An interview with Li Yong Bo - Chinese badminton is still the strong. Li dreams of 5 gold. Originally published in NanFang Daily 11/06/2003 Author : Xiang Ming HAN Translator : Kwun HAN The last Grand Prix tournament of the year, China Open, will be held at the middle of the month. Right now, the Chinese team is in Guangzhou under short term closed door training. Yesterday afternoon, the author caught up with Chinese head coach Li Yongbo, from Li’s opinions, we have a complete overview of the Chinese team. R : reporter L : Li YongBo R: are you satisfied with the team’s results of the past 9 Grand Prix tournaments? L: Throughout the year, the Chinese team performance has been very stable. Especially from the World Championships, we managed to win 1st for 3 events on each tournaments. As for the distribution of medals, we have gold for each of the 5 events. WS, WD, MS are very strong with more gold medals, however, MD and XD are weaker. From the 5 events, we consistently win more than ½ of the medals, this proves that Chinese badminton team is still the strongest in the world. R: MD player Sang Yang / Zheng Bo surprised everybody to grab the Indonesian Open crown, but their performance is weaker on later tournaments. L : the media, fan as well as the training staff should have noticed the definite improvement in our MD pairs. What were we before? We never managed to gain the last 8 position. Now we can win a 5* tournament! This means that the WD pairs are now in or near the strongest teams in the world, with enough strength to challenge any pairs. in the long term, they have a lot of potential. R: up to the HK Open, Zhang Jun / Gao Ling already lost to Kim / Ra 7 times in a roll, what is the problem? L: before now, the only times Zhang/Gao managed to beat Kim/Ra was only in the Olympics and WC. That is not a mere simple competition of skills and mental strategy, but instead a test of overall skill. From the point of skills, our players are still not as good, we already have found the source of the problem. R: from the current state, China has 6 MS players but only 4 WS players, does that mean you are more confident (less worried) with the WS event? L: actually, the opposite. My biggest headache right now is developing the replacement for the current WS players. We can definitely say that overall strength, Chinese MS is the strongest in the world. The 4 WS players are all very good, but comparatively speaking, the 2nd team are only average. To strengthen the 2nd team, expand the 1st team is the most urgent issue in the team. R: in China Open 2001 in Ling Bo, China took all 5 gold, do you think you can repeat the same feat? L: anything can happen, I believe my player will play their best. The Dream of 5 Olympics gold R: the goal of playing the Grand Prix tournaments is to gain points, gain points to gain entry positions for the Olympics. Are you satisfied with the current situation? L: very satisfied. R: what would be the ideal entries for the Olympics? L: of course the more the better, but there are limitations, every team can only have 3 MS, 3 WS, 2 MD, 2 WD, and 1 or 2 XD. I hope we can get the maximum entries, I think that should not be a problem. R: in Sydney 2000, China grab 4 out of 5 golds. What is your expectation for Athens? L: I dream of having 5 golds! Do you really need to ask? However, looking at our strength right now, a more objective goal would be 2 only, of course if we can have more if performance is better. R: did losing the Sudirman Cup has any negative impact? L: no negative impact, if any impact, it will be to strengthen our spirit. We already made history from winning 4 consecutive Sudirman Cups, we lost the 5th time only because we made some minor mistakes, it is not a sign that we are weak. Losing this time is not a problem, we will win it back next time. R: before the Olympics, what is the biggest issue at hand? L: raise the consistency of the players. We have many young players and they don’t have much experience. Giving away Asian Badminton Champsionship R: the decision to forego the Asian Badminton Championship stirred up some news, looking back, what do you think of the decision? L: I think we did the right thing! There are so many Grand Prix events, and everyone of them has points towards the Olympics, the ABC doesn’t have any points, of course we would forego that ABC. China foregoing the games of course has impact to ticket sales and the result of the match. But we need to consider the benefit to the Chinese team as well, we should not do anything to hurt the team. R: when ABC decided to punish the team as a result, were you pressured? L: ABC never said they would punish the Chinese team. It was some media who leaked and distorted the personal opinion of individuals in the ABC, resulting in the rumor. R: did you mention to the national sports committee or the ABC about foregoing the championship? L: of course we mentioned it. we plan out each years attendance. ABC was originally scheduled for April but was later postponed. We already told ABC then that there are too many GP events and we have to forego the ABC. R: if they indeed fine the Chinese team, what would be your reaction? L: we cannot be fined! That doesn’t make sense. There is no rule saying we must enter the ABC. Of course, they give us face means that we are strong.