Badminton Europe issue 32/European Men's and Women's Team Championships

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GREAT TO BE BACK IN FRANCE! Dear badminton fans – dear friends, I am very happy to welcome you to the 2020 European Men’s & Women’s Team Championships and the 2020 European U15 Championships in Liévin. It is great to be back in France and it is fantastic to see so many teams participating in the #EMWTC20 and to follow the talents at the U15 Championships. It is an interesting time for European badminton – not only in Europe but also in the global perspective. The Olympic and the Paralympic qualifications are closely coming to an end, and some very interesting championships, tournaments, and matches await in the near future. The teams and the individual players have to perform on their absolute top level, and as a badminton fan I am excited that we will benefit from that here in Liévin. I am sure we will see surprises, the biggest stars at their absolute best and also some new names popping up this week. After each Olympic Games it is normal to see players considering if it is time to call it a day. Therefore, I will strongly encourage you to enjoy this tournament just a little more than you normally do. It might be one of the last times some of the big names play right in front of you, here in France. When the experienced players retire new talents blossom and take their place. I am sure that some of the younger players will present themselves in the best possible way during these Championships. I have been impressed with the strength of the upcoming French players, where especially Christo Popov has shown great potential. French badminton is turning into a powerhouse when it comes to European junior badminton and hopefully that will also show in this kind of competitions in the near future and maybe already here in Liéven. In this magazine you will get the best possible overview of the #EMWTC20, you will meet some of the local stars, and we will also take you for a trip down memory lane meeting one of our coaches at Centre of Excellence, who won the European Women’s Team Championships back in 2006. Last time the European Championships took place in France was in 2016, and it was a great event – four years later we are back‚ and I am sure it will be an amazing week. Enjoy the reading!

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 • Journalists: Alan Raftery, Emilie Sommer•Coverphoto: Badminton Photo •Photos: Badminton Photo & Badminton Europe


EMWTC Participating teams

EMWTC Schedule overview

EMWTC Team presentations

EMWTC The host is here to win







EMWTC 2006 Judith Meulendijks


TOKYO 2020 Russian Road to the Olympics


THE QUEEN IS BACK Carolina Marín


TOKYO 2020 Paralympics coming up














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Written by: Alan Raftery

The ninth edition of the European Men’s & Women’s Team Championships is being held in the town of Liévin, an old mining area of Pas-de-Calais. France, the host of the event, has made their presence felt in recent years on the European stage – and the host is here to win.

Two players who have played a vital role in these recent successes, are the women’s doubles players Léa Palermo and Delphine Delrue. Being the host nation can often be special and inspire a big performance in players who proudly wear their country’s colours.

In the last two renewals of the European Junior Championships, France has won more medals than any other nation and were victorious in the team event on both occasions. This bodes well for the future and looking ahead to the Paris 2024 Olympics. However, the impact is felt at the senior level as well. At the 2019 European Games in Minsk, France claimed three medals, a silver in men’s singles, and two bronzes in the women’s and mixed doubles.

- Of course, it means a lot to us. I feel like it is a privilege for our team to try and show our best badminton in front of our home crowd. We will for sure want to do well at home because we want to prove to our supporters that we are not just part of this European Team Championships, but we also want to perform and write ourselves into sporting history, Palermo stated.


H E RE TO W IN - We have an opportunity to show our own crowd that we are one of the best countries in Europe and we are really excited to play, Delrue added.

- This moment was very powerful for the whole team, winning the gold at home. But according to me, being the host or not, the French squad is becoming harder to beat in team events, she added.

France has had great success hosting a team event in 2017, at the European Junior Mixed Team Champion- Players often say team events have a very different enships in Mulhouse, France. Taking inspiration from this, ergy to the individual tournaments they play week in Palermo said to Badminton Europe. week out.

“The best memories�

- Personally, I really enjoy the team events like this one. We have an excellent group and we like to support and fight for each other, Delrue said. - I think these moments are probably part of the best memories we can remember as players on a badminton 21



court. It motivates you to do your absolute best to make your country win. There is, of course, a particular pressure to play in this context but we enjoy and share this with each member of the team, Palermo explained. The French men’s team has managed to pick up silver and bronze medals at the past two European Team Championships. The women are yet to medal at these championships. At the championships in Kazan back in 2018, they reached the quarterfinals, falling 3-0 to a strong German team who went on to win the silver medal. Palermo and Delphine were fourth in the match schedule, so they did not have the chance to play. - It is always tough not to have the opportunity to express yourself on the court, especially when you feel you had the chance to do something good for the team. Beside this, our team has improved since Kazan, and it can change a lot of things about our chances to get a good medal here in Liévin, Palermo said.

“It won’t be an easy task for our opponents” The French team has indeed strengthened over the past few years. However, they will be missing women’s doubles ace, Émilie Lefel, who is recovering from a severe Achilles injury, and helped with the draw ceremony for these championships. Commenting on the make-up of the French team, Palermo said. - Of course, we will profoundly miss Emilie in the women’s doubles, but Qi Xuefei’s arrival in the team will definitely help us too. We have a strong team, and I am 100 per cent sure each match will not be an easy task for our opponents, whoever it will be. Looking at the recent results for Palermo and Delrue, there is certainly a reason to be optimistic. A major highlight is the final appearance at the Irish Open. - I think that we played a lot of good matches in doubles this year, but we missed some critical wins against good opponents to have more confidence in ourselves. We can play at a high level sometimes, but we have to keep this level in all matches, Delrue said. 24

“We are aiming to bring a historic Olympic qualification home” Lastly, we look ahead towards the summer and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It goes without saying that for all badminton players, it is a dream to play at the Olympics. We ask Palermo and Delrue what they need to do to get themselves there. - It is a long process and hard work even if we are still in an Olympic qualification context, we have to be patient, positive and keep this healthy state of mind that will let us aim higher and higher in the near future. We are aiming to bring a historic Olympic qualification home in the women’s doubles category. To make it, we will have to be decisive in the first few months in 2020, in Asia and Europe. This will, of course, maintain our qualification chances high.


These are th


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do you remember 2006?

Flashback with Judith Meulendijks just an incredible feeling!

Written by: Alan Raftery

Let’s go back in time to a significant moment in badminton history, the golden era of Dutch ladies. The first stop on this journey is Guangzhou, China, for the 2002 Uber Cup. It was a successful group stage for the Netherlands, where they achieved a clean sweep of 3-2 victories against the formidable opponents of Denmark, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Then facing a strong Korea team in the semifinal, resulting in another 3-2 result, but this time not in favour of the ladies in orange. Although, this bronze medal on the world stage was perhaps the early indication that this generation of players for the Netherlands may be a bit special. Judith Meulendijks, a pivotal member of the Dutch team, stood on the podium in 2002. -We came there as a team, and we knew we had good players, but medals, of course, were not won yet.

So, to take a bronze medal for the first time for us was a big success. At that stage, the Netherlands team was known for their team spirit. I think that it lifted us all the way to the semifinals. To lose out of course is a shame and you want to be in a final, but I think we were all so happy with the bronze medal. In the 2004 Uber Cup, the Netherlands made it to the quarterfinals, meeting Denmark in a rematch from the 2002 group stage match. Once again it was another tight 3-2 match, this time going the way of the Danes. Although missing out on a medal this time, the Dutch team were growing in confidence.

“We knew we had a good chance to win it” 29

Fast-forwarding to 2006, the European Men’s and Women’s Team Badminton Championships were launched by Badminton Europe to complement the European Mixed Team Championships held since 1972. The location for this iconic occasion was the ‘Palais des Sports’ in Thessaloniki, Greece. The historic former multi-ethnic metropolis was a perfect setting for the sporting battle between nations on the way to European glory. Not only do badminton’s origins date back at least 2,000 years to a game played in Ancient Greece, but ‘Thessaloniki’ derives part of its name from ‘Nike’, the ancient Greek goddess of victory. With the Netherlands collecting silver and bronze medals at the European Mixed Team Championships, and the ladies a bronze at the Uber Cup all eyes were on the Dutch.

this brilliant match come to its climax. They had dispatched the number one seeds Denmark 3-0 in a surprising, yet impressively efficient performance. Asking Meulendijks if she had one eye on what was happening on the other court, she said: - Of course, you get a glimpse of what is happening on the other court beside you. But we were so into it and really wanted to beat Germany that we were so focused on the match. It was only after we had done it that we then saw the result from the other court, which was a surprise result, but England had a solid team at that time as well. So, we knew before that if we won the semifinal, the final would be difficult anyway.

“I remember this moment well. It was really awesome as it was the biggest success we ever had”

-Well, we always knew that there were three or four competitive teams. So, it depends very much on how we set up our team tactically. We knew we had the quality, but still, we need to perform on the day, and some nerves will kick in because we knew we have a good The final couldn’t have got off to a better start. Yao Jie chance to win it. and Mia Audina Tjiptawan both won the opening two singles matches in straight games. It came to Judith MeuDespite their strong form coming into the championships, lendijks, who had the opportunity to seal the championthe Netherlands came in as third seeds. Not being the ship gold for her country. Commenting on this moment, focus as expected winners may have eased the pressure she explained. on the squad of players with lots of potential. Another strong asset of the Dutch team was the versatility of -Yes, it is always special when you play team events. many of the players, being able to rotate between sin- We were such a good team together, and you want gles and doubles, creating some surprising pairs. Their to perform well. I knew that if I can defeat Jill Pittard, willingness to work for each other in any scenario was then we have won it. I knew that I had played her a few complementary to this and was on show in the group times before that match, and I knew I had a good record stages when they went through a clean sweep of 5-0 against her. So, the confidence was there, the support victories against Ireland, Estonia and Austria. from the team was there, and of course, there was pres-

“We were so into it and really wanted to beat Germany” Following a comfortable quarterfinal 3-0 win over Scotland, the Netherlands met the number two seeds, Germany, in the semifinal. This match turned out to be terrifically tight, going all the way. It ended with a women’s doubles match between Judith Meulendijks and Brenda Beenhakker against Xu Huaiwen and Kathrin Piotrowski. The one-hour match thrilled the crowd and finished 2321 in the third game, with the Dutch ladies erupting in celebration.

sure on Jill, as she had to win it; otherwise, it was over. Meulendijks won the match in thirty-three minutes, 2115, 21-14. The Netherlands had won gold. Describing the overwhelming emotions felt at this time, she said with a beaming smile. - There was amazing happiness that we actually did it. That was just an incredible feeling. Especially as we have never done that before. We have medalled at team events before, but to get that trophy was great. I remember this moment well. It was really awesome as it was the biggest success we’ve ever had.

Following this momentum-building win, the Dutch team went onto to have a very successful 2006. Winning a Meanwhile, on the next court, the English team had al- silver medal at the European Mixed Team Championready booked their spot in the final and were watching ships in front of their home fans in Den Bosch, and the 30

“We were all smiles on the podium thinking we just lost 3-0 but who cares, we have silver at the Uber Cup” ladies team taking silver at the Uber Cup in Tokyo were moments to never forget. Particularly memorable for Meulendijks was the 3-2 win against the host, Japan, in the Uber Cup quarterfinals. - It was quite a special match. We knew we had to take our chances against Japan. They were definitely favourite, but also had the pressure playing at home. So, we decided to only play with four players. We had three singles players, who would also play doubles, so we needed only one extra player. We said to ourselves that if we want something, then we will go big. We played well, but I think Japan also caved in under the pressure. Somehow, I do not know where it came from, but it was terrific. It was hard to see them after the match as they were crying following the loss in front of their home crowd. But it was like nothing can go wrong, and everything went exactly to plan.

- Even though we did not win, we were all smiles on the podium thinking we just lost 3-0 but who cares, we have silver at the Uber Cup. We went all in, without any expectations and we just gave our best. We had excellent publicity for Dutch badminton at that stage. All special sporting moments and triumphs have a story of a journey leading up to them. The question now is, who will be writing theirs in Liévin? The present day Judith Meulendijks is one of the most successful and decorated European players. She is now sharing her experience as a coach with the Centre of Excellence in Holbæk. Commenting on how this new chapter of her badminton career is going, she states:

- It is going really well. I was in Switzerland for five years and decided to try something new. When I startThe final was against a powerful China team looking for ed here, I felt the connection went quick. I knew the their tenth Uber Cup. Although the matches were tightly coaches before, which made things smooth. The group contested it was a 3-0 loss for the Netherlands. of players here are highly motivated, all from different backgrounds, which is great but also part of the chalDespite this, Meulendijks explains her happiness at this lenge, because players will need different types of apmoment. proaches. It has been amazing so far. 31



The qualification year is truly a tough challenge for any player, scrapping for points week in week out. Having the psychological strength to bounce back from early exits or the focus to follow up and maintain good results are crucial elements to get through this brutal period. However, for many players, this is what all their hard work up until this stage was for, and they are more than willing to give everything to make it. A trio of players that very much fall into this bracket are Russians Alina Davletova, Ekaterina Bolotova and Rodion Alimov, who are fighting for their place in Tokyo. The young mixed doubles partnership, 2017 European Junior Champions, Alimov and Davletova, have caught the attention of many with their recent performances and haven risen up the rankings. They both hail from Ufa, Russia. Davletova explains how the partnership began. - We trained in the same club in Ufa. Our coach Edgar Shcherbiy from the age of 13 made us play together. From the very beginning, we managed to play together, since then it has been eight years. The longevity of this pairing may be a substantial factor in their success. Speaking about their recent big tournament win this year. - Winning the Syed Modi International was the first most significant victory in my career. Of course, I am delighted. We were working hard to get there. And now the work is paying off for us. Throughout 2019, the pair have shown that they can push the top pairs in close matches. But now they are turning these matches into victories. What could be making the difference? - In the last two years, we have been playing World Tour tournaments. We built up considerable experience and a lot of good matches against top pairs in the world. I would say we improved a lot and we are feeling more confident now, Davletova stated.

“If we had not believed, we would never have beaten such pairs�


The pair has recorded great wins, against the likes of 2018 World Championship bronze medallists Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet and commonwealth champions Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith, amongst others. Their ranking has risen from 41 at the start of 2019, to 24 at the beginning of December that same year. Answering the question whether they now believe they can climb further in the mixed doubles and book their flight to Tokyo, Alimov says.

- Yes, we have beaten a lot of good pairs in the last few months. We have been working towards this for a long time and finally showed some excellent results. We have always believed in our ability. If we had not believed, we would never have beaten such pairs. Now we feel confident and I hope we will succeed.

in 2017, Ekaterina Bolotova became partner-less after Evgeniya Kosetskaya focused her efforts on singles. It was then set that Davletova and Bolotova would be Russia’s new women’s doubles pair for Tokyo. Majorowa explains how it was not looking too good at the beginning of the qualification period.

“Maybe the most important moment for our sports career”

- For Alimov, he had to overcome several injuries. At this point, doubts began to grow about whether Alimov and Davletova would have enough time to break into the top 20 in the world. However, following their recent impressive results, their chances have increased greatly. They are playing many big tournaments with high intensity and confidence.

Davletova has the added challenge of qualifying in women’s doubles also. We asked her how she finds this onerous task, and how important was winning the bronze with Bolotova at the 2019 European Games. - It is difficult, but I would say I enjoy this process. It was a great achievement for us as Olympic qualifiers. And important for my country as well.

It was also confirmed that Alimov has been entered into a number of tournaments with Evgenij Dremin in the men’s doubles as preparation for the European Men’s and Women’s Team Championships in Liévin. The two highly ranked mixed doubles specialists could prove to be a useful option for Russia.

“In Russia, there is a lot of pressure for results at such events”

- It was a small preparation to gain experience before big multi-sport events like the Olympics. Maybe the most important moment for our sports career, Bolotova added. As we heard from the women’s pair of Davletova and Bolotova, winning the bronze at the 2019 European Games was a huge milestone for them. Their coach Majorowa entirely agrees and adds.

- Firstly, it gave them greater confidence on the court, and secondly better finances from the Ministry of Sport for their career. In Russia, there is a lot of pressure for reThe coach’s perspective sults at such events. Also, events like this connect many Klaudia Majorowa gives a unique perspective as an athletes from many different sports under the one flag of experienced coach. Majorowa lives with her family in their country, which is great. It’s like a trial event for the Poland but works with the Russian national badminton Olympics. team. In many sports, the conditions it is played in are an esDiscussing the latest performances of Davletova and Al- sential factor in preparations. Badminton is no different. imov, Majorowa confidently states. Majorowa shares Russia’s preparation plans for Tokyo. - These successes do not surprise me. I first noticed this pair when they were 17 years old, and immediately took them into senior team training, to prepare them for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Already then, it was obvious to see their talent, but more importantly it was clear they wanted to work hard to succeed. In Bilbao 2016, they narrowly lost out on winning a medal. When the pair won the European Junior Championships

- Every Olympic Games are so very different from regular tournaments on the badminton calendar. It requires bigger psychological resilience, not only on the court but coping with the conditions of the new environment you are in. Perhaps my experience of three Olympic Games can mitigate many of these challenges. One way we are doing this is by preparing for Tokyo in Vladivostok, where the climate is closer to that of Japan. 35


Written by: Emilie Sommer





40 Written by: Emilie Sommer

January 27, 2019, is a day that Carolina Marin will probably remember for quite some time. In the final of the Indonesia Masters playing against India’s Saina Nehwal, Marin got injured and had to retire from the match. She suffered a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and on the same day she flew back to Madrid, went to the hospital and had the ACL surgery. - My first thoughts were that I had to look forward and deal with the situation. I cried a lot on the first day, but after that, my team and I started to fight again with even more intensity than before the injury. Marin had a long period where she did not play any badminton due to the surgery. The first tournament she played after a seven-month break was the Vietnam Open, where she lost in the first round. But the Spanish star came back stronger in the next tournament and defeated Tai Tzu Ying, Chinese Taipei, in the final of the Super 1000 China Open, claiming her first title in 2019 after the injury. - I felt completely happy. After seven months of sacrifice and effort with my team, I obtained the reward after such a hard time in my life, Marin said.

My team never let me down

With a career-threatening injury, most players would fear never being able to walk on court and compete at their highest again. But this was not something Marin was worried about. - I never feared that my career was over; my team never let me down. I am extremely happy and lucky to have such an incredible team with me that push me to the limits. The Spanish star began her comeback only eight days after the surgery where she practised while sitting on a chair. Patience was the key in this process, which was not easy for the active Spanish star. Due to the injury, Marin had a lot of time to improve new things and come back stronger. - I think at this point I still have room to improve my performance. I hope to be one hundred per cent right before the Olympics. For now, the reigning Olympic champion has one focus — the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. - I will fly to Tokyo with the intention of defending my gold from the Rio Olympics.







Written by: Emilie Sommer

22 permanent players are practising at the CoE – some on scholarships, others with Member Association support. Overall there are 30 players. Head Coach of CoE, Jeroen van Dijk, is supported by two former top players, Kestutis Navickas and Judith Meulendijks, and Danish top level coach Peter R. Jensen. - The CoE has grown and improved a lot in the last two and a half years. We are delighted that we have been able to increase the number and level of players at the CoE. We are also pleased that the players who were there from the start like Felix (Burestedt) have been able to improve a lot. - It is very good for the whole development of the CoE that the BWF has made it financially possible for each continent to have one spot at the CoE. We can conclude that it had taken two and a half years to build up the CoE to the level that we hoped that it would be when we made a start-up plan for the CoE.

CoE gives you everything

Lilit Poghosyan from Armenia has been a part of the CoE since it opened back in September 2017. - It has been an amazing experience for me to see and be part of the gradual development of the Centre of Excellence. I believe that everyone involved has been very successful in making it happen and now we are enjoying the excellent facilities and the motivational atmosphere at the CoE. What was once a small group of motivated players from many different backgrounds, we gradually grew into a big centre with players visiting from all over the world. The CoE provides a lot of opportunities for players who do not necessarily have the same options in their home countries. For Poghosyan, it was hard to balance the badminton practice and homework, which is now more comfortable because of the things that CoE can offer. Lastly, we asked her what the best part about the CoE was.


- There are many things I like about the CoE, but I would like to highlight the opportunity to be a full-time professional badminton player. I have been practising badminton since I was a little kid, but I always had to balance my training with my lessons at school and later with university. Since I moved to the centre, it has been a paradise for me as for the first time I would take extra time to work more on myself at the gym or in the badminton hall without rushing to do schoolwork. - The CoE gives you literally everything necessary to be a top badminton player and you have to figure out how to make it work for you in the best possible way.

what to know about the CoE: Room for 26 players from Europe and the rest of the world by the end of 2020 Located in Holbæk Sportsby in Denmark (70 km. to Copenhagen Airport) Facilities: 2 multi-halls, 8 badminton courts, 50m swimming pool and wellness, fitness, lounge areas, “studio zones”, running trails, conference and meeting rooms, café and restaurants Offers accommodation with single rooms, own kitchen and washrooms and lunch and dinner 7 days per week Players are screened upon arrival, 3 physical tests per year and individual physical programs are provided Highly ranked players from Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and Pan-America are expected to join CoE in 2020. Sporting Sector: Physiotherapist and Sports Masseur Coaches: Jeroen Van Dijk, Kestutis Navickas, Judith Meulendijks and Peter R. Jensen Offers •Two training sessions per day from Monday to Friday •More potential or optional training •Gym and free access to swimming pool Contact: Luca Crippa +45 31 68 67 16



History was made for Para badminton as it will have its maiden appearance as a medal sport at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Badminton has been allocated 90 athlete slots across 14 medal events for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. In a series of interviews called European Para badminton Towards Tokyo 2020, Para players have shared their goals and preparations for the Paralympic Games. Rickard Nilsson a SL4 player, talked about his thoughts on Para badminton having its debut at the Paralympic Games. - I think it is bigger for us than for other sports, so it would be nice to be a part of it, Nilsson said. As Nilsson mentions, the Paralympic Games are very important for the Para players this year due to badminton having its Paralympics debut in Tokyo 2020. Thinking about the Paralympics every day Another player for whom the Paralympic Games play a significant role, is the SU5 player, David Jack Wilson. - In terms of thinking about the Paralympics, I would definitely say I think about it at least once a day. - It feels like it is a long way away, but also it is not too far in some ways. It is kind of hard not to get ahead of yourself. I like to focus on the upcoming tournaments and not look too far forward, but in terms of a realistic goal, just reaching the Paralympics would be a great achievement. Para badminton will be played from the 2nd to 6th of September 2020 in Tokyo, Japan at the Paralympic Games. You can watch the series on YouTube and read the articles on our website.