An American in Paris (Badminton Style)
I am not exactly sure what I have just witnessed at the recently completed Badminton World Championships in Paris. With all the hope and anticipation of a different tournament this years the end result seemed all too familiar. Did we witness a great international badminton competition or did we just witness a professional badminton demonstration from the Chinese national team?
The world championships this year in Paris were great and I can say that France is definitely a place you want to visit. For me the badminton was the frosting on the cake of a great two week vacation that saw us visit the beaches of the Riviera and ride the famous alp D’huez in the French alps. But the badminton is what brought us here.
We anticipated great things this year in looking at the seedlings and hoping again that someone would put a dent in the Chinese dominance. For the most part the seedings reflected that this should have been the case, but in the end, the seedings were very off from reality, and what really mattered was China’s team ranking. Team China won all five events with out even as much of a hint of stress. Team china had 11 of 20 teams in the semis and 8 of 10 teams in the finals. Save for the Men’s events it was practically a Chinese national championship played in Paris.
Taufik put up a good fight for a while in the men’s singles finals, but the Chinese coaches never appeared to have much stress about them during the match. Chen looked like Super Dan from Last year and the heir apparent to the Men’s singles throne. Chen was fast, strong, and in a few rallies really put the match away with some great digs and recoveries. In the end it looked like Taufik had no options to score points, and made errors trying to make something happen to shake Chen. Taufik is still the crowd favorite and the last non-Team China to win this title, he played well and was great to watch.
The mixed doubles was a change from last year where we were entertained by the Danish team of Laybourn and Rytter surprise win. This year there was no surprise and the team of Zeng and Ma won quite easily. Zeng looked to be the real dominant player and had some very creative shots during the match that seemed to come out of no where to win the point. Ma, who looked to be the best women’s doubles player in the tournament, was unflappable in winning their title.
The ladies doubles was the only match to feature the top two seeds this year. The number two Chinese doubles team of Du and Yu out played the first seeded Ma and Wang. Maybe the Ladies just wanted to spread the gold medals around and it was Yu’s turn after collecting the silver medal in mixed to Ma.
The ladies singles was won by Wang Lin Who came through the draw in the quarter where the first seeded Yihan Wang had lost in the round of 16 to Japan’s Eriko Hirose in a very exciting match. The final against Xin Wang was a good match but Wang Lin just looked to strong in every aspect of the game. The result could also indicate the luck of the draw as Xin had a long three game match the previous day against teammate Shixian Wang and may have been a little more tired from the semis going into the final.
Although the Chinese team was dominant there were several other very good performances by players that are both very fun to watch with their speed and creativity. Of note was the play of Sheng Mu Lee of Taiwan, Koo and Tan of Malaisa and Kido of Indonesia. On the ladies side, the doubles and mixed play of Yu-chin Chien, and the singles tenacity of Hirose of Japan provided some great moments in the tournament. Both showed brilliance at times during play, and showed that the rest of the world will still compete well with team China in the future.
In discussing the results after the finals it is hard to find an Olympic sport so dominated by one team. It reminds me of the US Dream team in Basketball where every game was never in doubt. There is no question that the Chinese will dominate badminton for the next several years as the rest of the countries work to keep pace. The sport is squarely in their hands and it will be up to team China to lead and nurture badminton as it continues to gain world wide acceptance as a premier sport. It was different this year with the Chinese players tossing team shirts to the crowd after the match, and souvenirs at the start of their finals matches. It is a far cry from the very subdued teams of before, and a good omen for badminton’s future.
The French badminton federation did a great job in putting the event on and they tried a few new twists. The Semis were played on one court and lasted about 12 hours with a musical half time show. It was too long, especially when there were many lopsided matches, or team against team matches. The venue was very hot as the BWF needs to work on how to control drafts that affect the play without having to turn off all the building ventilation. But it was a great crowd and a full venue that should have played well on TV.
I plan to continue to attend this pinnacle of badminton events in the future, but at least for now, I think the most hotly competitive tournament in the world just might be the Chinese National Championships! I wonder if I could get a ticket!
See you on the courts
The Bellevue Badminton Club