Q: What’s your thought on winning the president’s post without contesting it?
A: I am naturally happy there is support in the BWF leadership. However, having the full support of the membership demands more of the leadership. Certainly, the responsibility is bigger when you win unopposed, so there is pressure to perform.
Q: It has been one of the most challenging years – for any president – with Covid-19 causing chaos in sports. How are BWF coping?
A: Covid-19 created an extremely difficult set of circumstances for the BWF to operate under, but there is no doubt that we all fought hard in trying to activate as many tournaments and badminton activities as possible. This included investments from the BWF to provide tournament hosts with financial assistance to stage such activities. Moving forward, we are of course looking into the vaccination programmes of each country, we see that the percentage is rising.
At grassroots level, we have a very important job in the coming years to continue with school and club programmes, with a priority on motivating more youngsters to play.
This is so that we can safeguard the future of badminton for generations to come, and be able to say in five years’ time post Covid-19 that we are still in a strong position.
I think, in the past 12 months, the council have been responsible, understanding and good in cooperating under difficult decision-making processes. Even when we were hit hard by Covid-19, we have been able to come back stronger with good protocols and deliver fantastic and safe tournament solutions such as the three-tournament Asian leg in Bangkok, Thailand which was a huge success.
Q: There are plans to change the scoring format and introduce the plastic shuttle, what’s your thought on this?
A: Regarding the synthetic or plastic shuttlecock, it is important to understand this is about badminton being able to deliver a sustainable sport for years to come.
As such, we have been working very hard to develop a synthetic shuttlecock for tournament play.
Extensive testing of various prototypes was conducted during the development phase of the project, with new synthetic feather shuttles finally being tested at three BWF-sanctioned international tournaments in 2018.
Feedback indicated that the synthetic feather shuttle was more durable and economical compared to a traditional natural feathered shuttle, while at the same time providing a very similar flight and performance.
During the various tests, it was discovered that the synthetic feather shuttle could reduce shuttlecock usage up to 25%, providing a significant environmental and economic edge for badminton going forward.
Off the back of the testing, we were able to grant approval for the synthetic feather shuttlecock to be used in an official capacity at tournaments from the beginning of 2021. Due to Covid-19, this has been delayed, and we do not have a new timeline for implementation, so we will have to wait a bit more to see this publicly.
At the same time, we are also very pleased we have delivered a plastic shuttlecock for outdoor badminton called the AirShuttle.
As reported, this has a much higher level of wind resistance than traditional shuttlecocks and we are confident this product will help us make a dynamic version of badminton outdoors.
Finally, on the proposed scoring system change, I am very pleased on a personal level that it is our member associations who are driving this forward to make a decision. We can only support the members’ interests of developing badminton and I look forward to seeing whether the 5x11 scoring system will be voted in favour.
Q: Badminton has great following as evident by some of the recent studies, are you satisfied or do you think more need to be done?
A: I think it is fantastic that we are able to look at the results of our performance on our social and digital platforms in terms of fan growth rate and see that we are having a positive impact.
And as I can see, this rise in interest in badminton is as strong as ever and we have all indications that this will continue. It also means we are doing a great job in reaching out to an audience that is young, and that very much represents an area of focus and importance for us in the long run.
Q: There are a few usual suspects like Japan, China, Indonesia who are dominant in this sport. Do you think BWF have done enough to promote it all over the world?
A; Yes, I do believe we have reached out to a large number of different countries, and even though we know we have a cluster of powerhouse nations that represent the core of elite badminton, we are also very focused on our grassroots programmes and how to develop an interest globally by making badminton more accessible across a number of platforms.
We will always strive to make badminton a worldwide sport as this is also an objective of the Olympics movement, and is closely tied to the duties and responsibilities outlined in our strategic plan 2020-2024.
We do know there are many nations interested in developing their status, and we will at all times support initiatives in developing skills, not only at a technical level, but at an administration and coaching too, to create better pathways and support structures to make this progression possible.
And we are confident, this will see badminton evolve in places where it is not seen as a number one sport.