and difficult process, but the overriding highlight about the support staff continue furiously to prepare for this jourRoad to Tokyo for Para badminton is that it prioritises ney to Asia to compete for the biggest prize in the world. doubles events. We wish every European the very best of luck in this The qualification process final step towards Paralympic glory. With so many events and so few athletes allowed bed spaces in Tokyo this summer, it is near impossible to have drawn the qualification process in any other way.

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The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are now just days would be fighting for a gold medal in Tokyo. A further away and European hopes for medals are high across four players/pairs made it to a semifinal – the equivathe sport-classes, but can anyone realise a golden lent in Tokyo would be playing off for a bronze medal. dream? Bethell – ‘I think I’m ready!’ England’s Daniel Bethell is the current man-on-form after a tremendous performance in May. The Spanish International 2021 was the final qualifying event contributing to the Race to Tokyo rankings and whilst the SL3 men’s singles world number one Pramod Bhagat (IND) The Olympic movement drives the ambition for success. was absent, Bethell blew away the competition in domThe funding that now comes with it allows people to fo- inant style. cus, to train properly at full-time venues with fully staffed teams pushing for those small percentages that can turn We spoke with Daniel Bethell at the recent Team GB great into amazing performances. launch day in Milton Keynes, he had this to say about European success is common at Para badminton internationals, but the Paralympic Games is no ordinary tournament. It will be the pinnacle of a young sport which is now considered to have reached an elite level.

And whilst the achievement of becoming a World Champion takes great performances, becoming a Paralympic Gold Medallist might be considered something amazing. European results at the most recent World Championships are a good indicator for expectations this summer in Tokyo. Of the 14 medal events featuring at the Paralympics, four players/pairs from Europe made it to their respective final across those same events at the World Championships in Basel 2019 and as a comparison they 26

his dreams to become a Paralympian. - It’s surreal. It’s what I’ve dreamed about since I first watched Para sport and it’s every child’s dream of going to an Olympics or Paralympics, so to be sat here now in the Team GB kit is amazing. - I remember watching the Beijing Paralympics and first seeing people with the same disability as me competing and I felt really inspired. I really wanted to get involved in Para sport then, to meet new people with disabilities, to hear their stories and learn some lessons, he added.


We asked what is it that it takes to be the best in his dis- Dwarf Sports Association too, which is where I first cipline, he said: picked up a racket to start playing badminton, added Shephard. - Being an SL3 means I need to prepare for long gruelling matches on a half-court which can last over 90 On whether the Paralympic title will complete his medal minutes, the rallies can be brutal! I’m the world silver collection, he had this to say medallist and world number two. On my day, I am a match for anyone and have beaten Pramod (India’s - Yes, I’m European Champion and World Champion, it world number one) the last time we met, and also at the would be amazing to come home as Paralympic Chamtest-event in the Yoyogi Stadium in Japan. Training has pion too, but I also just want to take every day out there been going so well, I think I’m ready! as it comes and enjoy the experience. Mazur in pole position, and Noel has options for France Lucas Mazur is world number one in SL4 men’s singles and leads the way in the Race to Tokyo. He is also in second position in the Paralympic SL3-SU5 mixed doubles rankings with partner Faustine Noel.

In contention for the podium Denmark’s Cathrine Rosengren is a favourite for a medal in the SU5 women’s singles. The question is whether she can overcome either Japan’s Ayako Suzuki or China’s Yang Qiuxia to gain a place in the final. In the men’s SU5 singles, Bartlomiej Mroz (POL) will need his The Frenchman is a clear favourite in the SL4 men’s sin- absolute best to compete with Asia’s finest, whilst Meril gles, claiming 12 of the last 17 international titles that he Loquette may yet feature and add some European preshas entered, failing to make the final just once. sure. Mazur and Noel have been in their last six finals in the mixed doubles, although they have been undone not only by the Indonesian World Champions, but also by various other top pairs over the past two years, making the Paralympic title a highly contested affair.

Valeska Knoblauch leads Germany’s charge to Tokyo, holding onto second position in the WH1 women’s singles Race to Tokyo rankings. Probably the most widely contested gold medal, any one of five of the top qualifiers have a realistic chance of victory. Knoblauch has another chance at the podium, doing just enough to make Faustine Noel is the only European player to have qual- it into the women’s doubles draw with Elke Rongen, alified for all three events at the Paralympics, which is a though Swiss Cynthia Mathez and Karin Suter-Erath will fantastic achievement. Already committed to mixed also be competing for that title. doubles and to women’s doubles with partner Lenaig Morin, the Frenchwoman is still discussing with staff and Norway’s Helle Sagoy may need a good draw if she the Federation whether accepting her place in women’s is to challenge Leani Oktila (IND) or Cheng Hefang singles would be too much to take on. (CHN) on the SL4 women’s singles podium. WH1-2 men’s doubles will see German’s Young-Chin Mi and Shephard with one more target Thomas Wandschneider compete with Frenchman Jack Shephard is the current SH6 men’s singles double Thomas Jakobs and David Toupe for silverware. World Champion after claiming gold in Korea 2017 and in Switzerland 2019. The Englishman spoke to us this week about what this moment means to him, he said - I’m still speechless to be honest, this is has been a dream of mine that has come true. I can’t believe I have made it to the Paralympics, especially when it’s the first time that our sport is on the schedule. I’ve worked so hard to get to this moment. - The first person I told, after I got the call to confirm that I’m on the plane to Tokyo, was my dad. We’re close and I wanted him to know first. He’s involved in the

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DID NOT SEE “WE OURSELVES AS ONE OF THE FAVOURITES TO WIN

Written by: Alan Raftery

- To be honest, that exact moment where I win, the last few rallies, I completely blacked out and I do not remember anything afterwards… These are the words of Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus about one of the biggest moments in his career and the history of Danish badminton. The man was at the heart of this historic achievement – lifting the Thomas Cup for the first time. Together we retraced the steps taken on the journey and piece by piece we understand how such a feat was achieved through the eyes of the player who hit that final winning shot. The 2016 Thomas & Uber Cup was the 29th tournament of the Thomas Cup, effectively the world team championships for men. It was held in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, China. Denmark was coming into the tournament as number two seeds, so on paper, they were in the mix. However, Vittinghus points out that the seeding is misleading. Being based on world ranking individually, Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen were ranked highly in men’s doubles. However, only Boe was in the team due to Carsten’s unfortunate brain aneurism earlier in the year. - We did not see ourselves as one of the favourites to win. We knew we had a team that was capable of having a chance against most teams. For example, China [top seeds] would have been an impossible task for us. - We went in with the realistic goal of winning a medal. We knew that with our seeding the draw could be good for us if we won our group.

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The Chinese Taipei catapult In Group D, Denmark breezed through their opening matches against South Africa and New Zealand. Thankfully it was not in Rugby but in Badminton, which left essentially a playoff match with Chinese Taipei to determine who tops the group. With excellent wins from Viktor Axelsen, Mads Conrad-Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding and Mathias Boe / Mathias Christiansen, by the time Vittinghus took to the court the match was won. However, instead of taking it easy and rest for the knockout stages, he went all out against Wang Tzu Wei. Why?


- It was actually really good for me to be on court and have to play a decider going to settings, playing for the important points because I was already going to experience that the next day in the quarterfinal against Japan and I am happy we chose to do it that way. A monkey off my back Into the knockout stages, Denmark faced the reigning champions Japan. The match was poised at 2-2 with Vittinghus going up against Riichi Takeshita. - I was confident going into the match as I was the higher-ranked player, but I also had a lot of respect for the situation. At 2-2 in a Thomas Cup knockout tie, it’s something special, and you often see the lower-ranked opponent turn out to be the winner in the end. For me personally, that match was the most important of that Thomas Cup. It kind of knocked a monkey off my back because I have played the Thomas Cup so many times, and I have never performed at the level I wanted to for various reasons – sickness, injury or pulling out of the squad late. So, it was very important for me to finally have that win to show that I made a difference for the team. It meant a lot to me and after that, I played a lot more freely in both the semifinal and the final as well. Vittinghus battled hard and won 23-21, 21-17, and admits that perhaps he was a little swept up by the occasion despite getting the job done. - I spoke to Kenneth Jonassen who was the men’s singles coach at the time about how to approach the match and that I should try and play 100 per cent. At the time I was in great shape, so physicality wasn’t really a concern. In the first two group matches we played South Africa and New Zealand, and without being disrespectful to them, playing third singles against them is not the same as against Chinese Taipei or the countries we were to play in the later stages. So, it was important to play someone top 25 in the world to see where I was in terms of my condition and to see if there are things I need to adjust for the knockout stages. It was an important match for me to get into the real flow and rhythm of playing these top guys. Wang just took the match in the decider, 25-23.

- I was a little too eager to win because I wanted to prove so much that I deserve to be there. This was on court 4, meanwhile, on court 1, hosts and favourites China was being knocked out by Korea. This development did not go unnoticed, and it changed everything. - Actually, at the end of my match, we felt that the entire stadium was supporting me and Denmark. The crowd were so annoyed with the Chinese team that was already losing, and we had a great atmosphere and for some reason we got the Chinese fans to cheer for us in the quarterfinal. It carried on from there, they cheered for us for the rest of the tournament. 31


Dealing with pressure In the semifinal against a star-studded Malaysian team led by Lee Chong Wei, they quickly found themselves 2-0 down. Vittinghus played second men’s singles this time, although the feeling was the same as before – it’s a must-win. The pressure seemed to be high, but Vittinghus actually saw it slightly differently.

The final Denmark vs Indonesia

- Yes for sure there was pressure, but I think it can work both ways actually. You so badly want to perform, not just for yourself but also for your teammates. The advantage for me against Iskandar [Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin] was that I actually felt that the pressure was off. I know I needed to win to keep up in the tie, but we always felt if they got a 2-0 lead they would be the favourite to win. We knew we had a chance, but we actually saw Malaysia as the likely winner in the remaining matches. We probably needed one of the first two matches to have a real good chance. But we also knew that I could win that match and if I could win it in a way where I showed a lot of energy and emotion, conveying to the team that we still had a chance. It could be like a momentum change.

- We went into the match thinking that we had a really fair chance of winning, perhaps more of a 50-50 match. We were expecting that they would put Jonatan Christie in the line-up, which would have meant that Ginting would play me as third singles, a more even matchup. So, we were a little surprised when Christie did not feature.

The badminton-loving nation of Indonesia has a great pedigree in the Thomas Cup, having the most wins out of any country (13). However, they have not won since 2002 and desperately wanted the title.

- We knew that we would have to probably win all of the singles matches to win, but if it comes down to 2-2 in a Thomas Cup final and given our history with zero golds and eight silver medals and Indonesia’s rich history, we did not take anything for granted.

Both Denmark and Indonesia took it in turns to score dominant wins for their team. Viktor Axelsen got his Opponent insights team off the mark with a win over Tommy Sugiarto, only Badminton, particularly in high-pressure environments for the experienced Mohammad Ahsan/ Hendra Setilike this, can be a psychological game. Vittinghus knows awan to level it with a win over Mads Conrad-Petersen this well and also knew that if he can get win in a certain / Mads Pieler Kolding. way, it could derail the Malaysian train. Jan Ø Jørgensen retook the lead with a clinical win - We also knew that the Malaysian mentality is that over Anthony Ginting. Indonesia, with their traditionally when it is going well, they get better and better and can strong doubles, this time Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanbe almost unbeatable. However, when things turn the da Suwardi levelled the scoreline once again against other way around things can go down at quite a steep Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen. angle. I think that is what happened to them after they lost that one match. They started feeling the pressure Meaning only one thing – it was ‘Vittinghus time’. and began thinking how they are not supposed to lose this match now. We held a mental edge over them in Up against the young talent, Ihsan Maulana Mustofa, the final two matches and I think that’s what decided it the opportunity to make history lay before the Dane. in the end. - The way the match started it was clear that it was goHe was not wrong. Vittinghus won his match, 21-18, 21- ing to be a mental battle more than anything else. I felt 18. This was followed by a sensational three-game win a huge shift in the match right after the first interval. I by Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen over Koo was 11-10 up, so it was quite even, neither of us played Kian Keat/ Tan Boon Heong, topped off by Emil Holst amazing at that time, we were kind of feeling each othholding his nerve against Chong Wei Feng. er’s game.

CHANGE 32

Vittinghus sensed some vulnerability on the other side of the net, so it was time to step it up.

IT COULD BE A MOMENTUM

- The first few rallies after the interval I felt that I really upped my game. I felt much more focused and in control of my emotions. I think I got a 15-10 lead at that point


I WAS NOT GOING “TO LET GO OF THAT

OPPORTUNITY

and that was when I really felt the momentum shift and saw that he was beginning to lack the ideas to break down my defence. That made me feel really confident because it meant that I did not have to go for early opportunities. I can always just play the rally, play to the backline and see what he was going to come up with. When did Vittinghus feel that he had won it? - I never felt that I was definitely going to win this until I got to 17-7 in the second game. At that point, I knew I was going to win. If you just looked at him, you could see that he was gone mentally. He was already thinking about the disappointment of losing and I was playing some of my best badminton. It was a good combination, and I was not going to let go of that opportunity. I completely blacked out Naturally, this historic event for Danish badminton and being the man on court that smashed down that last shuttle is at the top of achievements for Vittinghus. However, incredibly he informs us that he does not actually remember these final moments of the match. - It is the best moment of my career. But to be honest that exact moment where I win, the last few rallies, I completely blacked out and I do not remember anything afterwards. Now I have seen it, probably a million times on YouTube, so now I feel like maybe I have some of the memory back. It’s actually clearer for me when I lift the trophy for the first time with Poul-Erik Høyer. He gives it to me and we raise it together. More than the team - I think this was a pretty nice symbol for the fact that this was not only a win for the team that was there, but for the entire Danish badminton community. We tried so hard for so many years to get that gold so that win was not only for the 2016 team, it was for all the teams beforehand who came up short. Its coming home to Europe The Thomas Cup was first played in 1949 in Preston, England where Sir George Alan Thomas presented the trophy to the winning Malaya team. This year, very excitingly, the Thomas & Uber Cup will be held in Aarhus, Denmark, for the first time in Europe

in the modern era. Vittinghus is delighted by the news. - It is huge news for sure, it is one of my very favourite events. I have always dreamt about winning the Olympics, All England and the Thomas Cup. For me personally, these are the most prestigious events. So, to have the opportunity to play on home soil is something really special. - We have waited a long time for it now. We were very excited to host it last year, but it was postponed. I am just so very motivated and keen to be part of that team because of course it will be an unreal experience to play at home, so I am super excited that it will be played here in Denmark. 33


Badminton Europe’s Centre of Excellence was an Olympic training base for badminton players from around the world. The Centre of Excellence has come a long way since it opened its doors in 2017. It’s testament to the hard work put in that, for the first Olympics during its existence, so many players deem it to be the best training location for them when preparing for the biggest tournament in badminton – the Olympic Games. We spoke to the players during their pre-Olympic training to ask them more about the CoE and how their preparation for Tokyo 2020 is going.

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Written by: Alan Raftery

The Olympic journey To have players go through the CoE as part of their Olympic journey is a great responsibility, but an exciting one. USA’s Beiwen Zhang, Pan Am gold medallist, is one of the best women’s singles players in the world and was in the mix for the medals in Tokyo 2020. Head Coach Jeroen van Dijk shares his thoughts. - We are incredibly happy that Beiwen chose to do her Olympic preparation at the CoE. She also did her preparation for the 2021 Pan Am Individual Championships with us which turned out to be highly successful for her. At its core, providing a high-level training environment for these players is what the CoE is about. - Due to the corona situation, it has been very difficult to have a stable training environment and I am therefore happy that the CoE can help players in these challenging times. When Badminton Europe started the CoE project, it was the goal to create a stable training environment for players who do not have a high performance or an insufficient training centre. It is nice to see that we are fulfilling this goal.

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Written by: Sara González Martínez

The world is starting to return to how it was before COVID-19 hit us. There are things that are still not quite the same and in some way we still have a long wait to go. In badminton, we have already had the chance to enjoy some on-court action in tournaments — some with empty stands, other with audiences eager to be back. Some of the privileged that could also experience the joy of the return of the action were those in the BEC Summer School.

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Two great events in one To sum up such a historic event in numbers, the RSL BEC Summer School has been running for almost four decades, with seven of the editions having taken place in Slovenia, and six of these in Podcetrtek. It was not possible to organise it last year, but 2021 saw the comeback of this special event.

- You get to play against people from other countries, which you don’t get to do in your home country that often. I like that the best, U15 training camp participant Nishka Sharma mentioned.

Sharing experiences, creating memories Participants were bound to gain plenty of knowledge from each other and especially from those leading them. - I am really happy that we finally started the Summer The fact that this even was a meeting point from peoSchool with a new edition. It is great that we decided to ple that have not just been shaped by the countries they organise it and that participants have come to Slovenia, come from but also by their careers, their badminton exGeneral Secretary of the Slovenian Badminton Associ- perience, and so much more, gave them the opportunity ation Matevž Šrekl stated. to appreciate a wide variety of viewpoints. The ambitious event surely is an important one for European badminton. A training camp for talented U15 players and a BWF/BEC Level 2 Coach Education course took place simultaneously, creating a memorable get-together for everyone involved.

- There are so many new perspectives from the other coaches that I’m getting these first days because they are from other countries and other mindsets. There are new things I have already learnt in just two days. I am really looking forward to the rest of the week, BWF/ BEC Level 2 Coach Education course participant Henrik - It is a great event. You have both high-level coaches Gleis explained. and excellent players. The mix of having a coach education course and a training camp together, it is some- With both in-class and on-court lessons, participants of thing you do not see so often. We also have great fa- the course get to sharpen up their theoretical and techcilities here in Slovenia, so it is a combination of many nical knowledge and then get to apply it by jumping on things put together in one event which makes it so suc- court. cessful, BEC Development & High Performance Senior Manager Jacob Oehlenschlaeger said. - We have had some great lessons and practices, and also some good interaction with the other coaches, A perfect international setup course participant Marijn Put said. The 20 BWF/BEC Level 2 Coach Education course participants are in good hands, as they are being guided The U15 players also thoroughly enjoyed their time on by three trainers — Maja Kersnik from Slovenia, Alexan- court, but the younger ones in the event earned well-deder Böök from Sweden, and Evandros Votsis from Cy- served breaks that also gave them a taste of the warm prus. The European mix of nationalities says a lot about Slovenian summer and the stunning landscape even the international environment that the RSL BEC Summer granted them with some amazing sights and fun activSchool benefits from. ities. - Because there are so many people from all over Europe, you get a lot of different manners and ways of giving training. It’s good to learn a lot from their experience and hear what the experienced players have to share with coaches like me, Marijn Put, a course participant from Belgium, said.

- I like practical sessions because I learn, and I also have fun. But we are also going to a castle and an aqua park, I think we will have fun, Jorūné Šalnaitė explained.

This is how, once again, the RSL BEC Summer School was successfully delivered, thanks to a great team who are committed and motivated. The U15 players left with It is not just the grownups that understand the importance more ambitions, and all participants passed the course. of uniting people from all over Europe. There were 40 So many years have passed since the event’s first edition different U15 players taking part in the training camp, in 1982 and it looks like it will carry on taking place. representing the talent that European badminton has. - I have met new people and I have had great conver- It is great that there are many trainers and coaches sations with all of them. Everyone is different. I think this from different countries. You get to know players from is why the Summer School is such a great idea, because other countries, U15 player Lorenz Windauer said. it is the same project, but it is so different every year, Head Coach Wojciech Szkudlarczyk said. 37


OL PICTURE

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BEC WE

BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER Written by: Sara González Martínez

With a rich and varied range of areas covered, the BEC Webinars are one of Badminton Europe’s most innovative and powerful tools. Online events were increasingly becoming more popular as COVID-19 has pushed everyone to rapidly adapt. It has been challenging at times to find a way to connect people in the world of badminton, be it fans or professionals, and the BEC webinar series have made the most out of this new approach to overcome the distance between us all. BEC’s Development and High Performance Officer, Mari Carmen Casermeiro, has been one of the people making such encounters of curious minds possible — be it working behind the camera to organise seminars or popping up on the audience’s screen to moderate them. The hard work has been rewarding when one thinks about the importance of such projects. - I really believe that this new initiative has been fruitful for the whole badminton community, from the players’ experiences and the coaches’ different perspectives to the strategic plans that our Members are developing within their countries. Sharing knowledge and spreading different approaches are indeed one of the main goals of these webinar series, Casermeiro said. Bringing together experts from all over Europe to share their experience and exchange ideas would not happen so easily if these were in-person meetings. The internet has served in this case as a bridge between different countries and individuals. Besides, gone are the days when you had to rush home to sit in front of your computer; anyone can follow such seminars on the go on pocket-sized devices such as phones or tablets no matter if it is live or streaming it afterwards.

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EBINARS

R AND SHARING KNOWLEDGE - The simple fact of providing the participants with the possibility to access each episode through our BEC Online Platform at any time, provides everyone with the necessary flexibility to find the right time in their schedules, Casermeiro stated. Development & High Performance Senior Manager at Badminton Europe, Jacob Oehlenschlaeger emphasises the multidisciplinary character of the Webinars. From topics related to High Performance, Coach Development, and Technical Officials, to Para badminton, Gender Equity, and other relevant subjects within the world of badminton as we know it today, our audience can acquire information from a wide variety of themes. - We have been able to share knowledge, experience and information on different topics with our Members in a new way. The webinar format is extremely flexible and gives us the possibility to address a huge variety of topics. We are covering the traditional areas within High Performance and Coach Education, but it has been very satisfying that we also have been able to deliver some very interesting webinars within Para badminton, Gender Equity, and Volunteering. We would like to say thank you to all the presenters, Oehlenschlaeger explained. Some of the guests have been BEC CoE Head Coach Jeroen van Dijk to talk about coaching teenage talents, General Secretary of the Austrian Badminton Association Tina Riedl sharing insights into her journey from elite player to coach, administrator and now General Secretary, or BWF Technical Official Carmen Martinez Villanueva with a detailed presentation on Para badminton international tournaments and how to officiate at them. The way the BEC Webinars work is not designed for them to be a one-way flood of information, but rather an exchange between all parties involved. Expert guests do a presentation for a maximum of an hour and then a topic is presented, so there is floor for a discussion and time for questions from those attending. Running the webinars in such a way makes them more dynamic and interactive to create a further enriching experience. - Our webinar format with a maximum duration of each session of 60 minutes, a keynote speaker presenting a topic followed by a Q&A session has worked well and has been well-received. We will, of course, always like to have more participants attending our webinars and I can only encourage everyone to share the news within their network when a webinar is coming up, Oehlenschlaeger said. Watch out for announcements on upcoming BEC Webinars on all our online platforms.

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Written by: Sara González Martínez

The past month has been one for reflection, celebrating, big expectations, and my first event with BEC. Just by glancing at my calendar, I knew it was going to be a busy month. From a training course and plenty of content to be produced from the BEC office to covering my first event — all while enjoying the fantastic summer weather we’ve been blessed with in Copenhagen. Learning and socialising on and off the screen One of my first events of the month was the ESC/ESV On-Arrival Training. This week-long webinar was a combination of essential information for all European volunteers in the programme while also providing the opportunity for participants to socialise and meet the fellow volunteers in Denmark. The two trainers made sure that the experience was as enjoyable as possible, presenting all the information in an amusing way and letting us volunteers chat about our projects but also about how we were finding living in a new country. It was a great week in which I got to share insightful information about other projects while also meeting people staying all around Denmark. My volunteering is not just about sitting at the office to learn all things communication in the setting of badminton while trying to make it more accessible to Europe. It also comes with learning about Danish culture and socialising is a huge part of it. COVID-19 has ruined many things and one of them was BEC’s Christmas Party. However, we did not let the many months that have passed since stop us from celebrating and so we held the party on a really hot day of June — as embarrassing as it may sound for a Spaniard admitting to almost having a heat stroke in the Danish summer. I got to have a good time with all my colleagues, playing paddle tennis, having fun talks over drinks and eating a wide variety of typical Danish food. The Olympics are coming Now on to the more serious stuff, there was a lot to be done in the Communication Department this past month.

Apart from the usual tasks, the lack of tournaments did not stop the workflow from filling our daily tasks as there was a lot to prepare. The Olympics are just around the corner, and it has been interesting to see how a department such as ours has to prepare for the biggest sports event in the world. There were many things we expected and so they were easier to manage, but also some setbacks like not being able to gather content while players are at the Olympic Village. This meant we needed to get everything before they got on the plane to Tokyo. All of us in the Communication Department split different countries among each other so it would be easier to organise. This meant that I would be in charge of some of them and therefore would have to face my first video interview, which ended up being with Ireland’s badminton representative at the Olympics, Nhat Nguyen. It was a frightening yet excellent experience from which I got to learn a lot, and I will need to apply all of these to the upcoming interviews. There was another first this month and that would be my first time travelling to cover an event, by myself. However, I was not completely alone. I would be supported by my Communication colleagues from Copenhagen, and also by the BEC staff at the event. It required me to up my multitasking skills because I had to write articles, produce video content for future promo videos, take photographs for social media to be uploaded on the spot, and interview participants and staff. It is an experience I will never forget. I got to meet some great people and learn a lot not just from covering the event itself, but also from everyone I met. I had to learn and deal with inconveniences out of my control — in the shape of slow internet — but it was a satisfactory week overall. I am already looking forward to my next event which will probably include a tournament, something quite different to this one. 43


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Profile for Badminton Europe

Olympic Glory - Badminton Europe Magazine issue 34  

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