VIKTOR AXELSEN - A JOURNEY OF A CHAMPION, SO FAR Written: Alan Raftery In a little over two decades, a boy from the city of fairytales picked up a racket, dreamt big and reached for the stars. Today he looks back at these key milestones that make up the chapters of his life, however, the story is not over. 4 January 1994 - born in Odense, Denmark.
2000 - From six years old, his father introduced him to badminton and he joined the local club. 2009 - At just 15 years of age he became the first individual European U17 Badminton Champion in Medvode, Slovenia. Following decade of digging deep in training, he struck gold in Mexico.
2010 – Becomes World Junior Champion in Guadalajara, Mexico and also wins his first senior title at just 16 in Cyprus.
2011 - Becomes European Junior Champion in Vantaa, Finland.
The transition from junior to elite senior level took just five years as his performance in France showed.
2016 – Becomes European Champion in La Roche-surYon, France.
After being crowned the king of Europe, Axelsen set sights on conquering the world.
2017 – Becomes World Champion in Glasgow, Scotland.
A year before Axelsen picked up a racket, Peter Gade won the prestigious All England Open Championships in 1999. Fittingly, 21 years later he was able to follow in his footsteps.
2020 – Wins the All England Open Championships in Birmingham, England.
Then there is the big one. The most valuable medal in the sport - Olympic Gold. In 1996, Poul-Erik Høyer achieved this for Denmark, when Axelsen was just two. A quarter of a century later, Viktor Axelsen is the man on top of the world.
2021 – Becomes Olympic Champion in Tokyo, Japan.
A journey of key milestones that has taken Axelsen from Odense to Guadalajara, Vantaa, La Roche-sur-Yon, Glasgow, Birmingham and Tokyo.
Appropriately, this journey adds up to a little under 21 thousand miles. To be continued.
Lin Dan vs Roger Federer, Carolina Marin vs Serena Williams, shuttlecock vs ball, these two popular sports throughout history have been the bickering siblings of the racket family. Let’s take a closer look.
T H E NAME
Both sports use a ‘racket’ which derives from the Arabic ‘rakhat’, meaning the palm of the hand.
THE COURT & NET Both sports of course have a court space and a net for players to strike the shuttle or ball over, although these vary greatly in size.
The word tennis came into use in English in the mid-14th century from Old French, via the Anglo-Norman term Tenez, which can be translated as ‘hold’, ‘receive’ or ‘take’!
In badminton, the full width of the court is 6.1 metres (singles it is reduced to 5.18m). The full length of the court is 13.4m.
Badminton takes its name from the country estate of the dukes of Beaufort in Gloucestershire, England, where it was played by the children of ‘Badminton House’.
In tennis, the width of the singles court is 8.23m, and the full length is 23.77m, almost double that of badminton. The tennis net is 91.4cm, while the badminton net is considerably higher at 155cm.
Both have likely ancient origins, where the earliest versions of the games were played in Greece, Egypt and for badminton also in China as early as the 1st century BC! However, the modern version of badminton was played in the early-19th century among the British as a variant of the earlier game of battledore and shuttlecock. ‘Battledore’ was an older term for ‘racket’, which likely arrived from expatriate officers in British India in the town of Poona. For Tennis, the more complete version of the game can be traced to a 12th–13th-century French handball game called Jeu de Paume – ‘game of the palm’. Thus, in terms of the game we see today, Tennis takes this one.
The first lawn tennis club, the version of the game we see at Wimbledon, was established by the Englishman Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish merchant, in Royal Leamington Spa in 1872. The first badminton club was formed just five years later just 120 km southwest in Bath, England, which subsequently developed the first written rules of the sport. The following year, the New York Badminton Club is founded. They are still in existence and running today.
SCORING Famously, tennis has a rather unique scoring method. Points scoring goes 15, 30 and 40, if tied at 40-40, ‘deuce’ is played where two points need to be scored in a row. Although not confirmed, there is a suggestion that the system was originally 15, 30, 45 with the 45 simplified to 40 overtime. Originally perhaps mirroring the quarters of a clock, or from gambling stakes. The strong French connection means that ‘deuce’ comes from à deux le jeu, meaning ‘to both is the game’. The score ‘0’ is called ‘love’, which is theorised to derive from l’œuf, French for ‘the egg’, traditionally representing the shape of a zero. In contrast, badminton scoring has evolved much over the past 20 years. Originally for around 130 years, the best of three games was played to 15, ladies to 11, with a point scored only on the serve. In case of equal points, badminton has ‘setting’, similar to the tennis ‘deuce’. At the turn of the millennium, changes and trials were made with five games to seven, five games to 11 and the three games to 21 rally per serve system in place today since 2006. Badminton has a golden point rule at 29-29 to end the game or match. Technically, with the old point on serve rules, the match could go on forever. In tennis, this is still the case. The longest tennis match is John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut (Wimbledon, 2010), lasting 11 hours and five minutes across three days. The longest badminton match is two hours and 41 minutes between Japan’s Kurumi Yonao and Naoko Fukuman and Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (Badminton Asian Championships, 2016). Both are incredible feats of determination and endurance.
WHICH ONE IS HARDER? Perhaps the most common debate amongst the two sets of fans is which one is harder? An ambiguous question that is difficult to answer with multiple ways to measure it. In a single match, a tennis player is working on the court for longer with best-of-3 tennis matches lasting about 90 minutes, while best-of-5 matches last approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Badminton matches last around 4050 minutes, however, badminton has more intensity. According to the Wall Street Journal, tennis matches have on average a 17.5% active playtime, while badminton is closer to 50%. The two sports will forever lock horns when discussing the difference in strength, power, skill and endurance needed. However, one thing can be definitely measured– speed. In Tennis, the fastest serve on record is by Australian Sam Groth at 263 km/h. However, the fastest badminton smash belongs to Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding, who unleashed a shot timed at 426 km/h! This allows a reaction time of just fractions of a second. Maybe there is only one way of settling it, a badminton-tennis crossover charity competition between Lin Dan vs Roger Federer and Carolina Marin vs Serena Williams. Hands up who would love to see that?
A big focus in my diet is getting a minimum of five fruit or vegetables a day. Soup is a great one for this and really warming too! I make it myself as I have better knowledge of what’s in it. Same with my granola, I often find shop bought unnecessarily high in sugars so I make my own and enjoy that with breakfast. I don’t have a huge appetite in the morning so I stick to simple flavours. I try eat one or two fish portions a week, one or two veggie meals and max one red meat. Some of this for health but mainly a sustainability consideration.
Breakfast A typical day would be: Greek yogurt, homemade granola and Blueberries with a matcha tea.
Homemade soup. For example, this week it was Moroccan spiced vegetables, with a slice of toast and a poached egg. Followed by a flat white and a small cookie.
It varies depending on the day. Recently, Marcus and I had: • Malay laksa • Sea bass with vegetables • Cauliflower and lentil curry • Balanise chicken curry
Snacks A cup of tea with an orange
A small protein bar after morning training and a crumpet with jam after afternoon training
L A U T R I V YOUR N O T N I M AI BAD ! E R E H S I COACH Written by: Alan Raftery
Imagine. You have just played a match; you turn to your virtual coach powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that has been tracking your movements and analysing your game.
From Copenhagen to Silicon Valley
Residing in the Danish capital, Gunnarsson spent some time working at the Danish government’s innovation cenInstantly it tells you what your strengths and weakness- tre in Silicon Valley and at the time there was a lot of es are and recommends ways to improve based on key hype around the potential of artificial intelligence techperformance metrics, such as speed, shot quality and nologies. He got to meet with AI researchers and tech game dominance. Sounds like science fiction, right? A companies working at the forefront of AI, such as Goofuturistic image that seems so distant. But it’s not. gle and Tesla. With this, the first sketched idea was put onto paper. Former Centre of Excellence Iceland player Kari Gunnarsson believes he has built a team and product that - I decided I was going to give professional badminton can make this a reality in badminton. This kind of tech- a shot for an Olympic cycle. The idea of the AI coach nology and data-tracking is becoming commonplace in was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until the several sports and Iceland’s top singles player wants to pandemic hit and I was sitting in lockdown in Iceland, launch this in the sport he loves. with tournaments cancelled, that I decided to pursue the dream for real. - One of the things that always bothered me in my career as a badminton player was how subjective the sport The dream often is. Badminton has very few objective performance metrics which can make it difficult to track your own The challenge turned into an idea, which was born in progress as a player, Gunnarsson explained. the pandemic and now gathering pace. Gunnarsson has began working with individuals who buy into the same - Most training groups don’t have a dedicated video vision, namely Eric Navarro, also a badminton player analyst and that’s why proper match analysis often gets joining as co-founder. discarded given how time-consuming it is. In an average match, you might easily be hitting 500 shots - those are The unique selling points for Clutch is that it is built by 500 decisions that you’re making in split seconds while badminton minds and that all you will need is your smarthaving a heart rate of 150. I can’t tell you how many phone to make the magic happen. The power to have times I walked off court without actually having a good high-level badminton coaching analysis in your pocket. explanation for why I won or lost the game. The concept has also gained the approval of investors, Steve Jobs once said; ‘if you define the problem correct- securing funds from venture capitalists in the Nordics, inly, you almost have the solution’. Through his lived expe- cluding from David Helgason, the founder of Unity, one rience, Gunnarsson identified the problem and has leapt of the biggest tech companies from Europe. To say the towards the idea of building automated video analysis least, this is a strong foundation to build from. - an AI coach - to empower both players and coaches to deal with these challenges.
The future of badminton Like every new start-up, there is a strong vision to ‘disrupt’ and change the environment. Gunnarsson with Clutch is just this, aiming to transform how badminton players approach developing their game. -Video is also becoming more and more ubiquitous as a medium that people consume both for learning and entertainment. Having AI track your game is a bit like having an elite coach sit and watch your game in slow motion while taking meticulous notes - it sees and remembers everything. Players are already seeing the benefits. Current Centre of Excellence player and world-ranked 59, Felix Burestedt, used the tool before a key match at the Tokyo Olympics, ultimately scoring a big win over Canada’s Brian Yang. -It was really nice to see what it can do and having really good analysis of my opponent. Those small details can make a big difference, like recognising some patterns and what he [Brian Yang] likes to do on court, Burestedt said when asked during the 2021 World Championships to reflect on this match. Much progress has been made in just one and a half years and Gunnarsson, much like in his playing days, plans to up the pace. - At the moment we are working with a few federations and high-performance teams, and we plan to expand access to the app in the coming months. We have big dreams and are just starting out - every day we are getting better than we were the day before. Our goal in the next year is to empower more and more players and coaches all over the world by making video analysis easy, fun and accessible. To find out more about the Clutch app you can visit their website www.clutchapp.io and follow them on Instagram - @theclutchapp.
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WITH MADS CHRISTOPHERSEN
A CHAMPIONSHIP DURING COVID-19 Written by: Alan Raftery
Every single person reading this will have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. Life was turned upside down. Borders were closed, day to day life changed, loved ones were held closer and the sport that we adore brought to a halt.
REMEMBERING HOW IT STARTED CAPTURING THIS MOMENT As is tradition, Badminton Europe is always present to In early 2021, the idea of capturing this moment was cover the All England Championships in Birmingham, put forward by Laura Martí Diez, BEC Video & Graphic one of the biggest tournaments of the year. Design Officer. The idea blossomed into a full-fledged project targeting the upcoming 2021 European Mixed This was the case in March 2020 – the week when lock- Team Championships in Finland. down began. BEC Communication Officer Alan Raftery was at the event when it all unfolded. - COVID-19 has been very frustrating and being able to do this project was something that, besides being - There was certainly a different vibe throughout the necessary in my opinion as we are living a unique moweek. We were all checking the fast-moving devel- ment in our life, it was a chance to highlight the great opments and were unsure if the tournament would be team and the huge effort Badminton Europe is doing to finished. Players were anxious and media staff were bring badminton back, Laura Martí stated. awaiting news that came on quarterfinals day. Viktor Axelsen’s title-winning shot on Sunday would be the last - Personally, this was an amazing opportunity to do badminton action we saw for quite some time. something different that I truly enjoyed working on. It definitely brought us closer to our colleagues. We were It may seem like a distant and blurry memory now, but able to express ourselves through a process that chalthis was the reality of the situation for our sport. Health lenged us professionally on a whole new level, said came first. There was an understanding and acceptance Laura Martí. of this – but the road was always going to be long and one thing was known for sure, future tournaments would Badminton Europe felt it was important to document all look completely different. the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a major tournament happen during a pandemic. A tournaFor Badminton Europe, the freezing of the tournament ment that like all tournaments was never certain to take calendar meant postponements and cancellations of place! our events. It was a tough time for all staff and in the face of adversity, everyone rallied together as best they The tournament of course did take place in the end and could. the documentary captured it all. You get to see what it means for players to be playing again, however, it Adaptation and perseverance were key if we were go- was not all plain sailing and the events team and local ing to be able to organise a tournament under the many organisers had to deal with many situations that were new restrictions. touch and go whether teams would be disqualified and even if the tournament could carry on. In amongst the drama, some big calls needed to be made under significant pressure. Watch to find out how it played out.
“ A TOURNAMENT THAT WAS NEVER CERTAIN TO TAKE PLACE”
It is a must-watch sports documentary for anyone who wants to see the incredible effort that made the return of the first major badminton event on European soil possible.
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EPER LOOK E #EMTC21
Paris 2024 beckons European hosts Written by: Yash Sharma
The recent years have seen the rise of France as a EuroBadminton has offered 121 Olympic Games medals pean badminton powerhouse, second only to Denmark. since its inclusion in 1992. The statistic that Europe has Remarkably, the period coincides with the upgrade of secured only one out of every eight medals is overshad- the century-old French Open to one of the topmost badowed by an encouraging fact. More than half of these minton tournaments in the world. The home Olympics in podium finishes have been made during the last decade. Paris will be the biggest stage for the young French talIndeed, it is a testament to the European challenge posed ent to showcase their potential and achieve greater glory. Moreover, 2024 can also turn out to be yet another to the Asian domination in the sport. feather in the caps of top European athletes: Carolina Marin, Viktor Axelsen, and Anders Antonsen.
The roar of the lioness Carolina Marin has already achieved so much in her career to be considered one of the greatest ever. However, the Spaniard has proved her mental fortitude time and again. She memorably came back from a career-threatening knee injury to win the China Open in 2019. Her efforts to become the greatest ever by winning a consecutive Olympics gold were heartbreakingly halted due to another untimely injury. Can she fulfil her dream by reigning supreme in Paris? If there ever was an athlete who could accomplish such a feat, it is Carolina Marin! - Carolina Marin is dreaming of gold at Paris 2024. If you don’t aim for the top prize, then you’ll never end up with a silver or bronze, she told Spain’s Mediaset in a recent interview.
Axelsen & Antonsen The two tall Danish stars Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen spearhead European representation in men’s singles. The all-conquering Olympic champion Axelsen had an imperfect ending to an otherwise unparalleled season. He had an early exit from the 2021 World Championships, owing to a “bad day at the office I’d rather forget”. However, the 28-year-old remains one of the hot favourites for major titles in the future. With only two years to Paris, the reigning world number one has favourable odds to equal Lin Dan. A steadfast attacking game style will only help his cause. In contrast, the world number three Antonsen had a mixed year by his standards and expectations. While he did beat Axelsen to win the World Tour Finals early in the year, he unexpectedly fell to lower-ranked opponents on many occasions. He narrowly lost to eventual bronze medalist Anthony Ginting in Tokyo, despite “aiming for the gold”. At 24 years old, the 2019 World Championships runner-up has time on his side. A little more experience might just help him to achieve his “dream goal”. With Denmark leading the way for Europe, the hosts will have a lot to offer as well. It was a historic milestone for France with three representatives at the Olympics for the first time. While the three-time Olympic athletes Pi Hongyan and Brice Leverdez have paved the way, it is now up to the French youngsters to put their country on the medal table
Gicquel/ Delrue: The Olympians The French pair contested in Tokyo and finished third in their group. As perhaps the second-best mixed doubles pair in Europe, they fell to the best. The young duo had their moment in the sun in early 2020. Thom Gicquel/ Delphine Delrue bested two top pairs on their way to the semifinals of the Indonesia Masters. Their coach Baptiste Careme had boldly claimed that “they have all the ingredients to be the best in the world”. However, his pupils have had an on and off career so far, ranking number 10 at their best. It must be pointed out that the rift with the current top five is apparent. Fortunately, the 23-year-olds are still improving and the best hope for France. They might very well be strong contenders for the podium in two years.
The Popov brothers Toma Junior Popov and Christo Popov are two of the most popular French athletes. While Toma Junior was crowned the Super 300 Spain Masters champion last year, Christo has already won two International titles. The brothers have also had success together in men’s doubles. Their accomplishments on the junior level are an indication of what is to come. As their senior compatriot Brice Leverdez is not getting any younger, the elder Popov has a fair chance of representing France at the home event. Currently sitting on the edge of Top 30, the 23-year-old must however elevate his game to the next level.
Young guns promise a lot Indeed, the likes of Arnaud Merkle and Alex Lanier along with the younger Popov consist of the fresh French men’s singles arsenal. Indeed, all three of them have the potential to make a breakthrough and replace Toma Junior as the top French athlete within two years. While the 21-year-old Merkle could not contest the Super 300 Syed Modi International final early this year, Lanier is getting better and better. As the youngest-ever men’s singles winner of an International title, the 17-year-old has caused many to take notice and wonder. The extremely talented young gun is inspired by Axelsen’s Tokyo win and has already drawn comparisons with him. - I want to be the world number one, Olympic champion and world champion, he stated in a detailed interview with Archysport. Having come close to beating the likes of Rasmus Gemke and Kevin Cordon is a good sign.
First-ever France has not been represented in the men’s doubles and the women’s doubles categories at the Olympics so far. However, the present generation of athletes will likely fix it. While the Popovs are the highest-ranked pair, Fabien Delrue/ William Villeger are not far behind. The 21-year-olds have already gained valuable experience by competing against top pairs. Indeed, they even beat Ben Lane/ Sean Vendy at the recently-concluded World Championships. Currently ranked at a career-high number 42, Delrue/ Villeger show a lot of promise. The French pair is the one to follow as they seek to reach the Top 20. Since only 16 pairs qualify for each doubles category, women’s doubles is a tricky business for France. It will perhaps require reshuffling amongst Anne Tran, Margot Lambert, Vimala Heriau, and Delphine Delrue. All things considered, France and Europe promise their best-ever performance at the Olympics in Paris.