A spate of retirements of the once-dominant Chinese badminton players following the Rio Olympics was expected to herald a quieter period for the badminton powerhouse, but young players have stepped up to the plate and will keep China’s hopes alive at the upcoming Dubai World Superseries Finals [December 14-18].
China’s women’s singles superstars and former world No.1s Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan were among the first to retire, followed by women’s doubles players and 2012 Olympic gold medallists Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing.
Zhao is widely regarded as one of the finest doubles players of her generation having won a total of five World Championships, mixed doubles gold at the 2012 Olympic Games and bronze in Rio 2016 alongside Zhang Nan.
Former world No1s Yu Yang and Ma Jin also announced the end of their careers. With 2012 Olympic singles gold medallist Li Xuerui still battling injury, China suffered a significant dent in their post-Olympics playing roster.
But the final six BWF World Superseries events have shown that China’s youngsters are more than up to the task and the new generation of teens will be a serious threat in Dubai.
After being as low as 25 in the Destination Dubai women’s singles rankings early in the year, talented 19-year-old He Bingjiao powered home in the second half of the season, enjoying Superseries glory twice, at the Yonex Open Japan and the French Open.
He’s superb play saw her force her way into a qualifying spot for the blockbuster finale in the Emirates. But the Dubai debutante will have her work cut out for her, coming up against a stellar field in the season-closing showpiece.
The first-ever women’s singles badminton Olympic gold medallist from Europe, and the current world champion, Carolina Marin, will be in action along with Japan’s own teenage sensation Akane Yamaguchi, who collected two Superseries titles this year, and India’s rising star PV Sindhu who won India’s first badminton Olympic silver medal in Rio, as well as her first Superseries title in the Thaihot China Open in November.
Bingjiao’s explosion onto the singles world stage has been accompanied by the emergence of some dynamic doubles pairings. The 19-year-old Chen Qingchen is looking to take over the mantle from the legendary Zhao Yunlei.
A multiple world junior champion, Chen came of age at the senior level this year, anchoring China to the Uber Cup triumph at home and then winning her first Superseries in women’s doubles in Australia in June with Bao Yixin.
Chen is one of only two players to qualify for both women’s doubles and mixed doubles in her first trip to the Dubai World Superseries Finals, the other being the experienced 30-year-old Christinna Pedersen of Denmark, who won silver in Rio with Kamilla Rytter Juhl, and has won the World Superseries Finals Mixed Doubles title twice before.
The Dubai World Superseries Finals runs from December 14-18 at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
Tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices start from Dh25, with those under 18 years entering for free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
The Badminton World Federation’s innovative voting system has been recognised in this year’s prestigious Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award in Dubai.
Competing in the eighth edition of the award, badminton’s world-governing body has been announced winner of the International Category – Corporate Sports Creativity (International Federation of the Year Award).
BWF’s successful submission detailed its unique voting system, started in 2012, in which an objective and transparent method is used to determine voting strength, which rewards each member association for its engagement in international badminton and their contributions towards the development of the sport globally.
The system has been referenced by sports governance experts as “an inspiring case of change” and as a “democratic governance system…(which) offers an interesting opportunity for sport leaders across the world to rethink sport democratisation, as they start modernising their governance standards to get fit for purpose in the 21st century”.
Reacting to the news, BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer hailed the achievement as one “which will spur us in BWF to continue stretching our imagination and creativity as we seek not only to enhance our sport and the global badminton environment, but also to contribute to the international sporting landscape in any way possible”.
“We are pleased with how our voting system has evolved and the manner in which it has been embraced by our membership as well as by others in the sporting fraternity. This award is further validation of its merit,” he said.
The award, which is accompanied by a US$250,000 prize, will be presented to the BWF at a ceremony on Monday 9 January, 2017, at the Dubai World Trade Centre. BWF will be honoured along with winners in other categories of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, including the British Paralympic Association which won the International Paralympic Federation of the Year Award.
Only the top eight ranked players in the Destination Dubai rankings qualify for the event, and the Olympic silver medalist seemed out of the running when only ranked 16 with two events remaining in the BWF World Superseries qualifying calendar.
But 21-year-old Sindhu reproduced the form which took her to the Olympic podium, winning her first Superseries title in the Thaihot China Open last week, and finishing runner-up in the Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open on Sunday.
A delighted Sindhu said “It’s an honour to play in Dubai. It’s an event that I have always wanted to qualify for. My form is good and hopefully it will continue in Dubai. I’m happy that I did well the last two weeks. I’m a bit upset I didn’t win Hong Kong, but Tai played better than me.”
It was a bittersweet moment for India though as former world number one Saina Nehwal fell at the last hurdle in her attempt to come back from injury in time to qualify for Dubai. Having undergone knee surgery for an injury sustained during the Olympics, Nehwal had hoped to have enough points in reserve from good performances earlier in the year to keep her in the top eight, but her loss in the quarter finals in Hong Kong saw her surrender her place to Sindhu, finishing in ninth place.
Sindhu will face a star-studded field in the women’s singes, being joined by Olympic gold medallist Spain’s Carolina Marin and 2014 Superseries winner Tai Tzu Ying.
Tickets for the Dubai World Superseries Finals are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices start from AED 25, with those under 18 years entering for free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.