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EDITORIAL I am pleased to bring to you the 29th edition of the Badminton Europe Magazine. This is the second magazine to be published in 2018, but I am happy to inform you that we will increase the frequency of the magazine in 2019, where six magazines are planned to be released. I would like to invite all of you to the European Mixed Team Championships which will be played from 13-17 February 2019 in Copenhagen. Here we will see the best eight teams compete for the title which will guarantee high level matches from Day 1. (Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.dk) In this magazine, I would like to highlight the interview with Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva. The Stoeva sisters have had an amazing year and this article pays tribute to them and the results they are currently achieving. One of the biggest sporting events in 2019 will be the European Games in Minsk, Belarus. In this magazine, you will find an article about the Games, which I am certain will be an amazing event in all aspects. I am very pleased that badminton again is included in the European Games, where we can showcase our sport at its very best. The biggest development initiative in the history of Badminton Europe is without doubt the Centre of Excellence, which opened on the September 1st 2017 in Holbæk, Denmark. Kestutis Navickas has been with the Centre from the beginning as one of the coaches and in this magazine, he will enlighten us about what is going on at the Centre of Excellence. Badminton Europe loves badminton. We love big interviews, we love the serious articles, but we also love to smile and that is why you in this edition of the BEC Magazine also will find more “relaxed” content like “10 to watch in 2019”, the “WhatsApp Interview” starring Ronan Labar. And then you also the chance to show your friends that you know more about badminton than they do in our “True or False”. 2018 is coming to an end and before long, the festive season will be upon us. I would like to use this opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a happy 2019. I hope that you all will enjoy this edition of the BEC Magazine.

Brian Agerbak General Secretary Badminton Europe

Imprint: Badminton Europe - Published by Badminton Europe Confederation, Brøndbytoften 14, 2605 Brøndby, Denmark. • Responsible editor: Rasmus Bech Design: Laura Martí Diez • Coverphoto: Badminton Photo • Photos: Mark Phelan, Badminton Photo








34 CentRE of excellence Kestutis navickas


Talent interview freja ravn


40 new service rule


2019 tournament discussion calendar graham hurell big event coming up european games


42 46

whatsapp interview Ronan Labar PAra-Badminton Mary wilson

50 2018 BEC tournaments









16 27 28 20


2 China




CHEN CHOU 3 TIEN 27 Chinese Taipei


4 Denmark







WOmen’s singles





1 3 1 Chinese Taipei







5 Spain

32 Russia



BWF EUROPEAN world rankings

MEN’S doubles






2 1 Indonesia


2 China


3 Japan


6 Denmark







17 Denmark 20 England


21 Russia


WOmen’s doubles






2 1 Japan


2 Japan 3 Japan


9 Bulgaria




11 Denmark


15 Denmark 21 Netherlands


25 France



BWF EUROPEAN world rankings

mixed doubles




17 6



1 China


2 China


3 Indonesia


6 Denmark




9 England


14 England 17 Germany


20 Denmark


Last update: 16th of November 2018 Find the complete world rankings on the BWF website at www.bwfbadminton.com


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Gabriela Stoeva & Stefani Stoeva

Interview: Annika Langrock

For Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva, it has been a successful year on court. The Bulgarian sisters spoke with Badminton Europe about their best moments in 2018, their goals for the rest of the year and how important it is to have each other. 16

NOT DONE YET “ Born in 1994 and 1995, Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva are just separated by one year of age difference from each other. The sisters from Bulgaria maintain a very close relationship, not only on court, also off court. For more than 17 years now, they are playing badminton together. The younger sister, 23-year-old Stefani, was the first one starting to practice badminton and getting her big sister, Gabriela, to play it as well. Today, the Bulgarian Women’s Doubles pair is one of the most successful in the world. This year, Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva were able to win the European Championships in Huelva, the SaarLorLux Open, the YONEX Dutch Open, the Eurasia Bulgarian Open Championships and the Orleans Masters. Furthermore, the pair reached the final at the YONEX French Open and the YONEX Swiss Open, as well as the semi-final at the VICTOR China Open and the quarter-final at the DAIHATSU YONEX Japan Open. Now, Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva are ranked 9th in the world in Women’s Doubles. Badminton Europe spoke with the Women’s Doubles pair about their year and ambitions, and what role badminton plays in the lives of the Bulgarian sisters in general.

Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva, you increased your World Ranking after your great performance at the YONEX French Open and the SaarLorLux Open. How would you summarise your year? Gabriela Stoeva: Our year started very good. We played in the final in Switzerland, we reached the semi-final at the German Open and the round of 16 at the All England Open. The best result that we have achieved in the first half of the year, was the European Championships title in Women’s Doubles. This was our goal, after losing to Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen in the final in Kolding last year. Stefani Stoeva: If we look back to the second half of the year, we can see that we achieved amazing results such as reaching the semi-final in China, at a BWF World Tour 1000 tournament, and being the runner-up in Paris, at a BWF World Tour 750 tournament. All in all, it has been an amazing year for us so far, and we will not stop there.

What are your goals for the rest of the year? Gabriela Stoeva: Even though this year has been incredible for us already, our job is not done yet. The HSBC BWF World Tour Finals are coming up and we want to see our names on the list. What have been your goals for this year, and were you able to fulfil these so far? Stefani Stoeva: Our goals for this year consisted of winning a European title, being world-ranked back in the Top 10, reaching finals at BWF World Tour events and qualifying for the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals. Until now, we could achieve three of our goals, one is still missing, but we know what we need to do to also achieve the last goal.




What was the most memorable moment for you two in 2018? Gabriela Stoeva: The most memorable moment for me, was at the European Championships in Spain. We were at the top of the podium and were singing the National Anthem of Bulgaria. Stefani Stoeva: My most memorable moment this year, was the tournament of the YONEX French Open. Seeing so many people supporting us the whole week, such as our family and owners of our club in Paris, was an amazing feeling. We will remember this forever. This year both of you competed in more than 13 tournaments together. Participating in so many tournaments and playing so many matches must be tough. Wherefrom do you take the energy for playing at these events, and also, to play so successful? Gabriela Stoeva: We are lucky to return home after tournaments and our dog is there, waiting for us. That gives us the energy that we need. Being at home has always a positive impact on us, we try not to think about badminton all the time. For now, it is working, we can see the good results.


How does your training program look like? Stefani Stoeva: After achieving such positive results, our program will change for sure, it will become more tough for us. But we need to train hard, otherwise we cannot maintain our performance. We go to the gym and train badminton on court every day. In summer, we did a lot of physical training because the Women’s Doubles is not an easy category. When we are off court, we like to go to the cinema or shopping, and sometimes we also need to be lazy at home (laughs). Gabriela, you started to play badminton in 2004. How has the sport of badminton influenced you since then? Gabriela Stoeva: The sport has changed me a lot. It has taught me how good discipline looks like and how to work as a team player. It has taught me to forget my ego and to talk with my partner about our problems on court and how we can improve. I never liked running, it is not my strength. That is a challenge for me, but for the team I train extra hard and always give my best. Stefani, you are the younger sister, but you were the one getting Gabriela to play badminton with you.

What does badminton mean for you? Stefani Stoeva: It means a lot to me. I consider badminton as our job, we take it very seriously and of course, we love to play it. The sport is very important for us and we are glad, when we can encourage young people to practice it as well. The two of you must get along very well with each other, if you spend so much time with your sister. How do you feel about being together on court and in life all the time? Gabriela Stoeva: We never have serious thoughts about the future, but we always make fun and say that, at some point, we will buy a big house and we will live together with our families and dogs, because we are so used to being together all the time, that we can hardly seperate from each other (both laughing). As sisters, you share a lot of life experience together. What has made you move to Paris, and how is it to live in France and not be at home in Bulgaria?

Stefani Stoeva: Actually, this was an unexpec ted but one of the best decisions in our lives so far. We are very thankful to our coach Miki, to IMBC92 and to Momo and Fred for always supporting us and standing by our side, when we have a tough time. Living in Paris is good, we are getting used to the way of living there, and we enjoy it a lot. Playing badminton for more than 17 years now, you must have some inspiration from other players. Who are your idols? Gabriela Stoeva: My biggest idol is Zhao Yunlei. I always enjoy watching her on court, the way she fights during her matches inspires me a lot. Stefani Stoeva: I really enjoy watching Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen playing. Their fight and team spirit is amazing, they always work together.















e are over halfway through the Olympic cycle and heads have already turned to Tokyo Over the last year, spectators have enjoyed some thrilling finals, with new names and fre As the 2018 season comes to a close, we reflect on the top 10 badminton players to lo


The relatively new pairing has emerged onto the senior circuit scene with semi-finalist appearances already! The pair both enjoyed success in both Mixed and level Doubles, which was demonstrated in their performance at the Belgian International – defeating established pairs along the way. - I am happy that I could make the step to play in the senior circuit now…. together with my recent new partner Ruben Jille, I think we already have shown some good level!” – Imke van der Aar.



The talented Scotsman enjoyed an impressive run of three titles in 2018, after travelling in Europe in pursuit of qualifying for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games! - I am hoping in 2019 I can start winning some bigger tournaments such as IC’s and Super 300’s, plus I will be playing a bit more Mixed Doubles this year, so I am excited to see how that goes!


Having shown consistency in the world rankings throughout 2018 and bringing determination on to the court against other several older and more experienced players, we are confident that the young Dane still will continue to disrupt the world’s badminton scene.



An impressive run at this year’s European Championships (semi-finalist), a quarter-finalist at the v All England and final appearances in Orleans and Barcelona Masters – there is plenty of momentum to take through to 2019 for Mia Blichfeldt. -It has been a hard but a very instructive year. Mentally, I have improved a lot to myself and I found a good drive and my motivation is high for 2019.


FRANCE – MS – WR 186

Having recently wowed the crowds after winning the Men’s Singles event at the European Junior Championships and putting in a sterling effort against the legend, Lin Dan in the Total BWF Thomas and Uber Cup finals, amongst many other results, we are incredibly excited to watch this youngster soar up the rankings.


- Winning the 2018 European Junior Championships gives me a lot of confidence to push myself to do more. I want to take Gold at the Youth Olympic Games! Then I will go to World Junior Championships and then, I will be senior...I hope to be in top 100 in the world soon.

TCH IN 2019

Written by Tom Leonard

2020 – less than two years to go! esh talent emerging from across the globe, particularly in Europe. ook out for in 2019:

Ben Lane and Jessica Pugh ENGLAND – XD – WR 33

The young pairing was part of the national team that took bronze at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and have shown significant progress ever since! At only 21 years old, they reached a world ranking of 21 – future Adcock’s in the making? - We had some good results last season, reaching our first Super 500 quarter final and then winning Italy. – Jessica Pugh - A massive thing for us this year was reaching a career high of 21 - especially with how strong mixed is at the moment! We are extremely excited to see what the next year has to offer and are prepared to work very hard, Ben Lane said.


FRANCE – XD/MD – WR 52/72

The 19-year old Frenchman has not gone unnoticed in 2018, surging up the world rankings from 167 to 71 in the Men’s Doubles since March, and at high of 54 in the Mixed Doubles with Delphine Delrue. Gicquel and Delrue kickstarted the year by winning at the Swedish Open and the 19th Victor Dutch International and they are not showing signs of slowing down.


ENGLAND – XD/WD – WR 14/66 Alongside Marcus Ellis in the Mixed, the pair has been semi-finalist at the European Championships and runners-up at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Followed by a win in Canada and finalists in Switzerland and Barcelona and a win in Dutch Open and SaarLorLux Open – it’s been a very busy year. -I never would have foreseen 2018 going how it has… I’m sure 2019 will be extremely busy with such a full tournament calendar but I am looking forward to new more challenges and hopefully, some good results!

Rasmus gemke

DENMARK – MS – WR 20 Only one place behind fellow compatriot Anders Antonsen, the Danish player has also been challenging some of the world’s most established players on the biggest stages in badminton. Combined with a win at the Barcelona Spain Masters in September, Gemke’s increased experience will come in very useful in 2019.


HUNGARY – WS - 270

It has been a whirlwind of a year for the 18-year-old Hungarian – across all three disciplines. However, with standout performances in the Women’s Singles, Madarasz reached the final at the Hungarian, Hellas and Valamar Junior Internationals, therefore it was no surprise to see her storm through the European Junior Championships rounds, before narrowly losing in the semi-finals. The Hungarian may be laying low for now, but we look forward to big things in 2019. *World ranking taken from current BWF official list on 16/11/2018




Coach AT THE CEntRE oF excellence


adminton Europe Confederation (BEC) Centre of Excellence (COE) Coach, Kestutis Navickas, has been in the coaching team at the COE for over one year now, and has fulfilled several aims during the first twelve months. Text: Aidan Jones The former Lithuanian international joined BEC to take up his first coaching role in badminton, after putting the racket down to end his playing career.

- When I got offered this job, I felt that I had enough experience from different places in Europe and in Asia to put into this role that I have.

Navickas picked up several honours during his playing career, a Bronze medal at the 2015 European Games in Baku was just one of them.

The 34-year-old spoke about his passion and pure enjoyment for the role that he has at the COE and he feels that he has learnt a lot in a short space of time.

The former Bulgaria International winner believes that his first year was a successful one, but he does not want to stop there. - It has been an intense year, at the same time I feel that the center has improved a lot since that time. - We have been challenged in many ways to set up the system and I feel that we are in a good point to gear up at this moment, to up our performance.


The players at Badminton Europe are very close to the coaches that train them both on court and in everyday life, according to the coach. Navickas also spoke about teaching the players professionalism and discipline being very important for not just their career but for life lessons. - I feel that the coaches here have a big influence on the players. We are with them a lot of the time, not only on the court, but off it as well.

We guide them with professionalism, discipline in sport but also in life. How to prepare for the practice and how to prepare for a tournament. - I really like the high performance, the professionalism and the discipline. I liked that when I was a player and I still like that now. - When I first started, it was difficult to know how I felt about it, but the more I coach and get involved the more secure and interested I feel in the role. - I feel that I am gaining the experience and I have improved a lot both as a coach and my personality during the last year. The coach also spoke about the pride that both him and the other coaching staff feel, when one of the COE players get a good victory in a match. The personalities of the players and staff ignites a strong connection and Navickas believes that when the players do well, the coaching staff also feel like they have won. - Me and the other coaches strongly support the players and have a strong connection with the them. - It feels like their wins are our wins. Despite loving the job that he did, the Lithuanian shares some of the difficult tasks that he had to deal with during his first year. The Centre currently has 18 players with the ambitions being to get around 20 training in HolbĂŚk over time.


Navickas also believes that coaches must improve constantly. - It is a never-ending process when you are a coach, you are constantly having to try to improve because there are so many different angles where you can do better. - There has been a lot of learning but at the same time, that is a very good platform to implement my beliefs, my discipline and my professionalism and improve as a coach.

New CentRE The Badminton Europe Centre of Excellence is based in HolbĂŚk and practice is in a gymnasium which is shared amongst other groups. The team will move to a new centre in January 2019 and will share it with other badminton clubs but one thing: it will allow is more time on the practice courts. The coach believes that this is nothing but good news for the rise of European badminton.

- High performance is quite difficult to manage. We have several players here full-time, but then we have players who come in on a week by week basis.

- This project is to improve the whole level of badminton in Europe, so it is about the limits where you want to go. We have no limits. - We are trying our best and we are curious about how high we can go.

- So, we are always having a big group of players, which requires good management. It is a challenge every day.

- We will have better facilities for coaching, a gym for badminton. We are going to have our own hall and we will feel like home there, it means a lot to us.

- I am challenged every day from different angles as a coach, and as a person. Being a coach in high performance, you need those skills in one, but you can always improve.

- I hope that the new center will help us attract better players to the COE. We are sending a clear message to the whole world that we want the very best to come and practice with us.


Bright future



“The pressure helps me”

Interview: Annika Langrock

FREJA RAVN is 18 years old and one of the rising stars from

Denmark. She spoke with Badminton Europe about her year, her goals for the future and the pressure that she has to deal with. Freja Ravn is one of the biggest Danish badminton talents at the moment. 2018 was a successful year for the Women’s Doubles, Singles and Mixed player so far. Especially the partnership with her Women’s Doubles partner, Amalie Magelund, has been a success. They reached the final at the Dutch International, the Bulgarian Junior International Championships, the Eurasia Bulgarian International Championships, the Danish Junior Cup and the European Junior Championships in Tallinn. And of course, the participation at the World Junior Championships was one of the big highlights of the year for the young talents. After achieving all these successes, Freja Ravn and Amalie Magelund were able to increase their ranking in Women’s Doubles. The pair is now ranked 61st in the world and 12th in BEC Elite Circuit. Another highlight of 2018 for the Danish Women’s Double pair were the Denmark Open, even tough, they lost in the first round of the tournament against the worldranked number six, Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto from Japan. In the interview, Freja Ravn talks about her expectations of 2018, her relationship with Amalie Magelund and the feeling of pressure as a rising badminton star in Women’s Doubles.


Freja, you are 18 years old and quite experienced in badminton. This year, you successfully participated in a lot of tournaments. How would you summarise your year, so far? This year has been a good one for me. I am happy with what I have achieved so far. I participated in many tournaments and I did not have time to get bored, that is for sure. You are one of Denmark’s biggest talents at the moment, you achieved a lot of successes this year. Do you feel pressured sometimes? Yes, there is a lot of pressure on my shoulders - not only externally, but especially from myself. I want to improve constantly and am not satisfied, when I do not feel or see any progress. But I believe that this pressure helps me to improve my way of playing badminton.

You participated in two BWF World Tour tournaments this year, the Dutch and the Denmark Open. What did you expect from these tournaments? My expectations before these two tournaments consisted of playing the best I can. I knew that my opponents are top players, so it would be a difficult task for me to beat them. But I hoped to play some good matches anyway. I mean it is always fun to play tournaments at such a high level. So, I just wanted to go on court, enjoy it and hoped for the best. You reached six finals in Women’s Doubles this year and you played against the Stoeva sisters in the final of the Eurasia Bulgarian International Championships. What kind of experience was this for you? It was a good experience to play against them. Amalie and I played a good match, and we learned a lot from this. For instance, we know now, what skills you actually need to have to play against such a high ranked pair, so that you are able to beat them.

Right now, you are best ranked in Women’s Doubles. What are your plans for the future? I hope to develop my game style and to get a higher ranking. I primarily play in Women’s Doubles, but I also enjoy playing and practicing Women’s Singles. How is it going with Amalie? Amalie and I have been a pair since almost the beginning of my badminton career. She has meant a lot to me and still does. We share many good memories. When you spend so many hours with badminton, it is important to have a friend that you feel comfortable with. And besides badminton, we also study together, we are in the same class in high school. So, we spend a lot of hours together. What are your long-term goals? I have several long-term goals. In a few years, I want to participate in the World and European Championships. My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games. 37



THE BEST SERVERS IN EUROPE Graham Hurell - National Pathway Coach Badminton England Text: Mark Males


adminton Europe caught up with Graham Hurrell at the Bulgarian Open last month to have a discussion about all things serving. Naturally, we spoke about the best servers in Europe, the different techniques for each of the different disciplines, and the new service rules and how they may affect the game in the future.

National Pathway Coach at Badminton England Hurrell, is the National Pathway Coach for Badminton England, and he is always found behind the English players at every tournament. Not only does he coach the English senior players, he also travels with the juniors, so he spends many weeks a year on the road away from home. He sees first-hand the best in the world.

Service rule change causing concern

We started by talking about the new service rule. - We had a coach meeting at the World Championships in Beijing about the new serving law. There are concerns about the drive serve which has been used by some of the top Asian nations who use it on crucial points at the end of a match, when they chop in two or three drive serves and it changes the game. From the spectator’s point of view, it is not a great finish to a match, like an ace in tennis. It is one shot and that is it, shaking hands and finish. We feel it is a pity to end a game like that because it could have been a very close match, lots of long rallies and then just at the end, bang! All these drive serves coming in. - We have done some practice a technical and mental point ing we were discussing going the shaft pointing downwards could eliminate that drive that it needs more analysis, players could still execute this rule is certainly easier for a is just the height to look for, we are also looking at the - Some players like it, some much affected some of the Mads Pieler Kolding and Mads Denmark are good examples. Koldeffective and other days he struggles players, but they have adapted really

to counter this, from both of view, but at the meetback to the old rule of because it potentially serve. We decided because the shorter drive serve. The new service judge when it but we risk problems if shaft pointing down do not, and it has very taller guys. I would say Conrad-Petersen from ing’s serve is some days very a bit. It is very hard for these well, putting in hours of work.

- The new rule is particularly difficult for singles players, because they have the back tramlines to defend as well. However, I think that at the very top level, the new service rule will not have a huge impact.

PEDERSEN IS THE BEST - For me, the best server in the world today is Christinna Pedersen. She is just playing Mixed at the moment, with Kamilla Rytter Juhl retired; I would put her as my number one. It is not a unique technique but she holds it for quite some time, it gets her opponent off balance. You can count on her with consistency and for getting points from that play. It is one of those things, where you can tell she has worked on it and mastered it.


- In the Men’s game, the best server is Mathias Christiansen. He has probably one of the best variations of low serve but it is also the third shot that he can play because of his serve. Similarly, Mathias Boe in Men’s Doubles has an incredible serve, always looking to take advantage in the third shot. - One of the most deceptive flick serves in the game comes from England’s Sean Vendy. His serve is similar to Carsten Mogensen. They both get a lot of points in matches from their flick serve.

Vendy’s low serve is a similar technique to Kevin Sukamuljo from Indonesia who cuffs the shuttle and makes it spin. Again, mastered by hours and hours of practice. - In Mixed, the Germans are very strong. They have Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Herttrich, and Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler. They all have very tight serves, Lamsfuss in particular tends to stand closer to the line to serve, which is quite interesting because it seems like he is exposing the back. But because his serve is very tight, it is difficult to actually get past him for the first few shots.

Stoeva sisters serving strong - With Pedersen and Juhl not playing, the best servers in Women’s Doubles are now probably Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva. Their style is very open and defensive - they are quite happy to flick serve, start with the defensive approach and then work their opponents and try and use their physicality to win their matches. Always, their serve is used to set up the third shot in the rally. - Lauren Smith is one of the steadier servers in Europe. Not particularly deceptive or disguised but you know you can rely on her delivering a very good serve all the time under pressure. Again, that is Mixed or Ladies’ Doubles. She has got a decent flick, I would not say it is particularly deceptive but again, it is solid and you just rely on her to not make mistakes, she has been ranked recently in the top 10 in the world, so she must be serving well.

- Marin, Intanon and Tai Tzu Ying are very petite small players but it is their speed, strength and technique on the overhead shot makes their opponents think twice about doing a high serve. There are still a few high servers but they are becoming less and less frequent in the ladies’ singles game.

Graham Hurell’s TOP SERVERS Overall Best Server Christinna Pedersen


Mathias Boe & Carsten Mogensen


Gabriela Stoeva & Stefani Stoeva

Axelsen rules the Men’s Singles - In Men’s Singles, it is becoming more important to start the rally with the initiative. So serving and returning has definitely changed over the last three-five years where players are standing post to post to receive because players are so much faster and able to get to the flick serve. It is all about putting pressure in the front of the court and controlling it to get the initiative, get the attack and win the rally. This is one of the reasons Viktor Axelsen has been so successful and is one of the best servers in the game today. Even when receiving, he puts pressure on a low serve, and has the physicality and height to move back to attack a high serve.

Marin has the initiative - Women’s Singles is getting much more physical, and their game is changing quickly. A lot of the players now have an extremely good attack, very strong smashing, and very fast behind the smash to actually follow up and continue to put pressure on. - Carolina Marin’s attack is so dangerous that her opponents do not want to give her the initiative - so they will not flick serve her often. They will try and serve low with just a few flicks to try and stop her dictating. The female game is following the Men’s game, it is just a couple of years behind. The best female players are very mobile, so their speed applies pressure and that is where they win points.

MIXED DOUBLES Christinna Pedersen & Mathias Christiansen

MEN’S SINGLES Viktor Axelsen

WoMEN’S SINGLES Carolina Marin





“Players are part of something bigger than just their sport� Interview: Annika Langrock

The second edition of the European Games gets underway from 21-30 June 2019 in Minsk, Belarus. Jimmy Andersen, Senior Manager at Badminton Europe and technical delegate at the European Games, talks about the value of the multi-sport event and how important it is for badminton and its top players to participate in it.


round 4000 athletes are going to compete in 15 different sports at the European Games, that will get underway in June 2019. The inaugural event was hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2015. Next year, the multi-sport event will take place in the capital of Belarus, Minsk. Next to badminton, competitions in athletics, archery, 3x3 basketball, beach soccer, boxing, canoe sprint, cycling, gymnastics, judo, karate, sambo, shooting, table tennis and wrestling will take place. In ten of these sports, athletes are given the possibility to collect valuable ranking points for the qualifications for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Jimmy, after experiencing the first European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, how important is this event for European badminton? The tournament is the most important for badminton in Europe in the calendar of 2019. It is hosted instead of the European Championships, which will not be organised next year. The European Games carry a high value of world ranking points inside the Olympic Games qualification. Without the Asian competition, the European Games are very valuable for European badminton players. How attractive is the tournament for top players? Given the fact that the best European players are playing at the European Championships,


I do not see any reason why they should not participate in the European Games. Of course, there are countries that can send more players to a European Championship than to the European Games. But I am sure that countries such as Denmark, Germany, England or Russia send their best players to this multi-sport event. For players like Carolina Marin, one of our biggest stars from Spain, it is important to collect valuable world ranking points for the qualification and seeding for Tokyo 2020. Therefore, the European Games are the right platform for her to do so. At the European Games 15 different sports are coming together that normally do not come together, not even at the Olympic Games. What do you expect from this event next year?

We often hear players being asked: ‘What do you want to achieve in your career?’, and they answer: ‘I want to qualify for the Olympic Games’. So, they do not necessarily have the goal of performing at the Olympic Games but to qualify for it. Participating in the European Games gives the players the experience of being part of a multi-sport event.

But there is an intense atmosphere: it is all about sport; and this is the same in Minsk, in Baku or at the Olympic Games.

They are not just playing at the event for a couple of days such as at a regular tournament, but for two weeks. They are living in a small camp, they meet big stars from other sports. I spoke with players in Baku in 2015, and they said that it is a valuable experience for them to be at a multi-sport event. So, it is a very special tournament, also compared to the European Championships. It is also a valuable experience for the players regarding the training sessions, they can gain performance experience to prepare for Tokyo.

We saw it in Rio de Janeiro: Maria Ulitina from Ukraine won against Saina Nehwal, the favourite from India. Maybe at a European tournament or a Super Series, Nehwal would have fulfilled the expectations to win, but because the match took place in an Olympic atmosphere, Ulitina was able to win. The atmosphere at a multi-sport event can have a big mental impact on the players, positive as well as negative.

Most of the sports that are part of the European Games are minor sports. Are those able to attract more attention by being seen in Minsk next year? There is no doubt that being on TV and recognised by the media is an advantage for minor sports, if they are being part of a big sport event, such as the European Games. Badminton is definitely one of the bigger sports that is represented in Minsk. So, we will have our TV time in many European countries for sure. But even though we are one of the bigger sports at the European Games, we can still gain from it, especially on how we are being perceived. So, we have a big obligation on how we present our sport, our game and the set-up in the venue, how we make sure that the TV production is done well-enough and how we are treating our VIPs inside the venue. Our venue in Minsk is located at the same place as the EOC family, meaning that all the responsible people from the International Olympic Committee and European Olympic Committee are staying in our sports hall. So, we need to make a good presentation about the sport of badminton. Next to badminton, what value does the event have related to European sport in general? It is always interesting to see a multi-sport event. I think that not many people are interested in all 15 sports in the same way. Maybe they are interested in four or five of them, and that are the sports they want to see.

For the players, it is a special experience to be part of something bigger than just their sport. This is also why underdogs have chances at these events, as they are extremely motivated.

Looking back to the European Games in Baku, what can the organisers in 2019 do better than in 2015? A country like Belarus has a different infrastructure than Azerbaijan. Compared to Baku, Minsk does not have as much capital to buy things externally to import them. But therefore, Belarus is using its own capacities, and that is where we have an obligation and the wish to assist the organisers to do the best possible. When you talk about assisting with the origination of the European Games, what role does Badminton Europe play at the event? We have the overall responsibility as a European federation to control the delivery of the badminton competition. I am in close contact with the organisers at a daily basis, as I am selected as technical delegate. So, I am working together with the local organising committee of badminton. I make sure that all the premises and facility regulations are followed by international standards and that we have the right equipment, such as shuttles and officials. That is a big and important task, but the strength of badminton is that we do not use such a position politically; we use it professionally to make sure that the cooperation between the European Olympic Committee, the organisers in Minsk and the European Confederation is a Joint Cooperation.


December 2012 was D-Day for me. I was medically discharged from the army after 20 years of service as a psychiatric nurse, having completed several Operational tours which included Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and the most recent, Afghanistan, where I was in charge of the Field Mental Health Team in Camp Bastion. I have seen and done much in my military career, including being permanent nursing staff in Belize to support the regiments who were training in jungle warfare, and flying in by helicopter to casevac them out when they were very sick or had been shot by accident during the training. However, I did not expect in 2004 to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).





I had my appointment with the specialist for the test results and he just said “Yes, you have MS” and that was it. I managed to keep as fit as possible, but the military law changed in 2012 and I had to leave. My world fell apart for a couple of months, especially when I was a student nurse. All I had ever seen of people with MS were people so severely affected by the disease they were bed ridden, needed full nursing care and were just waiting to die. I decided within 48 hours that this was not going to be me. I was not that person and started training and running 10k races. It was almost like a “bring it on” scenario. In 2013, I got an email asking if I was interested in being part of a Great Britain exhibition disability team to go to the USA and compete against the American military in a competition called the Warrior Games. This included competing against their Army, Navy, Coastguard, Marine Corps and Special Forces. It was a life changer for me. I had never experienced such comradeship, while watching colleagues from both America and Great Britain who had lost limbs, sometimes three, competing against each other in many different sports.

I also watched the shot put and discus and thought, “I could do that”. When I got home, I bought a shot and discus and started practicing in my Dad’s back garden. At first, I was rubbish, but through pure determination and watching YouTube videos I taught myself how to throw properly. I knew I was getting better as the plant pots at the end of my dad’s garden started getting annihilated!

I was then invited to the Trials for the inaugural Invictus Games in London 2014. That is where I met Prince Harry and Prince William for the first time. He was very interested and engaging about why I wanted to be part of this event. After a very tough competition on a number of trial days throughout the following months, I was delighted to be selected for the GB Team. There were 12 sports and I was nominated as the only female captain in the sport of Field Athletics. I had also been selected for the swimming team. Prince Harry was inspirational in changing the lives of many physically and psychologically injured military throughout the world. I competed in the Olympic swimming pool in London and won a gold and three bronze medals. I also won 2 bronze medals in the field athletics. Prince Harry was there, and he managed to “escape” the press and come down to the holding area before one of my swimming races. He hid behind a pillar with a big grin on his face and said, “go Mary, you can smash it” and I did.

A few of the Team were invited to the Pride of Britain Awards where we were treated like royals, met many celebrities and were presented with an award. A few of us were also invited to Sports Personality of the Year Awards, where we met many sports idols and were awarded the Helen Rollanson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Face of Adversity. The year 2016 was a magical year for me in a sporting context, but my father became very ill and died.

I found I lost enthusiasm and motivation for training and it was a difficult time for me to “get back on the horse again”, but I did gradually. I tried again the following year to be selected for the Games, but it was not to be. I was devastated at not being selected and hit an all time low. Eventually, I found the motivation and belief in myself and channelled my energy and determination towards the shot and discus, becoming World Champion in my category of F36. At this point in my life, I was sports-focused and doing very well in different swimming, field athletic and lawn bowls competitions. I was invited to the House of Lords for a champagne reception, as I had been short listed for the Soldiering on Award for Sporting Excellence, and then to a black-tie event in London where, to my amazement, I won the award. It was then that badminton came into my life once more. I used to get “dragged” to the sports hall along with my brother by my parents every week and play doubles. I loved it, and years later I managed to win three bronze medals in the Youth Junior Olympics in 1979.

“I started training and running 10k races. It was almost like a “bring it on” scenario.”

I hadn’t really played badminton for over 37 years, until I thought I would try out my local Lothian Disability Badminton Club. It was great and three weeks later, I was taking part in the Scottish 4 nations tournament, winning gold in the singles and bronze in the mixed. Four months later, I was selected to be part of the Scottish Squad and took part in my first international in Spain where I won 3 bronze medals. Over the past 15 months, I have competed in eleven international Para-Badminton tournaments, including Japan, South Korea World Championships and Uganda and medalled in ten of them. Unfortunately, my diagnosis was changed at the beginning of this year from Relapsing Remitting MS to Secondary Progressive. This basically means that I am very gradually deteriorating in some of my daily life functions. However, I live every day to the best of my ability and always give everything my best effort. As Heather Small from the band M People sang “what have you done today to make you feel proud”, I always try and do at least one thing to say “Yes, I did that today and it made me feel proud”. Over the last six months, the standard of Para-Badminton at international tournaments has increased dramatically. This could be down to the thought of the possibility of being selected for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. I am sure things will continue to change, but I hope that the comradeship I experience from other competitors who come from all over the world never changes and more and more people take part in this wonderful sport. 47










COPENHAGEN DENMARK FEBRUARY 13 - 17 2019 ticketmaster.dk 54

Profile for Badminton Europe

Badminton Europe Magazine Issue 28 / November 2018  

Read the latest Badminton Europe (BEC) magazine. Issue 28 / November , 2018. Do you want to read other BEC Magazines? Here they are: https:...

Badminton Europe Magazine Issue 28 / November 2018  

Read the latest Badminton Europe (BEC) magazine. Issue 28 / November , 2018. Do you want to read other BEC Magazines? Here they are: https:...