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A C C E LE R ATE Y O U R G A M E

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Welcome – and thank you Dear Member Associations – Dear Badminton Family, I am very happy to welcome you all to Kiev and to the BEC Congress. 2019 is well on its way, and I am happy to say that the opening of the year has been great. The 2019 European Mixed Team Championships took place in Copenhagen with the best eight teams of Europe fighting for the title. The quality of the matches and the ties were high, and the new format with the top eight teams playing was a success. Not just on court but also off court. This is event was a ‘first mover’ regarding player and fan interaction with the warm-up area connected to the fan zone. Congratulations to all medal winners. One of the highlights of 2019 will be the European Games. The Games will take place in Minsk at the end of June and as it seems with a very strong field of players. It has been a very strong focus for us to ensure that this event carries World Ranking points and the results of this in terms of participation is obvious. It is not often that players get to take part in Olympic Multi-Sport Event, and I am sure that players and officials will have a fantastic time off and on court in Minsk. The BEC Congress 2019 is also a special congress for me. It is time to say ‘Thank you’ to our BEC President and my good friend, Gregory Verpoorten. The first time I met Gregory was at a European Junior Championships held in the Netherlands some 14 years ago. I was a rather young and inexperienced General Secretary and Gregory had many good and relevant observations on how EBU, at that time, could improve in several ways. A few years later he became our Director for Development and he could put several of his good ideas into action. Also as a President Gregory made a positive difference and he will be greatly missed. I am looking forward to spending a lot of time with all of you at the Member’s Forum, the ADM and the BEC Awards Gala. I hope that you all will have a great weekend here in Kiev. All the best,

Brian Agerbak General Secretary

Imprint: Badminton Europe - Published by Badminton Europe Confederation, Brøndbytoften 14, 2605 Brøndby, Denmark.• Responsible editor: Rasmus Bech • Design: Laura Martí Diez • Journalists: Annika Langrock, Aidan Thomas Jones • Coverphoto: Badminton Photo • Photos: Badminton Photo

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CONTENT OVERVIEW

ROAD TO MINSK: THESE ARE THE PLAYERS QUALIFIED

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TIME TO FAREWELL: GREGORY VERPOORTEN

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BEC GALA PROGRAMME LILIT POGHOSYAN: FROM THE CoE TO THE EUROPEAN GAMES

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16 BEC GALA AWARDS: THE NOMINEES

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APRIL 2019

2019 EUROPEAN MIXED TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

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EUROPE’S BEST WOMEN HEAD TO THE CoE

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PARA-BADMINTON PORTRAIT: HELLE SOFIE SAGØY

31 TOURNAMENT CALENDAR

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“IT IS AMAZING TO BE THE FIRST EVER ARMENIAN PLAYER TO QUALIFY” Written by: Aidan Thomas Jones The European Games qualification came to an end at - I used to be very tense in the tournaments, so I was not the end of March 2019, and we now know who has performing my best. As soon as I switched my focus on qualified for the event in Minsk, Belarus, this summer. the improvement and development of my game, I felt more and more confident that I was going to make it, Many of the players from Badminton Europe’s Centre she said. of Excellence have been competing in the qualification process, however, in the end, three players are going to Dreams can come true head to Minsk and participate at the Second edition of the European Games. Besides Poghosyan, two other players from the CoE One of those players is Lilit Poghosyan from Armenia. The 23-year old was in the top 500 in the world before the qualification began, so she had a big task on her hands in order to qualify for the Games in Minsk. In late March, the Armenian received the best news: She had finished the qualification as number 226 in the world and in-turn, qualified for the multi-sport event, along with many top players across Europe.

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have managed to qualify for Minsk: Milan Ludik from the Czech Republic and Felix Burestedt from Sweden. Burestedt finished the qualification in 87th position, while Ludik finished number 89 in the World Rankings. While speaking to Badminton Europe, Lilit Poghosyan has revealed that determination has got her to where she is now and her dream to play at the European Games has now been fulfilled.


As well as a personal achievement for the CoE player, So far, so good Poghosyan has become the first ever badminton player from Armenia to qualify for a multi-sport event. Badminton Europe’s Senior Manager for High Performance, Michael Nørbæk is thrilled that members of the - It is a wonderful feeling to see that hard work is paying CoE have qualified for the games, and has outlined the off. It has been a goal since the first edition of the games importance of running the Centre and providing good took place four years ago, Lilit Poghosyan said. quality trainings for the athletes.

- One year ago I was so far down the rankings I did not think I would qualify

He believes that this proves that the CoE, which has been in service for less than two years, is in good progress and it’s on the right path.

- In Badminton Europe´s Centre of Excellence we are excited about the European Games and we are satis- I remember watching the opening ceremony and the fied that three full time players from CoE have qualified badminton matches and I was like: “I also want to be in the tournament and more players are on the reserve there!”. So, with that goal in my head I kept on practic- list, Michael Nørbæk said. ing. - Of course it is only right to offer some credit to our Poghosyan will now turn her attention to the prepara- Member Associations who have been supporting the tion, after she recovers from her fibre damage in her CoE and have trusted us with their players and from our Achilles, which she suffered at the Iran International in side we can only promise that we will keep doing our 2019, in order to be in the best possible shape to com- best to continue offering the best service we can. pete against Europe’s best players in Minsk. - We thank our Member Associations for their trust, for The 23-year old is back training at the CoE now, but will sending players to the CoE and we look forward to welbe able to go back on court sometime in May, when she coming even more Member Associations to the CoE, he is due to take the short journey to Farum to play at the added. LI-NING Denmark Challenge. - I am really looking forward to the Games. It is also exciting to be a part of the Armenian Olympic team and travel with them. - I believe I am going to have some fun on and off court in Minsk. But right now, I am focusing on the next three months of preparation to get in better shape and improve my on court skills, before the Games kick off (in June).

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Time to farewell

Dear Badminton fans, It is time for me to say goodbye, not only as your President but also as Vice-President of the Badminton World Federation (BWF). The past 12 years, leading our sport, have been incredibly rewarding. I have made many friends, all around the world, and enjoyed working with many of you to grow our sport and organization. At times, it was hard and difficult work, but the results and friendships created along the way were always worth it. Heading up the development department, which I did from 2007 to 2014, was a time that still fills me with much gratitude. We have made great strides in building better structures and programs for our Member Associations. Many of you have benefitted from our development activities, and I know many of you have built strong international relationships when participating in them. It is by the many relationships and positive atmosphere amongst Member Association leaders that we should measure the success of our Federation over the past ten years. We have been able to create a very inclusive culture, with lots of positive and constructive communication. We should not take the support we have received from all of you for granted. Having this support means we can take positive action, relatively quickly.

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Over the past years, we have grown the professional staff within BEC to 16, with talent coming from ten different countries, many housed in an office owned by the Federation in Denmark. This talent is in constant interaction with our Member Associations and is the cornerstone of MA and our sport’s development in Europe. We have built a Centre of Excellence, a training centre for those that may not have a top-notch centre in their home country. We have delivered on bringing badminton to schools in numerous countries. We have helped to put badminton on the map in countries, where this was unheard of ten years ago. Through our commission work, we have identified many new leaders to take the sport further. And we have done this by complementing development activities that have become part of our tradition, such as our Summer School. Each year, we are celebrating our and your successes at our Gala, which is slowly becoming a tradition of its own, we have revamped our awards structure, we have a strong communication strategy and a transparent and financially sound governance structure. We share best practices at our now, yearly forum and we can afford to support you all in participating.


All of these successes have been fueled by building a sport that is commercially strong. The biggest impact on the commercial side could only be made by BWF, the organization that I have helped grow for the last ten years as VP. It is BWF that now funds most of our development activities, our HR structures and some of our commercial strategies. Our top players have seen their prize money and commercial value increase significantly in the past decade. Our Member Associations are hosting profitable events. BWF is in the position to fund many Member Associations with valuable programs as well as with governance support. I am convinced that over the past decade, our sport has seen exponential growth as never before. And many of my colleagues and many of our professional staff members were a key in making this happen. But none of us could have done this alone and without the support of the Member Associations. Having enjoyed a period of political stability was crucial in making all of this happen. And therefore, I thank Our Federation is in great shape and I am confident our new leaders and current Board Members will make it all of you. even better. You have great leaders in the office led by My wish for the future of Badminton Europe is that all Brian Agerbak. Member Association remain focused on growing our sport by working together and challenging each other The money is there to invest heavily in growth and depositively. I see some new Badminton strongholds in Eu- velopment. All the cards are in your favour. I wish you rope that can challenge each other on court and hope- all the best and you all know you can count on me in fully can be more of a challenge to our Asian champi- the future for advice and support. I am and will forever ons as well. This will be important for the universality of remain yours! our sport. We can become one of the biggest sports in the world, as we are in China, India, Indonesia, Malay- But now it is the time for me to invest more in my family. I wish you could all meet them one day, my fantastic sia, Korea and Denmark. wife, my ever discovering and great kids and my loving We are one of the biggest participation sports in France, wider family. They are my reason for living and make me especially at school level. This was unthinkable ten incredibly happy. years ago, but the French Federation made this happen. We have an Olympic and multiple world champion It is with them in mind that I have invested in my career in Spain! We achieved the biggest European Medal at a firm that has allowed me to spend much time for our sport, and to which I intend to give back. Spread ever in Rio de Janeiro. If we all believe and work hard, Europe can catch up Goodbye for now and MTFBWY! with Asia, which would be great news for both powerhouses. We also have a responsibility to grow the sport in other continents. We should shift our focus to that, as it will make an impact for all.

Gregory Verpoorten

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“EVERYBODY, CLA

Written by: Annika Langrock Seven days of international badminton and teamwork – the 2019 European Mixed Team Championships, organised by Badminton Europe in co-operation with Badminton Denmark, was a success. From 13-17 February 2019, the city of Copenhagen hosted Europe’s best eight teams: Denmark, England, Germany, France, Netherlands, Russia, Ireland and Spain, fought for the title as ‘2019 European Mixed Team Champion’. During that period, the Frederiksberg Hallerne was the place to be for badminton lovers – with top-class badminton on court as well as an interactive fan zone with a warm-up hall view, where the fans had the chance to be close to their idols, play badminton themselves or learn more about the newest equipment. World-class players, such as Viktor Axelsen, Chris and Gabrielle Adcock, Vladimir Ivanov, Ivan Sozonov, made their way to Frederiksberg Hallerne to compete

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at the biggest European team event of 2019. The players took their time for the badminton enthusiasts – they signed autographs, took pictures or had some small talk with the spectators in the venue. - Every sport is living from its fans. So, it is important to give the fans what they want. It takes a bit for some players to get used to being so close to the fans, but all in all, it has been a good experience, Badminton Europe’s General Secretary, Brian Agerbak, said after the event. - I think it was an event that we can be proud of. It has been a tough but fun experience for my team in many ways. When we look back at the event, we can look at it with satisfaction, Agerbak added.


AP YOUR HANDS”

On the final day of the event, the Frederiksberg Hallerne The Men’s Singles between Anders Antonsen and the were crowded. All tickets were sold, everybody wanted current German national champion, Max Weisskirchen, to see the final matches between the hosting country, gave Denmark the second victory. Denmark and their neighbours from Germany. - Anders was much faster, he was the better man, Weiss“We did a really good job” – Line Kjaers- kirchen summarised the match.

feldt after Denmark was defending the title

After Germany lost the second match in a row to the After listening to the national anthems, Christinna Ped- Danes, Yvonne Li was the one that had to deal with ersen and Mathias Christiansen were the first players the huge pressure of the decisive match. The Women’s that ‘Smashy’ (the BEC mascot) welcomed on court. The Singles player from Germany had to win against Line Danes faced Isabel Herttrich and Mark Lamsfuss in the Kjaersfeldt, in front of the Danish home crowd, in order first match of the 2019 European Mixed Team Champi- to keep the German team in the game. onships final. After 36 minutes and two games (21-12, 21-12), the Danes took the lead for the team. Unfortunately, after 36 minutes, Li had to accept the third defeat for the German team. Her opponent, Line - We are very happy with our performance on court. Kjaersfeldt , was very happy after the match. We could feel the crowd behind us, Christinna Pedersen said after the match.

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- We were the favorites to win, but we did a really good job this week, winning confidently. I am proud of the team, she said after defending the title. Moreover, the fight for the big title was not tough only on court. The teams were very supportive off court as well, each in their own special way: the German team used a motivation clap – “Everybody, clap your hands” – to interact with the crowd and screamed before each duel with their opponent country, the French team members had flags on their faces and wore Tricolor-wigs on their heads, whereas the Dutch team was using horns and songs to cheer for their team.

A big thank you to all volunteers More than 40 volunteers helped running the event in Copenhagen, including numerous players from Ringsted Badminton Club who worked hard throughout the week. Brian Agerbak has been very pleased with the people from Badminton Europe’s network. - They helped us to organise the event and stood behind us. Our players from the Centre of Excellence in Holbæk also showed dedication to this task and supported us to deliver this event to such a great extent, the General Secretary said. Next to the volunteers, the Technical Officials have played an important part in the event. Badminton Europe would like to express a big thank you to all referees, umpires and line judges for their efforts throughout the 2019 European Mixed Team Championships week. Finally, Badminton Europe would like to thank its professional event partners from YONEX, its media partners from Sportradar and its IT-service partners from SBTICT.

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Europe’s best women come to CoE

England, Denmark, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, NetherThe past years have been quite eventful for Badmin- lands, Russia, Slovakia and Spain, will join the training ton Europe’s Centre of Excellence (CoE), since it has camp in Holbæk. opened in September 2017. - The camp is necessary for all members of Badminton What the CoE has scheduled next, is hosting a Women’s Europe, if we want to compete against the dominance Singles training camp for a number of female athletes of Asian countries in the world rankings right now, we have to do something, Michael Nørbæk said. out of the top 120 of the BWF World Rankings. The training camp will run from Monday, 22 April and will finish on Saturday, 27 April, at Badminton Europe’s - We cannot do it independently and neither can any of the other nations. We need to do something together to CoE in Holbæk, Denmark. take the best things from the practical training sessions, exchange of players and sparring, not only players but High-class players participating also coaches, we need to do something. Written by: Aidan Thomas Jones

A significant number of players who are high up in the World Rankings will be attending the Women’s Singles - I am very happy that we have participants in the top camp as well as guests such as: Denmark’s Mia Blich- 120 Women’s Singles right now from a number of the top European nations, he said. feldt and Line Kjærsfeldt, along with players from

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The programme The schedule of the week consists of two badminton practice sessions per day, from Tuesday to Friday as well as one session on Saturday, before the players depart later on Saturday.

We have eleven right now and I expect there will be more in the future,” Michael Nørbæk said.

CoE – a place for European badminton

The Centre of Excellence is becoming more and more atThe players will all live together during this week while tractive for players from various Member Associations. being given the opportunity to not only learn from each Since it has opened its doors in 2017, over 65 players other on court during games but also about each other’s have joined the CoE, for shorter or longer periods and we have reasons to believe that the numbers are only diets, exercise routines and even just living skills. going to increase in the future. Aside from sessions for the Women’s Singles players individually, there will also be sessions with the Centre of Excellence’s group, which will serve as an opportunity for the players to learn from the elite group. Nørbæk believes that this will guide the group in countless ways.

Various nations from both Europe and other continents have been visiting the centre to train and perform sparring sessions. The most notable players that have visited Holbæk include Vladimir Malkov and Ekaterina Bolotova from Russia, members of the Finnish national team - Of course, the CoE players will learn a lot from the as well as the whole Peruvian national team, who came Women’s Singles camp, not just in the sessions when to the Centre for two weeks at the end of March 2019. they are involved, but also just being around the players Badminton Europe’s CoE Head Coach, Jeroen Van Dijk, off court, it can and will help them look up to what they believes that the progress has made the future promising. aspire to be like, he said. - Hopefully, it will be a great inspiration for the current CoE players. We will have guests on top of the Singles’ players, Sweden will send some guests as well as Ukraine sending three players as guests too.

- The start-up of the CoE project has not been easy, but we knew that the first steps are always the most difficult ones and that we had to prove that we were able to make the CoE work, he said.

- One of my goals is for the participants to communicate off court too, in the dressing rooms, before going to bed or even during the dinner. How it is to do badminton full time or semi-professionally? Which tournaments are they going to and what are they eating and drinking before practice?

- I am very happy that we are now making the next step towards the improvement of the Centre. A major upcoming event for us is Women’s Singles training camp, in April, a project organized for the best Singles’ players in Europe, as well as top players of the other four continental federations, to whom BWF (Badminton World Federation) will be offering scholarships.

While speaking about the future of the camps, Nørbæk believes that it does not have to be based at the CoE in Denmark, and that other Member Associations could help reach the goal that everyone is trying to achieve.

- These players will come to the CoE as part of their Olympic qualification strategy, in order to improve their skills both on and off court, where players will be able to get new sparring opportunities and share their best practices.

This is the first time that a camp of such high quality is organized at the CoE and Nørbæk thinks that this is just - We are also very close to finalizing the Sportsbyen the beginning. project, which will upgrade our facilities and improve - We are anticipating the camp to go very well and if it what we had so far, Van Dijk adds. does, then there will be an opportunity to have a Men’s The future looks bright for the CoE. Singles camp further down the line. - It is only a start of many more and bigger camps at the Centre of Excellence, and it does not just have to be a camp in Holbæk, it could be one at one of our certificated training centres (CTC), around Europe.

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HELLE SOFIE SAGØY

“BADMINTON SHOWS WHO I AM” Written by: Annika Langrock

She is fit, ambitious and successful: Helle Sofie Sagøy is one of the best para-badminton players in the world. The two-time World as well as European Champion, spoke about her tough training programme, the upcoming 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and how badminton has increased her self-confidence. - I can still remember my first badminton training, I felt a sense of achievement, Helle Sofie Sagøy said. The Norwegian grew up in Klæbu, and played badminton for the first time, when she was eight years old. - My brother and two girls from primary school got me into the sport because they were playing, she said. Today, Sagøy is competing in the SL4 Sport Class, which is a standing class for players that have an impairment in one or both lower limbs. The 21-year-old was born with Dysmelia, she is therefore using a prosthetic for her right leg. She has been playing para-badminton professionally since 2013. - The Norwegian federation asked me if I wanted to try para-badminton, which was an easy question for me to answer. So, I began to practice with the talent team, Sagøy said.

Two-time World Champion at age 17 The Norwegian played her first international para-badminton tournament in Turkey, at the first Turkish International Enes Cup, when she was 15 years old. Only two years later, Sagøy became two-time World Champion in the Women’s Singles and Doubles, in Stoke Mandeville, England. In the same year, she also won bronze at the Spanish Para-Badminton International (Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles) and at the China Para-Badminton International (Singles and Doubles). After having achieved these milestones in her career, Sagøy received the BWF Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year award in 2015, as the first player ever. In the same year, she was also nominated for the BEC Para-Badminton Player of the Year award by Badminton Europe.

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- Receiving the BWF Player of the Year award, has been the biggest moment in my badminton career. I can still remember that. I thought the whole situation was surreal because it was such a big honour for me. The award is one of my favourite moments that has happened in my life, Sagøy said.

“I just need to believe in my dreams “ After a successful 2015, Sagøy did not play that many tournaments and had to deal with “ups and downs” in the following years. However, in 2018, she came back and won two gold medals at the European Para-Championships in Rodez, France – both in the Women’s Singles and Doubles, together with Katrin Seibert from Germany.

- Currently, I am number two in the world, so it looks promising, Sagøy said. - I have a chance to qualify for the Paralympics, I just need to continue the hard work and travel around the world to collect ranking points, she added. Nevertheless, qualifying for Tokyo 2020 is not Sagøy’s only goal. - I want to go for a medal, she said.

Goal: A medal in Basel Another big event that is coming up for Sagøy in August this year, is the TOTAL BWF World Para Championships in Basel, Switzerland.

- Of course, it is my goal to win a medal there, but the way to achieve this will be long. Since I have won the - It was so good to achieve these successes after being World Championships in 2015, some talented girls have off for some time. At the beginning of 2018, I wanted to entered para-badminton. They will be hard to beat. But change something and took priorities that got me serithere is hope, I just need to believe in my dreams, Sagøy ously into the sport again, Sagøy said. said. Today, the 21-year-old is Norway’s biggest hope for gold at the Paralympics 2020. The most important goal for Sagøy is to qualify for the multi-sport event. - The qualification will be tough because the level of the Women’s Singles in SL4 is very high, she said.

Even though she has huge ambitions and goals for this year and the next one, Sagøy does not feel that much pressure. - I know I am doing my very best. The cooperation with all the people around me will support me, no matter what.

Besides the fact that the level of the female players in the SL4 category is high, another obstacle stands in her In November, Sagøy moved from Trondheim to Oslo. way: the players who qualify for the Mixed and WomThe reason: Trondheim has not been the perfect badminen’s Doubles will also directly qualify for the Singles catton environment for the professional badminton player. egory. As Sagøy does not have any partners in either one of the two Doubles categories right now, she needs to be on the top of the ranking in Women’s Singles, to 32 ensure to be qualified.


Now, in Norway’s capital, her training schedule is more - It is difficult to see further forward than the Paralymintense and tough - and much more suitable for a poten- pics. But if it is realistic to reach Paris 2024, then I will tial Olympic gold medallist. continue the hard work to get even better, Sagøy said. - In Trondheim, I practised badminton twice per week. Now, I have 12 hours of training every day, including four to five strength and endurance workouts as well as general coordinative activities. After a while, I will step up with badminton, I just need to be sure that my body will tolerate it, Sagøy stated.

As one of the best para-badminton players in the world, Sagøy has specific aspirations for her future path. - My wishes are to not get injured, stay healthy and play a lot of good badminton. I want to create memories and moments that people may remember.

“I want to create memories that people may remember” Playing badminton for more than 13 years now has not just improved Sagøy’s game on court. The sport has also helped her to strengthen her confidence. - Badminton means a lot to me. It shows who I am and what I am able to do with my function disability, she said. - Without badminton, I would have never become the strong person I am today. I have learned a lot, not just about badminton, but also about myself and what it requires to be a top athlete. Sagøy’s belief and fighting spirit are her strengths, she is willing to work hard to achieve her long-time goals.

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Profile for Badminton Europe

Badminton Europe magazine issue 30 / April 2019  

Badminton Europe magazine issue 30 / April 2019