Over a billion people opened their hearts out to welcome home their heroes in the wake of China’s unprecedented success at the Madrid World Championships last weekend. Four of the more prestigious titles on offer in the Spanish city – the men’s and ladies’ singles and doubles - were snapped up by Chinese players in double quick time, leaving the mixed doubles to the English, a nation not usually given to bag major awards when in the company of Denmark, Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. But that was the reality at Madrid.
And that probably is a matter of some disappointment for the body that governs the sport in Asia – Badminton Asia Confederation. Said Karen Koh, chief operating officer of the BAC, “Of course we are delighted at Chinese success. But while we rejoice with them at their hour of triumph, our thoughts are also with the players from Indonesia, Malaysia and Korea. Each had left for Spain with an avowed intent to bring home some glitter; each had players capable of fulfilling that aspiration. But their total flop at the highest stage must have been devastating.”
But Karen understands that gold medals at the World Championship only go to the best players of the moment. “There was no question about China’s domination at the Championships. Both the men and the ladies hit peak form when it mattered most and deservedly took home the rewards.”
While accepting that China’s success is also testimony to Asia’s continued supremacy in the sport, Karen felt that it would have come as greater credibility to the region’s strength in the sport if more members had shared the rewards. “If the Koreans, Indonesians and the Malaysians had each returned home with a gold, that would have been the ideal reflection of Asian strength on the world scene,” said Karen. She continued, “It would not have been impossible for, probably Indonesia to pick up the Mixed Doubles, Malaysia, the men’s singles and Korea, the men doubles. Such a possibility was on the cards as their players were pretty well placed in international ranking. Of course, Denmark was in Madrid with a set of powerful singles and doubles players, yet they failed to translate their strength into gold medals.”
Karen’s thoughts were more on Asia as a body dominating world badminton than China as a single nation representing the continent. “Asian domination of world badminton has been a feature all these years and it would be good to see the spoils of a prestigious tournament like the World Championships being more evenly shared because the four top regional nations are pretty equal in strength,” said Asia’s top administrative executive.
“But I must congratulate all our players for a good run at the championships and excellent representation at the highest stage of the game. And of course, I welcome England into the fold of world champions with their unexpected yet deserved win of the mixed doubles,” concluded Karen.”
Outside the competition at the Palacio de Deportes Madrid, a historic event was re-enacted. Some 200 over delegates from member nations of the International Badminton Federation created history when in a show of collectively solidarity renamed the world body, BADMINTON WORLD FEDERATION (BWF). This is the first time since the formation of the IBF in 1936 had the institution experienced a change in its name. The rationale is to have the parent body align itself more closely to the sport. This new name was incorporated into the constitution and adopted.
Certain confederations have already had their names changed to accommodate the word BADMINTON at the front. They include Badminton Oceania, Badminton Asia, Badminton Pan Am and Badminton Europe. A number of national federations in Europe have already set the tone to do likewise while those in other parts of the world are expected to follow shortly.
The EGM was also a joyous occasion for one of Europe’s most popular administrators, the former general secretary of the European Union, Gisela Hoffmann. Gisela was presented with the Herbert Scheele Award by the president of the BWF, Dr Kang Young Joong. The award was in recognition for her lifetime dedication and contribution to the sport. A special guest at the meeting was Sir Craig Reedie, president of the IBF from 1981 – 1984.
The World Championships in Madrid offered delegates to the assembly the chance to meet up and share thoughts about the game. Our own Karen was able to spend some time with her continental counterparts Brian Agerbak from Europe and Oceania’s Robin Bryant.