PETALING JAYA: Viktor Axelsen (pic) will make his first appearance as the reigning Olympic champion by spearheading Denmark’s challenge at the Sudirman Cup in Vaanta, Finland, from Sept 26-Oct 3.
The Danes named a squad with strength in depth comprising 10 men and seven women to try reclaim the podium since winning bronze in the 2013 edition in Kuala Lumpur.The team boast not only in-form men’s singles stars Axelsen and world No. 3 Anders Antonsen, they can also count on the experienced Anders Skaarup Rasmussen-Kim Astrup and Mia Blichfeldt to deliver points in the men’s doubles and women’s singles ties.
Despite being 18-time winners in Europe, Denmark have never tasted success in the Sudirman Cup as they find it hard to break the Asian stranglehold in the prestigious mixed team event, especially China who dominated 11 of the 15 editions held so far. Their best outings were finishing runners-up to China in 1999 and 2011.
In Vaanta, Denmark will fancy their chance for a top-two finish in Group C which comprise one-time winner Indonesia, Russia and Canada.
“We have selected a squad that we believe have the qualities to fight for a medal,” said head coach Kenneth Jonassen in the Badminton Denmark website.
“It is also a squad where we have the opportunity to be flexible (with the selection). We may field not only ‘the usual suspects’ but also new faces to gain championship experience.”
It will be interesting to see how Axelsen blends in with the rest of the team.
Following his Tokyo Olympics triumph, Axelsen dropped a bombshell by relocating to Dubai with his family.
The move meant he would no longer train with the national team in Brondby, and the decision didn’t go well with Badminton Denmark.
The national body reacted by saying Axelsen would no longer have access to coaching from Jonassen, except during major events such as the team tournaments.
Axelsen explained that training in Dubai could help him deal with his asthma condition better because of the warm weather.
Axelsen suffers from pollen allergy, known also as hay fever. In addition, he believes by living in Dubai, it helps to cut short his travel duration to the tournaments in both Europe and Asia.
Malaysia, who are in Group D with Japan, England and Egypt, will face Denmark only if the draw pits them against each other in the knockout stage.
Interestingly, the last time Malaysia and Denmark crossed paths was during the group stage of the 2009 edition in Guangzhou, China.
Then, points from Lee Chong Wei, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and Wong Mew Choo helped Malaysia secure a 3-2 win.
Men: Viktor Axelsen, Anders Antonsen, Rasmus Gemke, Kim Astrup, Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, Frederik Sogaard, Mads Pieler Kolding, Mathias Christiansen
Niclas Nohr, Mathias Thyrri.
Women: Mia Blichfeldt, Line Christophersen, Sara Thygesen, Maiken Fruergaard, Alexandra Boje, Amalie Magelund, Freja Ravn.