China’s top shuttlers’ first outing could be the Malaysian Open

Zheng Siwei, Huang Yaqiong, Chen Yufei and Shi Yuqi donning the Yonex outfit during the unveiling of Yonex as official equipment sponsor of China Badminton Association in Shanghai on Wednesday.

PETALING JAYA: Chinese badminton stars are set to make their long-awaited return to the international arena in May with Malaysia being the possible first destination.

The likes of reigning Olympics champion Chen Long and Shi Yuqi (men’s singles), Chen Yufei (women’s singles), Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong (mixed doubles) last competed at the All-England in March last year.

They did not travel to Bangkok for the three back-to-back World Tour legs in January after being barred from leaving the country by their government. For the ongoing season-opening Swiss Open and All-England this month, the China Badminton Association (CBA) did not submit any entries.

But the fans can expect to catch their favourite players not too long from now.

CBA president Zhang Jun revealed that they are planning to take part in three tournaments – Asian Badminton Championships (April 27-May 2), Malaysian Open (May 25-30) and Singapore Open (June 1-6).

However, it’s not certain at this time as to whether Asia’s flagship event will be held as scheduled given the venue has not even been finalised yet.

It was supposed to take place in China but the country has yet to reopen its borders.

In the event that the ABC is postponed or cancelled, the Malaysian Open will be the next option for the Chinese team.

“Our current plan is to participate in the Malaysia, Singapore and Asian Championships in May, ” Zhang Jun told Chinese media after unveiling the appointment of Yonex as the official sponsor for the Chinese national badminton team in Shanghai on Wednesday.

“Before that, there will be the National Games preliminaries in early April. All players will return to their respective provincial teams to compete. We are very eager to find out the current state of our players’ performance.”

The non-participation of Chinese shuttlers in the first few Olympics qualifiers including the Indian Open (May 11-16) will hardly have any impact on their chances.

Except for the men’s doubles, China are virtually assured of two maximum quotas in the other four events.

Despite being limited to just training throughout the pandemic period, Zhang Jun has insisted that the team’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics remain on the right track.

The CBA are setting their sights on repeating the clean sweep of all five gold medals previously achieved at the 2012 London Olympics.

Meanwhile, Yonex has returned as the sponsor of the Chinese national team after a lapse of 12 years. The Japanese giants replaced Li-Ning who had been CBA’s previous equipment partner since 2009.

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