Memories of…Hong Kong and Shanghai

It’s been a long time since I’ve written down my “memories of” a tournament for Badzine. This time, however, since there were two, I guess it’s even more relevant, even […]

memorieschn09-shanghai

It’s been a long time since I’ve written down my “” a tournament for Badzine. This time, however, since there were two, I guess it’s even more relevant, even if it’s been over two weeks since I got back to France! Anyways, here are bits and pieces of what I remember from another tiring but amazing trip in Asia.

By Raphael Sachetat, Badzine Chief Editor.  Photos: Badmintonphoto


Cold, and warm

The first thing that popped into all players’ minds when they landed in Shanghai was “What the Hell? 5 degrees and rain?”  Yes.  After the warm 25 degrees in Hong Kong, the difference was striking.  Needless to say that one of my few spare hours was spent running to Shanghai’s famous Nanjing Road to get a warm sweater.  Yahoo! Weather had given me false information.  Never trust a computer and always bring a warm jacket, no matter where you go–my piece of advice for the day…brrrrrr.

memorieschn09-stadiumSmall and big, darkness and light

There were big differences in the venues of the Hong Kong and the China events. The Queen Elisabeth Stadium was so dark that photographers and TV people kept complaining all week. In China, by contrast, the lights were amazingly bright. However, the hall in the heart of Hong Kong Island had something cosy about it. When full, the atmosphere was amazing, with the public very close to the action. In Shanghai, the Hall was only half full – or less – until finals day, which gave a much colder atmosphere to the competition.

Welcome but not welcome

If I love China and its people, there are still things I do not understand. For instance, why, there and nowhere else, do photographers have to go through a painful process of indicating all the material they are bringing in to work, and why does it take so much time. I was stuck in Shanghai Airport for 3 hours  – and hence, missed the welcoming dinner which was a cruise on the Shanghai river – before giving a 2,000 euro cash deposit to be able to enter the country with my photo equipment.  Sometimes, I hate rules!

This wasn’t my only time of frustration. The next day, I was invited by the media staff to an army camp to see a welcoming ceremony for Lin Dan, Wang Yihan and Li Yongbo. I was delighted to have this privilege and I postponed my Shanghai tour (the only time I would have to see a city I had never been to before). But then, as I followed my Chinese colleagues, reporters and photographers, when we reached the gate of the building where the ceremony was to take place, I was forbidden from entering by two armed guards  who muttered “Secret, Defense, no Foreigners allowed”.

Everyone else, including the memorieschn09-XXFmedia people who had invited me, had entered (including non-Chinese, Asian reporters) and I was left all alone outside, under the rain, with soldiers mocking me. Had I been from an Asian culture, I would have probably “lost face”. Fortunately for me, it was one of the few times I felt discrimination because of my skin colour but it was not a nice feeling, all the same. I walked back to the stadium and worked, frustrated with having wasted the only time I had outside the hall as it was then too late. Anyways, nothing important, but very frustrating on the moment.

An evening with Lin Dan and Xie Xingfang

Being a world reporter for 10 years in the circuit has its good sides: after going out to party with Taufik in nightclubs around the planet, having the privilege of taking Peter Gade to a nice French restaurant, I was in for another surprise, in Shanghai. After the event, on Sunday night, one of my journalist friends, Wang Min, invited me for a quick dinner in a Cantonese restaurant in the heart of Shanghai. I was tired, but said to myself that it would be a nicer way to end the tournament somewhere outside a hotel room than work on the 10,000 photos I had taken that day. So I joined her, and when we reached the restaurant, her friend Xie Xingfang  and another friend of hers were waiting for us over delicious food. And my second surprise came when Xie spoke to me in quite good English – she had never said a single word in English in 10 years and now, the day she had officially retired, she was expressing herself like we’d been friends forever! Stunning. And a few minutes later, her boyfriend Lin Dan came to join the conversation and  shared dessert with us. They both offered to take me to a movie and before I had accepted, had already sent a restaurant employee to book the tickets for us. Seeing “2012” (quite creepy by the way!) sitting side-by-side with an Olympic champion and a couple of living legends in China was quite different! Needless to say that I enjoyed that evening very much.

memorieschn09-jung-leeFun fun fun men’s doubles

One of the highlights of this fortnight, on court, was the men’s doubles. Particularly Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung. These guys are amazing. During some of their matches, they clearly showed that they enjoyed their sport and obviously had fun on court, especially against Koo and Tan in the final of the Li Ning which was a delight to watch. I often put down my camera, at court-side, to see how much fun these four shuttlers had, even if all four were so tired that they would end the rallies on their knees or lower. Badminton at its best, really.

Crazy schedule

Fatigue is a word that came to everyone’s mouths in all my post-match interviews. This season was a tough one on everyone. This gave some opportunities for some unusual shuttlers to reach the latter stages, but also showed the limitations of such a crazy schedule. After the China Open – the 12th leg of the Super Series circuit – the season was supposed to be almost over except that… there was still 3 major events to go! The SEA Games, in Laos, where Indonesians, Malaysians and Thais were participating in December. And then, the East Asian Games, another major competition held every four years – this time in Hong Kong next week.  And then, on top of that, the Super Series Finals.  No wonder that players are complaining.  It’s just too much and I can’t blame team managers from withdrawing players from one or the other of these events, with the risk of long-time injuries. Hopefully, better scheduling in the coming years will prevent this clash of major tournaments.

memorieschn09-polandMateusiak and Kostiuczyk – the performance of the month

If there was one performance to point out in these two weeks, I would go for the win from Poland’s Mateusiak and Kostiuczyk in Hong Kong. Of course, the amazing run of Jan Jorgensen in China wasn’t bad either – this young man is obviously Denmark’s future – but seeing the Poles on the higher stage of the podium was very touching. Talk about hard workers. With training conditions that are far worse than most of their usual opponents, with Kostiuczyk having to stay home for over 6 months after a double hip operation, this was almost a miracle, to see them both winning a Super Series title – their first ever. And to see their excitement was a joy in itself. A lesson of strong will.

Humour in defeat

I’ll remember Peter Gade’s sense of humour, in spite of his defeat in the final of the . Waiting to get his medal in the second step of the podium, the Dane was first given the cheque for US $18,750  meant for the winner.  He laughed and tried to hold on to it for few seconds before handing it over to Lee Chong Wei in a laugh. The two friends were joking before stepping up on the podium – proof that friendship and hard battle on court are not incompatible.  Nor is a sense of humour after a close defeat.

Hello Gong!

It’s always nice to see old stars. Gong Ruina, world champion in 2001 now lives in Hong Kong and I was delighted to meet her again, a few years after she retired. Her husband, herself and her two children ( a baby girl and a baby boy) form a great family. Congratulations to her! Also, my good friend Agus Haryanto is still in Hong Kong and so friendly as always.

memorieschn09-boardsTwo brands hand in hand

I was quite pleased to see that, in China, and for the first time, two of the major badminton brands were working together in the same tournaments, with even A-boards one next to each other. That is, for me, the way to go as the competition can be loyal and good between brands even if they compete in the same market. It can and hopefully will benefit the badminton world and the athletes if they learn to work hand in hand as they did in China

memorieschn09-farewell
Bye Bye Xingfang, TingTing

I was a bit disappointed by the farewell ceremony to Xie Xingfang and Zhao Tinging; The latter looked smart in her army outfit and was obviously touched by the ceremony. But it was quick and quite “cold”. No word of encouragements, no video clip on the screen. Just Li Yongbo handing over a crystal Trophy. In a few minutes, it was all over. I felt sorry for these two amazing athletes, who would have deserved at least a standing ovation, or maybe a few words said over the P.A. system to thank them for their amazing achievements… Anyways, they will be greatly missed even if the field has already been taken by the younger generation. Goodbye to them and good luck in their future occupations.

That’s it for me. I am back in France. Tired, but happy to have lived another 2 weeks of good badminton. I will skip the Super Series Finals in Johor Bahru (my coach said I risked an injury as I already travelled too much this year… ah ah ah!). But the Badzine team, with Jan and Tim, will be there to help you share the event live, and Eka to immortalize the shuttlers with her great photos.  Next, for me, maybe  a trip to the Malaysian Super Series. However, I will skip the Korea Open, for the first time in many years. A heartbreak for many reasons 

I might also drop by Bali, in early 2010, for this new project you may already have heard of. It’s called “SOLIBADBadminton Without Borders“, and it’s my latest crazy project about hoping to bring together the whole badminton community to raise funds for an orphanage in Bali and other projects later (Sichuan, Brazil, Africa). But we’ll have more time later to talk about that.

I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year for 2010. Play, have fun on court and see you soon around the world!

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.