China’s badminton team eye gold sweep at Paris Olympics
China’s badminton team eye gold sweep at Olympics
Published: May 30, 2024 09:47 PM
Editor's Note:

Earlier in May, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) unveiled the list of qualified participants for the Paris Olympics, with 173 athletes competing in five disciplines. The Chinese team is the only team in the world set to participate in all five events.

The only country ever to achieve a clean sweep of gold medals, accomplished at the 2012 Summer Olympics, China has been dominating badminton at the Summer Olympics.  

However, their Olympics performances after London hit a slump, as Team China finished the Tokyo Olympics with only two gold and four silver medals, bouncing back from a lackluster Rio Olympics performance of two golds, one bronze in 2016. 

However, lately the Chinese national team players showed quality form at the Thomas and Uber Cup finals, winning the two prestigious team titles for the first time in 12 years, raising hopes that the team could repeat the feat they accomplished at the London Olympics. 

In this installment of the Road to Paris series, Global Times reporter Lu Wenao offers insight into the Chinese shuttlers squad that bears China's gold medal hopes.

Shi Yuqi Photo: VCGZ

Shi Yuqi Photo: VCG

Winning the Thomas and Uber Cup finals was a confidence booster for the Chinese national badminton team's Olympic campaign this year, Chinese Badminton Association chief Zhang Jun said, noting that the team looks ready to restore its pride in the sport. He stated that the national team's goal for the Paris Olympics remains five gold medals, although there are strong competitors in every discipline. 

Thomas Lund, secretary-general of the BWF, also told the Global Times that Team China players consistently perform well at the elite level and always provide strong competition for their opponents.

"China has tremendous badminton infrastructure and support networks to develop a deep talent pool across the country, which has constantly produced champions over many years," Lund told the Global Times. 

"In recent years, we have been fortunate to witness new champions emerging, and traditional powerhouses being tested to the limit." 

With a blend of seasoned champions and emerging stars, the team is well-equipped to tackle the challenges ahead.

Shi Yuqi: Men's singles maestro

Shi Yuqi has emerged as a beacon of hope for China in men's singles badminton now that aces Lin Dan and Chen Long have retired from the sport. Shi is now shouldering the responsibility of being the captain of the national team. 

His journey to fame began at a young age, when he showcased his talent in various junior tournaments. By 2016, he had already started making waves on the senior circuit, culminating in a silver medal at the BWF World Championships in 2018.

Shi's play style is characterized by his agility and tactical intelligence, which have often left his opponents scrambling. Despite facing injuries that hampered his progress, Shi's ­resilience saw him bounce back to claim victory at the All England Open in 2018, one of the sport's most prestigious titles. 

At the Thomas Cup held in Chengdu earlier in May, Shi contributed to the team's success by winning all his six singles matches.

"Good performance comes from managing psychological challenges well," Shi told the Global Times. "If you carry too much pressure and responsibility, it can ­actually hinder your performance. Honestly, there will definitely be pressure, but I think handling these mental hurdles well is something I've been doing ­effectively during this period."

As he prepares for the Paris Olympics, Shi is determined to convert his past experiences into Olympic glory, aiming to add to China's illustrious badminton legacy.

Chen Yufei: Women's singles sensation

Chen Yufei's crowning achievement came at the ­Tokyo Olympics, where she secured the gold medal, reaffirming China's dominance in women's singles. Her style of play, which combines relentless defense with strategic offense, has made her a formidable opponent on the court. 

"My opponents always come at me with the mind-set of challenging me, and their mental state is often better than mine," she told the Global Times, noting she had to make adjustments after initially struggling to adapt.

"Over the past year, I've been slowly adjusting. Now, I feel that every opponent has something I can learn from," she noted.

The Olympic campaign undoubtedly presents many challenges, such as maintaining physical health and preparing for opponents' targeted strategies. With this humble and modest attitude, Chen is tackling the challenges in her buildup toward the Paris Olympics. 

"Although I'm not in the best condition right now, I'm still in the first tier. I need to be more confident. If I maintain a good physical condition, I think I still have a good chance to defend my title," she said.

"But this process will definitely be very difficult, so it's about taking things one step at a time and handling every detail in the process as I strive to achieve this goal," she concluded.

As Chen heads to Paris, expectations are high for her to continue her winning streak and inspire a new generation of badminton enthusiasts in China.

Liang Weikeng &Wang Chang: Men's doubles dynamos

The dynamic duo Liang Weikeng and Wang Chang in men's doubles have become household names in Chinese badminton. Both born in the early 2000s, their partnership began in their teenage years and quickly blossomed into one of the most formidable pair ups in international badminton.

Their breakthrough came at the 2021 world championships, where they secured a bronze medal, showcasing their potential on the global stage. Liang and Wang's synergy on the court is their biggest asset, with their complementary playing styles allowing them to dominate their opponents. 

"We have won championships, we've also been runners-up, and of course, there have been times when we didn't perform well," Wang said. "Experiencing failure helps us grow and teaches us how to handle future matches."

Though many Chinese badminton fans are still skeptical of the pair's consistency, their journey in the sport, now ranked at world No.2, has already inspired many young people to pick up a racket.  

Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan Photo: VCG

Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan Photo: VCG

Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan: Women's doubles queens

Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan have established themselves as the queens of women's doubles badminton. The pair, known as Fan-Chen domestically, began their partnership in their early teens and have since become one of the most successful pairs in the sport's history.

Their journey to fame includes multiple titles, with notable victories at the world championships in 2017, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Their ability to anticipate each other's moves and their relentless attack style have earned them numerous accolades. 

"Whenever I step onto the court, I really want to win the game with my partner. The two of us are actually like one person. With such great pressure, there are only the two of us facing it on the court, and no one else can help us," Chen said of her partnership with Jia. 

"Before we go on court, we exchange a smile, a smile that only the two of us can understand at that moment. I think there won't be a third person in this world who can understand our feelings at that moment, so this feeling is very precious."

Jia said her partner Chen plays "like a spring." 

"The higher the pressure is, the higher she will bounce back. She is not someone who forsakes," Jia said.

Though they suffered a bitter Olympic final defeat in Tokyo in 2021, the duo is currently sitting in first place in the women's doubles ranking thanks to their dedication and unwavering determination.

Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong Photo: VCGZ

Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong Photo: VCG

Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong: Mixed doubles magicians

Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, China's mixed doubles magicians, have captivated audiences with their seamless coordination and unmatched skill. 

Both players boast impressive individual resumes, but it is their partnership that has truly made them stand out. Since teaming up in 2017, the pair, known as Ya-Si in China, have won numerous titles, including three world championships. 

A Tokyo Olympics final defeat to teammates Wang Yilu and Huang Dongping has propelled the duo to continue honing their skills, both physically and mentally.

"Our mind-set is much better for this Olympics compared to the last one. Previously, we didn't know what the Olympics would be like, so we prepared for the last Olympics by training intensely and aggressively," Huang revealed. 

"That approach wasn't effective and led to injuries, which affected our training and competition. This time, we will maintain a calm mind-set. As we age, our recovery isn't as quick as it was during the previous Olympics. We need to ensure we train with the highest quality within our capabilities."

Their dynamic playing style, characterized by swift exchanges and powerful smashes, has made them a formidable force in mixed doubles badminton. As they head to the Paris Olympics, Zheng and Huang are determined to reinforce supremacy in the sport.