Rising stars signal promising future for badminton in China
Published: May 22, 2023 10:56 PM
Illustration: Liu XiangYa/Global Times

Illustration: Liu XiangYa/Global Times

China winning the Sudirman Cup badminton competition for the third time in a row sounds like the country is dominating the sport once again. However, the win is more of a confidence booster for the team as it has to face growing challenges from other national teams.

The team's rich badminton legacy demands nothing less than exemplary performance. However, what set this campaign apart was the infusion of youthful energy and talent that promises to shape China's badminton landscape for years to come.

After the glory at the Sudirman Cup on Sunday, the national team has set its sights on the future. They will take on a packed competition schedule including the badminton world championships, which is set to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in August 2023, the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, and the Thomas and Uber Cup in China in 2024. 

Once China had dominated in badminton at the Olympics, when Chinese players won a clean sweep of five gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. But the most recent two Olympics, Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Tokyo 2020, saw the team only grab one gold medal at each of the Games. 

In the men's doubles, all eyes were on the burgeoning partnership of Liu Yuchen and Ou Xuanyi, after Liu's former partner Li Junhui retired after the Tokyo Olympics. The new partnership between Liu and Ou was solidified as they took to the court with a burning desire to surpass expectations, encapsulated by a sensational comeback win from four match points behind against Japan in the semifinals. 

Another pair that showcased their immense potential was Liang Weikeng and Wang Chang, the dynamic duo in men's doubles. Liang and Wang, both in their early 20s, displayed remarkable chemistry and synchrony on the court.

Their electrifying performances at the Sudirman Cup not only catapulted them to victory but also solidified their position as rising stars within the global badminton community. Though they did not play much at the Sudirman Cup thanks to the dominance of teammates meaning they did not need to play, the duo, now ranking in sixth place in the world, has been pinned as China's future hopes in men's doubles as their fast pace in the discipline has made them resilient. 

A similar narrative unfolded in the men's singles.

After 2016 Olympic gold medalist Chen Long's retirement, China had traditionally relied on their top-ranked player Shi Yuqi to lead the charge in key matches, but the emergence of Li Shifeng has added a new dimension to the team's prospects. 

With an unwavering passion and an insatiable hunger for success, Li, now 23 and the player who defeated Shi at the All England Open final in March, made his mark during his debut at the Sudirman Cup in a group game against Denmark, winning the match against Rasmus Gemke 2-1. His performance not only bolstered Team China's chances in the tournament but also served as a testament to the depth of talent waiting in the wings.

But there are also some disappointments for the young players, as was the case for 22-year-old Feng Yanzhe, who appeared in the mixed doubles with Olympic gold medalist Huang Dongping in the semifinals against Japan. However, learning how to deal with defeat will also help these young players cope with pressure in the future. 

There has never been a successful athlete who did not have to deal with failure. 

Only when an athlete knows how to face defeat and disappointment will they be able to learn what it takes to become a champion. 

The rise of these young players at the Sudirman Cup has breathed new life into China's badminton squad, especially with the retirements of veterans Chen Long, Zhang Nan, Liu Cheng and Li Junhui, which were announced during the Sudirman Cup. 

Their contributions were not just confined to their on-court triumphs but also extended to the team's overall dynamic. 

The young athletes' exuberance and hunger for success are infectious, motivating their more experienced counterparts to raise their game and embrace future challenges.

Some young players have demonstrated their ability to shoulder the responsibility of leading the nation's badminton legacy. As the team faces several championships after the Sudirman Cup win, they must make sure that complacency doesn't set in.