NEW DELHI: A lot has been spoken about the decline of Chinese badminton in recent times. Yes, they are no longer the powerhouses they once were. From winning five gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, they managed only two four years later in Rio. Their domination in terms of medals has gone down in most of the other major events too. But quietly, the Chinese shuttlers are making their way up to reclaim the throne they once proudly held.
At the India Open in New Delhi that got over on Sunday, the mixed doubles pair of Wang Yilu and Huang Dongping might be the only winners for the country, but they have been among big-hitters in most big-money BWF tournaments recently.
At the All England Open in early March, Chen Yufei, who will be China’s top hope in the women’s singles category in 2020 Tokyo Olympics, ended the domination of Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying. Tai Tzu — a player who has been in unreal form — was tamed by the 21-year-old to gift China its first All England title in the women’s category in three years. At the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, Shi Yuqi prevailed over the highly-rated Japanese Kento Momota. If one is to name all the other victories, the list will be a long one.
So it’s not that they have not been winning anything of late. But such was the country’s supremacy in the past that they were expected to dominate every time they stepped onto the court. And with a very crucial Olympic qualification year ahead, Dongping suggested that only a fool would disregard the Chinese in Tokyo.
“I think Chinese can fight for all five categories. But we need to improve our quality with the kind of players coming up. Then it’s a step-by-step process. Keeping away from the risk of injury will determine everything in Tokyo. Recovery after every high-level competition also matters,” Dongping said.
A young generation of players are coming up right in time for Tokyo and they don’t have to look too far for inspiration. The competition within their own players just keeps intensifying and He Bingjao, who went down to Ratchanok Intanon in the women’s singles summit clash in Delhi on Sunday, considers herself lucky to be a part of the national team. The number of players vying for a spot in the team is huge and the hunger to win titles has not gone down one bit.
However, she acknowledged that she can’t just worry about one player or country anymore. “In my category, I feel all the players, whether from Japan or Chinese Taipei or India, are all good. And I should be ready for everyone. It’s not like I can worry about only one country or player,” Bingjiao said.
“In China, there is a long history. We had a lot of players before us and we try our best to catch up with them and what they have achieved. So we get the experience gradually and we try to work hard and this is why the Chinese team is always one of the best in the world.”