Badminton wrap: Back to business for badminton players

Published 30 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Sawan Serasinghe and Matthew Chau of Australia compete against Chia Hsin and Sheng Mu Lee of China Taipei during the Men's Doubles Play Stage Group A match on Day 8 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Riocentro - Pavilion 4 on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

BADMINTON: Australia’s top badminton players are determined to show that they mean business – and the Rio 2016 Olympics was a great opening act for the young squad.

Rio badminton head coach Lasse Bundgaard said the 2016 Olympic Games were an important opportunity to demonstrate the growth Australian athletes had achieved in the sport in the past four years, and send a warning message to other nations for the future.

“I thought it was a promising performance and we played our best badminton. It was very promising for the future,” Bundgaard said.

“It really showed that Australia’s badminton has improved since London and that we’re on the right path.

“It’s very pleasing that we were able to have our peak performance here… we mean business, we’re not here to participate.”

Australia’s team of five athletes – mixed doubles pair Leanne Choo and Robin Middleton, men’s doubles team Sawan Serasinghe and Matthew Chau and women’s singles player Hsuan Chen – were all eliminated in the preliminary round of competition.

In the round-robin style tournament, none of the Australian team managed to secure a win against their world-class opponents.

However, all pushed their much higher-ranked challengers to fight until the end and this, Bundgaard says, is the signal that Australia can be a force in badminton.

In the men’s doubles Serasinghe and Chau faced top-seeded Korea in their opening match, walking away with a 14-21, 16-21 loss. The Aussies were competitive throughout, even taking the lead momentarily in the second game.

“Both boys are only 21 years old, it’s their first Olympics so it was a fantastic performance by them to really challenge them, and Korea had to find their best playing to beat them,” Bundgaard said.

“We’re here to improve our performance for the Commonwealth Games and Tokyo so we can play competitively - maybe for medals - there.”

Medals may seem a stretch goal for now, but Bundgaard is confident that four years of hard work will put the dream within reach for Australia’s badminton players.

There is also a second goal to be considered for Tokyo 2020.

“The key thing is we need to be competitive, and the second thing is that we definitely want a bigger team,” Bundgaard said.

“I would like us to be represented in all three doubles events in Tokyo, but we want to play at the level where we can push our opponents and be a chance for a medal.”

Each year Australia competes in 15-20 international senior tournaments in order to improve by playing against world-class opponents, and to gain experience playing in high standard, high pressure conditions.

Badminton Australia has a high performance strategy and, with support from the Australian Institute of Sport, is looking to complete more training camps and tournaments overseas.

This increased exposure to their competition will make all the difference for these athletes, Bundgaard said.

“Our players are improving and that gap is getting smaller,” he said.

“Before the Olympic Games we went to Indonesia where we could tap into some world-class training partners. In October the team will be at a training camp and playing some tournaments in Denmark.”

Candice Keller

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