Axelsen’s good as new – and game for Tokyo

Denmark’s men’s singles shuttler Viktor Axelsen (pic) has declared himself injury-free as he bids to end his wait for the Olympic gold medal. The 26-year-old who was forced out of last year’s World Champion-ships in Basel by persistent back and leg pains that dogged him in June said he he is now free of pain and feeling fresh enough to push for the coveted gold.

Axelsen’s best achievement at the Olympics so far was when he beat China’s Lin Dan in the bronze medal playoff in Rio 2016 and he hopes to go one better in Tokyo in July.

“I feel I am getting better but there is some time left to go for the Olympics and I still have a lot of room for improvement, ” said the Dane.

“However, I think I am in a good place right now, and most importantly, I don’t have any injuries whatsoever, so that’s pretty good.

The Danish world No. 5 will definitely be one to to look out for in Tokyo along with fierce rivals Kento Momota of Japan, China’s reigning Olympic champion Chen Long and Indonesia’s Asian Games gold medalist Jonatan Christie.

Momota, who is the world No. 1, will be desperate to win Japan’s first Olympics men’s singles gold medal in badminton and is the obvious threat to Axelsen’s ambitions.

Axelsen, however, remains unfazed and says there are many other rivals so he will not take anyone for granted.

However, he did admit that Momota was the hot favorite going into the Olympics in his home country.

Asked about the pressure on the shoulders of the Japanese shuttler, Axelsen agreed that there was tremendous expectation on the two-time world champion to deliver.

“But there is pressure on all of us as well, not just on Momota. That’s part of the game.”

Alexsen, himself a former world champion, was part of the victorious Danish team that stunned the badminton world by winning the 2016 Thomas Cup in Kushan, China.

Yesterday, Axelsen moved into the second after breezing past Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto 21-13,21-8 yesterday.

The Dane only needed 26 minutes to swipe aside the Indonesian who is ranked 17th in the world. He will face world No. 15 Kenta Nishimoto of Japan in the second round today.

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