Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

KARIN SCHNAASE-MPP_5985-April 27, 2016

In recent years the term sport and sportsmanship have paled into insignificance as commercialism and so called growth dominate the sporting emporium on a global scale. How often do we see football players taking dives to gain an unfair advantage and don’t even get me started on doping in sports, all done in the name of commercial gain and fame.

When I am at home and someone asks me, what do you do? The conversation generally ends when I say I work primarily in badminton as badminton is the greatest sport on the planet. I generally don’t even get the opportunity to explain why I believe my sport is the best sport of all.

That is why in general I let my sport and its people explain the reasons why Badminton is in my blood and this week in La-Roche-Sur-Yon we have seen once again why this crazy sport with the spinning feathers and skinny rackets brings out the best in people, as people as humans.

Firstly, the French crowds have been overwhelming this week in their support for the players and of course when the French are on court they have every right to be bouncing on their seats.

But what has made this week a stand out week has been the performance of the players in what is the one of the most pressurised situations any athlete can have knowing that this week it is make or break for an Olympic spot.

Yes, our elite stars have qualified for Rio before the qualification had even started if we are completely honest with ourselves but down the bottom end we have a handful of players trying to suck up any last remaining points on offer to get to Rio after 12 months of extreme pressure both physically and financially.

KARIN SCHNAASE-SHOES-April 27, 2016

Schnaase able to continue thanks to her opponent

And this is where the story really begins. Picture the scene, you are in the first round at Europe’s premier continental championships and you are hovering at the bottom end of Olympic qualification needing to get to the next round. Let’s remember the haul of points that comes with a round by round progression at continental championship level is huge in comparison to slogging it out on the circuit at future, international series and international challenge level.

Hungary’s Laura Sarosi found herself in this situation on Wednesday playing fourth seed Karin Schnaase of Germany in the second round. Again the mathematics were simple, Sarosi really needed to win to advance her Olympic dream and against Schnaase she was the complete underdog.

Early in the match the German’s court shoe disintegrated leaving her with only one shoe and no spare shoes in her bag. This was a clear opportunity for Sarosi to exploit the situation as the rules do not allow for a break in play for a player to head off to the locker room to find a replacement pair.

The reality of the situation was that Schnaase was not able to play on and Sarosi could have just stood on the court demanding the resumption of the match which ultimately would have resolved itself by Schnaase retiring.

But this is Badminton, this is the sport that I adore and what happened next was explanation enough as to why badminton and its people are the greatest on the planet.

Sarosi went to her bag, took out her spare shoes which happened to be the same size as Schnaase’s and in a moment of utmost humility and soul handed the shoes to her opponent so she could carry on playing.

What was even more heartfelt is that the Hungarian offered the shoes with a smile as if it were the most natural thing to do and to Laura Sarosi it was of course the most natural thing to do as that is what she is, indeed that is the essence of the great badminton community.

KARIN SCHNAASE-MPP_5988-April 27, 2016

No doubting the final outcome of the match

The match continued and Sarosi lost in three games to her German opponent and in doing so probably ended her Olympic dream. Schnaase will of course go on and represent Germany in Rio in what will be her badminton swansong but Laura Sarosi will be the only Olympian that will most likely be watching from home. What Sarosi did on the field of play on Wednesday truly embraces the Olympic culture and spirit that has, in my opinion, been buried in a haze of commercialism over the past two decades.

Sarosi is badminton and what she did will now be my explanation as to why I love the sport and why I believe badminton is the greatest sport on the planet. I doubt anyone I talk to will be able to disagree or even put up an argument as to why I may be wrong as there is no greater sacrifice and no greater act of sportsmanship than what badminton’s Laura Sarosi did on Wednesday in France.

PETR KOUKAL-5004_April 27, 2016

Badminton – The greatest sport on the planet

I will also add that on at least five other occasions this week I saw players over rule line judges and umpires to hand back points to their opponents after honest mistakes by officials. Peter Koukal handed a point back to Yuhan Tan in their last 16 tie while Chris and Gabby Adcock were given the first game by Nico Ruponen and Amanda Hogstrom after an error by the umpire on game point. Sam and Chloe Magee were also the beneficiaries of a genuine sporting gesture where Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Herttrich gave the Irish a point back after a wrong call by an official. The Irish won that match 24-22 in the deciding set to make the last 8. Again the ultimate display of sportsmanship by the Germans.

Our players are heroes, our players are people, our players typify all that is good and honest in sport. Our players are the reason why Badminton is the greatest sport on the planet. Long may it continue.

Advertisements

10 years of www.badzine.net

Posted: August 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
The Logo, The Brand

The Logo, The Brand

The world’s most popular badminton webzine is 10 years old this month. Raphael Sachetat and his friend Jeff Chauveau began the journey back in August 2003 in an effort to bring badminton news firstly to the people of France before later starting the international version of the popular website which today is one of the premier badminton websites in the world.

Initially the guys had little intent on their blog being anything more than fun but the labour of love soon turned into a passion to deliver quality news and along with professional on site photos the badzine brand soon became a one stop shop for every badminton fan.

As badzine went international in 2006 with its English language version so to did its popularity and what makes the story all the more special is that all the contributors give their time purely on a voluntary basis.

I myself found my feet in the badminton world at badzine and I have fond memories of many trips to All England and French Opens between 2007 & 2010. I like to think I still hold the record for most articles in one day from a singles event when, as an over enthusiastic greenhorn, I wrote 8 articles (of dubious quality I must add) on the first days play of the 2008 All England.

What makes Badzine work is the spirit in which it operates. Raphael Sachetat has been its leading light since its inception and his trusty sidekick Don Hearn has been the unsung hero of the whole operation for as long as I can remember.

These two guys welcome newbies with open arms and once you have a computer, an ability to work on only a few hours’ sleep and a passion for the sport then you are a perfect candidate for a badzine apprenticeship.

Badzine is special in so many ways. It journalism in its rawest form with and when an article is posted on its platform you can rest assured that it has been compiled from the heart with its writer driven by passion and love for the sport which only serves to seeps into the veins of the end reader.

Not one member of the team has ever made a single Euro from their involvement in the website and for most it costs money to cover events and god only knows how much money people like Raph, Jeff and Don have invested in its development.

The Man behind Badzine - Raphael Sachetat

The Man behind Badzine – Raphael Sachetat

The thing that has remained consistent over the course of Badzines 10 years online has been the requirement for international badminton news delivered in a professional manner. Badzine has been consistent in that delivery even when almost unsurmountable obstacles were put in the way.

I remember vividly the change over to the .net platform and the shift from the joomla to wordpress and all the week before the 2010 worlds in Paris if I remember correctly. We had to learn by doing and somehow we came through and delivered every day from Paris. It was teamwork that got us through that week and without the leadership of Raph we probably would have sunk.

So if you have a passion for the game and you like to express your views in a professional environment you could do a lot worse than giving Raph & Don a call. The guys are always looking for new volunteers to help out both on and off site and to write for badzine should be on the bucket list of every budding badminton journalists. I did it and it was the making of me and I owe all I have in Badminton to my good friend Raph and his band of merry volunteers.

As part of badzine’s anniversary I look forward to travelling to the Denmark Open this year to deliver on site coverage each day.

Onwards and Upwards BADZINE!!

16 year old Marin winning her first senior title in Ireland.

16 year old Marin winning her first senior title in Ireland.

As the controversy surrounding the men’s singles final at the 2013 men’s singles final continues to dominate the badminton headlines the sport itself continues to draw headlines for all the wrong reasons.

One thing we can be assured of is that the ‘air con’ saga will run and run as the alleged match fixing saga and the alleged Chinese match manipulation has been the focus of attention for so many years now.  This type of controversy makes good headlines which sells print and unfortunately generates more revenue than the actual sport itself.

For me personally the recent worlds was all about the game. I have become used to the controversy so this time around my focus was purely on the game, players and results.

The men’s singles final may have been anti-climactical and let’s face it, it was always going to be hard to live up to the Olympic final of last year between the same two players, but this aside we had some tremendous matches, battles and with it the emergence of new stars.

As a European it was uplifting to see the performance of Spain’s Carolina Marin and after her performance in China most of the knowledgeable badminton people around the globe have her name as top of the ‘one of the future’ list.

I think differently in so far as Carolina to me is here and in the ‘now’ as she has been winning senior titles since 2008. Yes the Spaniard has spent most of the last 12 months off the first page of the world ranking list but it does not take a rocket scientist to work out she is so much better than that.

This week sees Marin climb to 17 in the world and firmly in place as Europe’s number 2 after Germany’s Juliane Schenk. Marin’s game and character is infectious. Yes she is vocal on court and there are many that don’t like this side to her game. I absolutely love this aspect of Carolina’s character. She is individual and unique and she is ‘all in’ when she is on court. To me her aptitude and her character should be harnessed and used to promote the sport in Europe on a far greater scale than it already is. She plays hard and fast and her personality draws you in to a point where you almost feel like you are on the court with her. The game as a whole is void of real superstars and any we do have are predominantly Asian and right now we have the makings of a real European star under our noses.

Across Europe many federations have been hit by the global downturn that seems to now have gone on for almost a decade. We see the repercussions of this on tour as players have to cut down on tournaments and in most cases travel without a coach. Spain is no different and to make sure the potential of Carolina Marin, and others for that matter, is fully realised we need to think more as a continent in relation to funding.

European Junior Success in 2011.

European Junior Success in 2011.

I have no doubt that Carolina Marin would already be inside the world’s top 10 if it was not for funding restrictions. Carolina Marin has everything going for her except the funding that befits her talent. It is also worth pointing out that both Marin & her compatriot Corrales have matured at a phenomenal rate this last year which goes to prove that in the face of adversity they who want it will always come through another trait might I add of a real star.

I do think in Europe we need a granting system for these type of players. A funding procedure whereby if you fulfil the criteria, no matter where you are from, you will receive the funding to help achieve top 10 status in the world. You will notice that Marin wear’s a small Badminton Europe logo on her shoulder in competition as she does receive some small funding from BE in a semi scholarship scheme as she has been identified as world class potential. This is a great toe in the water from Badminton Europe and it would be great to see this scheme developed in the future to include others that have world class potential.

Players like Marin need to train and spar with the best and it was great to see players from all Europe’s top nations train together before the worlds this year for a week in Denmark. This is such an important development as it is clear many of the home federations see the need to work together to close the gap on the powerful Asian nations.

It would be great to see this taken one step further and maybe twice yearly our top *female singles players come together for 2/3 weeks to work with former greats such as Tine Baun, Xu Huaiwen & Pi Hongyan. These greats have a database of knowledge that our young players would benefit from. Not just court skills but life skills which would serve to shape our top players of the future.

The simple fact of the matter is that as a continent we need to embrace our continental players as one and help those that need help as we go. We don’t need to mourn the loss of recent greats such as Peter Gade & Tine Baun, we need to make sure as a continent that Carolina Marin, and whoever comes along after her no matter where they are from, get the support services and funding they need which in the long run can only serve to enhance the reputation of badminton in Europe as a whole.

*applicable to all 5 badminton disciplines.

Konon Looks on

Konon Looks on (Photo: Badminton Photo)

It’s not very often I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat and shouting at my laptop screen when it comes to watching badminton. I suppose more often than not I get to experience it live for myself and when it comes to sport nothing can really replace being physically there absorbing the atmosphere.

Today, for me personally, was one of those rare occasions when the grass did not get cut, the dishwasher did not get emptied and the dog was lucky to get fed.

Today Team Germany had me on the edge of my seat and at times had the hair standing on the back of my neck because today Team Germany, against the odds, defeated the hosts Malaysia and established themselves once again in the world’s top 8.

I think most had the Germans written off on the lead up to this Sudirman Cup but as I have seen so many times in the past the Germans have a unique team spirit and when the going gets tough the Germans get going.

There are always the constant questions over the average age of these German teams but at this stage who are we to argue and afterall age is only really a number.

Without Schenk and without Zwiebler, two world class players, the Germans came through today’s match against Malaysia when they looked dead and buried needing the last two matches to make it through.

Michels & Fuchs passion at its best.

Michels & Fuchs passion at its best. (Photo Badminton Photo)

Up steps Olga Konon, as player who I have always said has world class potential, and delivers a hammer blow to the Malaysians with a singles performance that has surely announced her arrival on the world scene. Konon’s display and victory clearly had a momentum shifting effect. We must remember this Belarussian native has come a long long way to be a part of this team and has enough career setbacks to test the resolve of any athlete. Today Konon came of age!

Konon’s performance had the Malaysians on the ropes all that was needed now was the someone to deliver the knockout blow. Seconds out final round!!  Enter Birgit Michels and Johanna Golzizewski to finish the job off which the duly did, albeit under a stiff resistance from the Malaysians. It was a magic day for Michels after a win alongside partner Michael (Mr Germany)Fuchs in the opening salvo.

It was one of those games that made me proud to be European and made me very envious of the desire and will to win of this German team. There celebration after has almost become a ritual at this stage but when you win a match like that you deserve to celebrate. Let’s just hope the referee sees it like that.

Not a thing done in my house this afternoon thanks to Germany but man it was worth it as there really is nothing quite like team badminton.

(Photos courtesy of  Badminton Photo)

Fresh Faced Yigit in 2011

Fresh Faced Yigit in 2011

Time and time again I am asked what my favourite tournament to attend is and the reasons why. My answer is always the same, I love team events and if I were to pick just one team event that is pencilled in bold letters on my calendar it would be the European Junior Championships which take place every two years.

The European Junior Championships are unique is so far as the competition is the longest on the circuit at 10 days as it incorporates the individual event as well as the team event. As a result there are a lot of demands on the bodies of the young players competing and mentally this long trip away can be very challenging.

Why do I love the European juniors so much? Well it was the first tournament I worked on as part of the Badminton Europe TV crew back in Finland in 2011 plus there is a festival type atmosphere, especially for the team event, which for the most part is generated by the teams and players themselves.

It is always uplifting to watch team mates support their on court team mates and of course the pre match dance routines are always worth waiting for. The juniors certainly put a lot of thought into their routines and when it comes to supporting their team mates well they don’t hold back.

This year we go to Ankara in Turkey which is a first for me and without question and once again Denmark will be favourites to lift the team title. The Danes will have learned a lot from their loss in Finland two years ago where complacency was probably the root cause of their unexpected loss. But watch out for the French as I feel they have the quality players to push the Danes as well as that touch of

Line Kjaersfeldt already a proven winner on senior tour

Line Kjaersfeldt already a proven winner on senior tour

French flair for some added spice.

The Individual event is interesting is so far as the men’s singles will take a back seat to the women’s singles. Without doubt the women’s singles is top heavy with talent and Neslihan Yigit will look to lift the title on her home court. If the Turk lifts the title she will have done it the hard way as also in the event are seasoned senior tour competitors such as Line Kjaersfeldt, Delphine Lansac, Anna Thea Madsen and Sefani Stoeva. The women’s singles will be a hard fought battle and a lot will depend on how these players come through the previous tough schedule of the team event.

The action kicks off in Ankara on 22nd March with the team event and the individual event straights straight after the team event concludes. I look forward to 10 days in Turkey working on behalf of Badminton Europe as photographer, journalist, interviewer and TV analyst and you can watch all the LIVE action on BE.tv’s YouTube channel by clicking HERE.

To read my Badminton Europe event preview click HERE and HERE

Mark