Memories of…the Finnish Open

The recently concluded Finnish Open was one of the highlights of the European Badminton tour. Our correspondent, Thomas Piauley, who worked at the event for the Finnish Badminton Association, takes a look back at what struck him. Here are his memories of the Finnish Open.

The recently concluded Finnish Open was one of the highlights of the European Badminton tour. Our correspondent, Thomas Piauley, who worked at the event for the Finnish Badminton Association, takes a look back at what struck him. Here are his the Finnish Open.

By Thomas Piauley, Badzine correspondent in Vantaa. Photos : Joonas Puhakka/Badminton Finland, Tommi Palmqvist and Thomas Piauley (live).

“After having the chance to cover a few national as well as international tournaments as an amateur journalist for Badzine, this week I’ve been covering the Finnish Open – the first time I was really involved with an international event.

As a French person living in Paris, I had fun as part of the team covering the French Open in 2011 for Badzine – an amazing first experience, but I was not yet immersed into the badminton microcosm. This week in Vantaa I came on my own, to be part of the badminton event staged yearly in the suburb of Finland’s capital city.

Indeed when I was in Paris, we all came to the arena in the morning from our homes, and I was going back in the evening to have dinner with my family. These four days in Vantaa were slightly different.

When you are part of a tournament’s organization, you are “living” badminton all day – you breathe badminton. In a way, I never left the sphere of the tournament for the full four days. In the evening I returned from the Energia Arena to the tournament’s hotel in the bus provided by the organizers. Seeing all the players and coaches there, speaking in many exotic languages, sometimes exchanging a word in English with a friend from another team, is amazing if like me you have followed the badminton stars since you were a teenager.

One funny anecdote struck me the first time I entered this bus, was that all the umpires and officials always sat at the very front of the bus, like they didn’t want to cross a angry player! As such, the officials and players seemed to be cohabiting quite well together, showing much respect to each other’s performances.

Moikkä, Tervetuloa Suomeen!

Being in the official hotel was also something very special. You can’t imagine how weird it is to arrive somewhere far away for the first time, and see, despite being about 2200 kilometers away from home, your national elite players having dinner with their coach.

Unlike some tournaments, this week almost all the players were located in the same hotel, transforming the Rantasipi establishment in a giant badminton players’ dormitory. The players seemed to have enjoyed the spa offering of the hostel, and at the entrance was displayed a white-board with bus-schedules and the day matches results pinned on it, in addition to the latest version of the draws.

I must admit that these few days lived within the badminton world tour were very enjoyable to me. Believe me, taking your breakfast next to your sport idols is something unique, and the atmosphere is very rare around the croissant buffet, especially if you imagine the thoughts of the other customers of the hotel, who might even be wondering “wow, who are all those guys?”

Living in this environment for a few days was something very entertaining, almost a drug to me, and I admit that I envy those whose job is to follow this touring all year long. But if you’re like me, just an amateur badminton reporter, do not hesitate and contact a tournament’s organizers to get involved yourself as a volunteer!

A few lessons from the week

This week I worked with the media team, so I learned a few things about both the host country, Finland, as well as Badminton. Even if our sport isn’t popular in Suomi, the Finnish sport fans have still heard about badminton. At last year’s Olympics, Finland only got 3 medals, considered here as a poor return.

However, badminton made the headlines last August as Ville Lång, Finland’s leading mens’ singles shuttler, was the only player, apart from Lin Dan, to take a game from Lee Chong Wei in London. Thanks to this performance, Ville made the headlines and became a quite popular sportsman in a country where the people are more likely to follow Teemu Selänne’s more virile exploits in the NHL than being interested in watching guys hitting a ‘birdie’. Yet, Ville has become quite popular, and badminton has grown in Finland, as shown by the presence yesterday of the Finnish media, including the national company Yle.

The Suomen Sulkapalloliitto (‘Finnish Badminton Association” – Finnish has its own word for badminton, like in Indonesian) has been using this Olympian performance as a tool to promote itself, and Ville collaborates very well as an ambassador for the sport in Finland. Even though Lång had just lost his semi-final match, he was still game to participate in one of the most original interview ideas, doing his post-match interview in the shower, which can be seen here.

Another thing you learn when you live in a tournament is how busy all those people are. I had the opportunity to speak with a few players like Carolina Marin, who told me that she wasn’t sure yet if she could take a break after travelling from the Axiata Cup in Indonesia to Helsinki, and yet she had to keep up with her homework. This said, taking a break can be beneficial as demonstrated by Anders Skaarup’s impressive victory in the mixed doubles this week. In fact, the Danish shuttler had just returned from his holidays in Dubai, with a view to clear his head and refresh his body. This lesson of ‘if you want to win, go on holidays’ is perhaps not at the forefront every coach’s mind.

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