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Thread: Asian Domination of Badminton
04-04-2007, 04:29 PM #1
Asian Domination of Badminton
I wrote this article in a local publication, "Inquirer Badminton", when I was covering the 2005 MVP Cup (Asia vs Europe) and I thought of sharing it with you guys (enjoy!):
By Vip Malixi
This coming MVP Cup, there'll be a 'Man bites dog' situation: Asia is actually favored to win over Europe. Despite Europe's tall players, economic muscle and technological advancement, the Asian team composed of Indonesia, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines should prove more than a match for their European counterparts from Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and England.
Just get a load of this: since the International Badminton Federation (IBF) was founded in 1934 by nine countries (none of whom were Asian), 70 percent of all IBF tournaments have been won by Indonesia and China! The premiere ladies badminton tournament, the Uber Cup, which was started in 1956 and was first won by the U.S. has never left Asian hands since 1966! The men's version, the Thomas Cup, which held its first tournament in 1949, has never been won by a non-Asian country!
It's gotten to the point that last March, former Men's Singles World No. 1 Peter Gade of Denmark complained that Asian domination of the sport was turning off spectators (maybe he thinks Western audiences were tired of their players getting clobbered). Former Women's Singles World No. 1 Susi Susanti of Indonesia reacted to this (in an interview with Jakarta's Post's Bruce Emond) by saying there was some truth to Gade's remarks: she said that yes, it was more interesting to watch a match where the players come from different countries. But she pointed out that showdowns between players from within Asia such as her rivalry with South Korea's Bang Soo Hyun and China's Ye Zhaoying were also exciting. Supporting her contention, the match between Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat and China's Lin Dan during the Sudirman Cup was indeed a nail-biter (Taufik, who lost, got his revenge by the way by winning over Lin Dan in the just completed Singapore Open). Interestingly, Susanti added that normally, Asian players would be anxious when having to face athletes from Europe and the U.S. who tended to be taller, stronger and better trained, but when it came to badminton, the situation was reversed. She said that she enjoyed playing against the Europeans because, "I knew that many of them were easily frustrated and would give up. When losing or in a pressure situation, they would commit unforced errors, so I didn't get tired playing them."
And maybe because she harbored a twinge of irritation at Gade's original remarks, she added a dig at Camilla Martin (Gade's fiance): "An example was Camilla Martin of Denmark...she was tall, but she was also agile around the court...but I always looked forward to playing her. One reason was because her style of play suited mine. The second was that her mental strength was suspect. If she made a mistake, she would get angry with herself and her consistency would fall apart...I liked her off court, but...I would sometimes smile at her on court, make fun of her a bit, because I knew she would get angry."
Well, Susanti, who was won almost every women's singles tournament there is including the Olympics, certainly has the "K" (the right) to voice her authoritative opinion though it may ruffle some European feathers.
But is that the main factor for Asians' domination over European players: mental toughness? Don't European players have access to the finest sports psychologists? the ones employed by their champion tennis players and golfers?
At badminton discussion sites across the web, most reacted to Gade's remarks by saying Asian players simply worked at badminton harder than their European counterparts. A poster named Neil Nicholls of the UK put it best: "For a country to dominate there's a bit more to it: 1) population size; 2) what percentage of the population play the sport; 3) what structure exists within the country to allow players to progress; 4) quality and availability of coaches; 5) quality and availability of opposition; 6) government support; 7) how many players are willing to put the rest of their life on hold to train hard and become the best."
Looking at Neil's points, one could say Europeans could pass items one through six with flying colors. But how about "7"? Unlike tennis and golf where reaching the top five in the world usually means fame and never-having-to-worry-about-money-ever-again type of fortune, with badminton, by European standards, you don't really get the same rewards for all your hard work and dedication. And when we talk about "dedication," we're talking about great sacrifice: no more dates, no more movies, no more eating out at restaurants or time for TV or studies--no more normal life, in other words. Look at how Jennifer Rosales reacted when she was asked if she had a boyfriend. With a disdainful smirk, she said something like: sure she could get a boyfriend, but she wouldn't be ranked as highly as she was if she had one. Yup. We're talking about serious sacrifice here. This is not about just a couple of hours a day practice, this is about having to point the headlights of your father's car down the driving range so you could keep hitting balls until your hands bled (which is what the golf great Jack Nicklaus did when he was developing his golf skills).
For some Asians, badminton is a way out of poverty. It could be one's ticket out of a life that was destined for menial labor. I don't know about China but there are hundreds of Indonesians, Thai, and Vietnamese out there who are giving the sport their blood, sweat and tears because they see it as the only credible way for a better life. So when you put two players in competition, with one player playing for prestige and honor and the other playing for their very life, who do you think will win?
Case in point is what happened in the first-ever Thomas Cup:
Sir George Alan Thomas, a white-haired wealthy baronet of Yapton with a distinguished-looking mustache, was a leading player of England from 1903 to 1927, even winning the All-England title for four years. After retiring from active competition, Sir Thomas felt that he had to leave something to the game that had given him much pleasure. So he envisaged forming a world badminton tournament similar to soccer's world cup. The IBF liked his idea and set up the officially named "International Badminton Championship Challenge Cup" that came to be known more familiarly by the title of "The Thomas Cup" to be held every three years.
Plans to hold the first ever tournament was put on hold though due to the outbreak of World War II. It was only ten years later, in 1949, that they were finally able to hold the inaugural championship. Ten countries took part, with the finals to be held in England. The United States came through from the Pan American Zone and Denmark from the European Zone. Malaya (Malaysia's old name) was in the finals as the only representative of the Pacific Zone.
The three finalists had never participated in a competition of this nature and were unaware of the relative strength of their opponents. Denmark was captained by the reigning All-England champion Joern Skaarup and the United States was headed by Dave Freeman who had an unbeaten record dating back to 1939. The Malayan team, who had to travel the long and tedious journey to England and face their first winter, were composed of unknowns in the badminton world: Wong Peng Soon, Ooi Teik Hock, Law Teik Hock, Teoh Seng Khoon, Chan Kon Leong, Yeoh Teck Chye, Lim Kee Fong and Ong Poh Lim.
First up for Malaya in the inter-zonal final was the United States and they were not given much of a chance. The US's Freeman was a magician of the game and was at his physical peak. With interest in the first ever championships reaching fevered pitch, thousands of people crowded the tiny Kelvin Hall where the matches were held to watch the US face Malaya. In the first day, as predicted, Freeman won his match and a point for the US. But unexpectedly, the other three matches were won by Malaya! Malaya was up 3-1! The press soon started raving about Malayan player Wong Peng Soon who they said was maybe as good as Freeman! An Asian? How could that be? The second day was the clincher, Malaya won over the US with the final points/matches won of 6 to 3! Next up, was the finals against the Danes!
But tragedy struck Malaya: their star player, Wong Peng Soon was forced out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury. It was up to his replacement, Law Teik Hock to face Danish captain and All-England champion, Joern Skaarup. But Hock played like a man possessed. The Malayan won 15-5, 15-0 over the great Dane (no pun intended)! Malaya ended up winning against Denmark, 8 games to 1! The Malayans, the come from nowhere underdogs, had won the first ever Thomas Cup! How did they do it? How did a sport whose rules were formalized in England and then spread around the world by European colonists end up being mastered by "the natives"? It's just a guess, but we think for the Malayans, they were playing for something other than sport. For the Malayans, who were still under British rule at the time, maybe it was a question of life.
* research for the first Thomas Cup event was based on the Sydney Olympics Official Badminton Page and the Arizona Badminton Club web page.
Unabashed plug: you can get hold of one of the best badminton instructional books at http://instructoons.com/book/
04-04-2007, 04:53 PM #2
Yup, more money, more people who will devote their life to it professionally. For example, the best golfers are american, because there's huge money to be made. So if there was more money in badminton, you'll certainly see more european and american players who'd like to dedicate their lives.
04-05-2007, 07:47 AM #3
Money is an incredible motivator.
Many ppl do not realize it, but the USA was once a badminton power. It started with the likes of Dave Freeman in the 1930s and 40s and lasted thru to the late 1960 with players like James Poole and Judy Devlin (Hashman). Judy Devlin was the All-England singles champion a record 10 times! She also won the All-England doubles title 7 times. I don't believe any other badminton player from any country has ever been this dominant in the sport.
Indonesia's Rudy Hartono and Denmark's Morten Frost have probably come closest to achieving this kind of dominance in badminton. Frost was ranked in the top 3 in the world for 12 years!
So what happened to badminton in the US? Money was probably the largest factor. The problem is that tons of money went into other sports in the US in the '60 and '70s. Sports such as basketball, baseball, American football & tennis all became big business sports in this country. Elite athletes and developing athletes in the US were drawn to the money. The big business sports also get TV coverage whereas badminton gets no coverage at all (we finally got some during the 2004 Olympics at odd hours in the middle of the night). AS a result of money, badminton fell by the wayside -- top US athletes go into other sports.
Despite the apparent Asian domination of badminton in recent years, it's the Danish players that really amaze me. Denmark has produced a remarkable number of top players in the past 4 decades. This from a tiny country that currently has a population of a mere ~5.4 million people. That is less than half the population of Tokyo.
To put it into perspective, consider these population comparisons with respect to Denmark: Malaysia is 5x (5 times as many ppl), England & So Korea are about 9x, Phillipines is 15x, Indonesia is 40x, USA is 55x, India is more than 200x and China has a whopping 240 times as many ppl as Denmark.
Consider the dominance that Denmark might achieve if they were a large country with a population rivalling that of India or China.
04-05-2007, 09:44 AM #4
I agree with your points.
Denmark is undeniably very successful in badminton. Denmark as far as I know has a different system to produce players and I don't know the ratio of the people involved in badminton. China on the other hand, I believe the active badminton population was not that high (don't know now) when compared to other countries.
Originally Posted by SystemicAnomaly
05-29-2007, 09:14 AM #5
This smacks heavily of double standards. I don't know if Peter Gade's remarks were taken out of context but why is he *complaining* about a sport being dominated by one continent or another? The underlying implication here is that the West has to win at everything in order for spectators to be interested. It is inevitable that certain sports are dominated by certain nations where the sport is extremely popular. Maybe Asia would have more competition if the general population in the West stopped viewing badminton as merely something you play in the back garden with your aged spinster aunt.
05-29-2007, 09:30 AM #6
personally, i think poland will soon dominate the world at badminton
05-29-2007, 10:58 AM #7
The world of badminton knows our 3 best MD, LD and MX pair plus one strong MS player (maybe in European standards). But unfortunately the younger players are not to the standard of these 5 and I expect a dramatically slump after they retire.
This is what differ power houses - they are deep of talents and players can be replaced.
But this is not only the Polish problem...
05-29-2007, 11:39 AM #8
The popularity of the sport itself plays a big role as well.Less ppl in europe or america would take a badminton as their career,or play it seriously.Unlike in asia,ppl plays badminton n they love it.Some of them send their kids to go for a badminton class,since they love this sport.Some of them ended playing seriously,for clubs,or even for their national team.Compare to europe or america,there'll be less parents sending their kids to this badminton sport.Much lesser than to go for soccer team,football team.
2ndly,i think somehow money that is paid by the western countries for their atheletes is much more than the asian player would get.So,i guess one of the reason is also how much they love the sport.No matter how much they pay u,but if u dont like to do it,u wont do it good.But for those countries who got more ppl that love badminton,goverment can try to pay more for the sport,that encourage ppl to be involved in that.Also pay their atheletes more,or giving them some bonus for their achievements will also be a good form of action to encourage the atheletes.
Basically,as an indonesian,i think,from the indo side,there's less ppl or family who sends their kids to play badminton seriously,unlike in the past.
In the past,the payment n treatment is not as bad as these days.The PBSI is also having a great deal of problem.But the reason why they still struggle up to today,is because indo is only good in badminton.They specialize at this sport.They wanna keep it that way.So,it becomes one of the sport which has the best payment.Asian domination of badminton is much less fair in the world of sports since the western countries currently still dominating in the other sports.Besides,there's no such thing as unfair treatment by the umpire or IBF.Dont be sarcastic about it.Just try to improve like denmark,or england team these days.
Last edited by Smichz; 05-29-2007 at 11:46 AM.
05-29-2007, 12:20 PM #9
[quote=vip_m;545425] at Gade's original remarks, she added a dig at Camilla Martin (Gade's fiance): "
Well written and well said...except Camilla Martin is not PG's fiance...PG's wife now, I think, shared the same surname as Camilla but it is not her.
05-29-2007, 05:59 PM #10
05-30-2007, 07:26 AM #11
05-30-2007, 08:38 AM #12
I have been working in europe & other parts of the world.
I guess the only reason why badminton growing in other part of the world is solely because of its lack popularity.
If there are interest from the european country sure the $$$ will go up!
it's important too that badminton to be popular around the world to be one of the world premeir game.
a top 100 tennis player would earn more than LIN DAN or Taufik
05-31-2007, 09:17 AM #13
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