‘Small’ Denmark make big impact in world badminton

Viktor Axelsen, one of Denmark's top badminton singles players. - AFP

ODENSE: Denmark is a small country but they keep producing huge talents in badminton.

How is that possible?

Former international Peter-Gade Christensen said that it all goes back to their solid club system and early education about the sport to schoolchildren. 

"We have slightly more than 5 million people but I am proud to say that we have an amazing badminton tradition," said the former great.

"Denmark keep on producing talents. Since I left (in 2013), Jan O Jorgensen (AFP pic, below) and Viktor Axelsen have taken over. And watch out for our European junior champion Anders Antonsen.

Besides the men's singles, Denmark also have good players challenging for honours in the men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. 

They used to boast of stars like Camilla Martin and Tine Rasmussen in the past. 

"As early as 5 years old, our juniors are taught the basics of badminton. They are educated on how the game is played. 

"It is too late to ask someone to change their grip or style when they are 18 or 19 years old. All our juniors are attached with a club and educated by good coaches."

Bo Jensen, the Denmark BA's new chief operating officer (CEO), echoed Christensen's sentiment.  

He said that Denmark currently have 600 active badminton clubs. There are leagues for juniors to seniors. 

"The club system is the heart beat of Denmark badminton. It is quite unique compared to the rest of the world," said Jensen, who started work on Oct 1.

"We have players from the age of 5 to 65 playing regularly at their own level. They have competitions too. Those with the potential are tapped into the elite programme."

He, however, said that the whole system would collapse without volunteers. In fact, they have a volunteer association established way back in 1800, that currently now comprises 35% of their population.

"The volunteers do not get paid a single cent and they do the voluntary work during their spare time. Every week, there are about 600,000 volunteers involved in some voluntary work," said Jensen. 

"Their mindset is simple - to give back to the community. They have joy in what they do. 

"They contribute to the development of the sport and it becomes a good experience for them. This volunteerism culture has been embedded in our system for a long time."

Denmark do not only have a good pool of players but they are good hosts too.

And Sport Event Denmark's event manager Frederik Munk said that a good working partnership among the sports stakeholders is also key.

"In hosting events like Denmark Open, the partnership of three key bodies are important. They are the Sport Event Denmark, who is the government, Denmark Badminton Association (DBA) and the host city," said Munk. 

"The government provide the funding, the association look into the running of the sports and the host city facilitate the hosting of the event. This model has worked for us and it is all about good partnership," he said.

It’s no wonder, they are ruffling the feathers of the big Asian giants like China, Indonesia, South Korea, India, Japan and Malaysia. 
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