Weather the storm in Malaysian badminton with long-term measures

Viktor Axelsen

THE weather has been somewhat kind in Odense at this year’s Danisa Denmark Open.

It’s not as bitter cold as previous autumns and it’s nice to see the sun still shining brightly – and it makes all the red and yellow-shaded leaves look even more glorious.

The unexpected but pleasant weather is not the only “hot” topic here in the charming town of Odense. I’ve been greeted with many questions too since I arrived.

Have you heard of Viktor Axelsen’s book, they asked. I was unaware but it did not come as a big surprise – after all, Axelsen is born in the same town where author Hans Christian Andersen crafted all his famed fairy tales during the Danish golden age.

The 24-year-old Axelsen has penned his life story in his book, “The Danish Dragon”. It is priced at Danish krone 299 (RM192) and has been selling like hot cakes but it has touched a raw nerve.

The 2016 world champion’s criticism of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) for some of their “silly” rules has raised eyebrows.

He took a jab at the Badminton Denmark too and even pointed out the probability of breaking away from the national body. Interesting times may be ahead in Denmark badminton – will we see the birth of full-fledged independent shuttlers in the top European badminton nation?

Then, there is this other question – do you know that all South Korean coaches have resigned? It seems that the Denmark Open is the last stint for them. I’m not sure about the authenticity of this but South Korea do need a major revamp as they are struggling as a badminton nation with very few good results of late.

They need to unearth more players in the mould of former greats Kim Dong-moon, Park Joo-bong and Lee Yong-dae to regain their supremacy, especially in the men’s doubles.

But one of the most popular questions throughout this week is, how is two-time Denmark Open champion Lee Chong Wei? And will he return to competitive badminton again? This I could answer with some conviction after having exchanged messages with him.

I told them that he was recovering well from his early-stage nose cancer and although the Malaysian has lost five kilograms, he is positive about a comeback.

When? Well, I guess only time will tell.

But there was one particular question that I struggled to answer – what’s wrong with Malaysian badminton? Our rivals have noticed a dip in the graph as far as results are concerned.

From a nation that won three silver medals at the 2016 Olympic Games, we’ve flopped in several majors this year – the Thomas Cup Finals, World Championships and Asian Games.

It is not that we lack the talents. We have a pool of players at the junior level and boast some rising stars.

Besides Chong Wei, others have won titles this year too such as mixed doubles pair Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (Singapore Open), men’s singles’ Lee Zii Jia (Taiwan Open), women’s singles’ Goh Jin Wei (Youth Olympic Games).

What’s lacking is long-term plans and programmes! The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) keep focusing on short-term measures and expect immediate results. Well, that’s not going to work.

We need a far-sighted and selfless coaching director to run the show without having to deal with meddling hands and constant changes. And why don’t we give a local guy such as Wong Choong Hann or other former greats the time, support and chance to make a difference.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is just one-and-a-half years away – and it’s time for Malaysia to put their house in order by taking badminton world by storm again.

Right now, the last thing Malaysian badminton should be is like the unpredictable Danish weather.

  • The writer thanks the Danish BA for inviting her to the Danisa Denmark Open. She noticed that except for Japan and probably Indonesia, all other top badminton nations, including mighty China, are going through a rough season.
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