A different sort of World Championship…

New Zealand once again proved itself to be an attractive destination for badminton players around the world as host of the 7th World Chinese Badminton Team Championships. By Kira Rin, […]

New Zealand once again proved itself to be an attractive destination for badminton players around the world as host of the 7th World Chinese Badminton Team Championships.

By Kira Rin, live in Auckland.  Photos:  Nich Photography and Lim Kai Yi

For the first time, the World Chinese Badminton Federation decided to move its unique tournament – World Chinese Badminton Team Championships – outside China.  Out of all the countries in the world, it chose the land of kiwis, New Zealand, as its first stepping stone outside.

The beginnings of the World Chinese Badminton Federation

Way back in 1992, when badminton made its first step as an Olympic sport, many countries sent their best players to participate.  China was no exception, and after 16 World Championship titles in 5 outings, expectations were high for the Chinese players to come back from Barcelona with gold medals.

However, Korea and Indonesia went ahead and split the medals between them and without any gold medal to show, China was intent on cancelling the post-Olympic media and dinner gathering.  But one man’s voice was raised and convinced them to hold it anyway.  During the gathering, that man suggested that besides holding tournaments for their few top players, amateur players should also have their chance to compete in amateur tournaments and enjoy the sport of badminton.

That man was Mr.  Wu Jun Yan, a former Council Member of Badminton World Federation.  In 1993, along with another man, Lin Jian Chen, they founded the World Chinese Badminton Federation.  Their first tournament for amateurs, the World Chinese Cup, started in Xiamen in 1993.  Since then, the tournament has risen from its humble beginnings to become one of the largest tournaments in the world, with players of all ages, nationality and level participating.  More recently, the Guinness World Records certified its 2014 Team Championship edition as the World Largest Badminton Tournament, with over 4,200 participants.

While the tournament initially started out as an individual championship, the Team Championship was started in 2009.  During its first step outside in New Zealand, John LK Wong helped host and organize the tournament.  Being a player himself in the past 2 editions, he was no stranger to the inner workings of the tournament, and with the help of sponsors and friends, was able to effectively organize the 2015 edition.

2015 – A new step outside

With many different age groups ranging from 25+ to 70+, there was always an option for anyone looking to compete.  However, it was the Open category that attracted the most attention, for within it saw many international level players duelling for their teams.  While the teams were separated along the north and south, with 4 Chinese teams and 3 New Zealand teams, it was the New Zealand teams that had the widest diversity.  Team NZBA, led by Chance Cheng (pictured below), was easily the most diverse with no fewer than 5 different countries of origin for the players.  On the other hand, Xtrm Int. had a star-studded roster with a couple of former world #1s as well as two of New Zealand’s top players.

Former world number ones Ong Ewe Hock and Cheng Wen Hsing (pictured top) led the charge in mixed doubles, but the team got off to a shaky start, dropping a match in a 4-1 victory against fellow New Zealand team Sleeping Forest headed by Lim Kai Yi (pictured left).  A subsequent complete loss to Hunan Baoji and a complete win against Sichuan saw them grab the second semi-final spot.

NZBA managed to top its box with two close 3-2 victories against the other two Chinese teams in the box.  However, when it came to the semi-finals, they saw themselves facing Xtrm Int.  After watching their doubles players falter in three straight matches, both of NZBA’s singles players, Kyokumei Sho and Tracy Hallam, fought hard to salvage their team’s pride.  Kyokumei came to a point away from upsetting Joe Wu, but it was Tracy who managed to take the single match and prevent a landslide victory.

Now in the finals, Xtrm Int. once again found itself facing the young shuttlers of the Hunan Baoji Jianan team.  Having encountered them before in the group stage did help prepare the players for the matches to come, but for Xtrm Int., they once again found themselves on the wrong side of a 0-5 defeat, with only 12 extra points in total.  Experience and anticipation were no match for the sheer amount of speed and power that the young broods seemed to continuously pump out.

Wong Ewe Mun, a member of Malaysia’s 1992 Thomas Cup team, was one half of Xtrm Int.’s men’s doubles pair.  He noted that this was his 2nd time playing internationally since his retirement.

Of his partnership with Kevin Minturn (pictured left, with Wong Ewe Mun) and match against Hunan, he noted, “Well I came quite prepared, but the partnership just didn’t click because we don’t know each other’s game well.  Hunan team consists of all young players.”

Host and organizer John Wong (pictured below) was very pleased in the level of players that turned up to play at the tournament:  “I had been to two of the previous team championships i.e. in Guangzhou and Yantai with about 1,500 players in both tournaments.  I think our tournament is smaller in terms of number of players but the standard of competition is equally great and might even be better with top players from New Zealand participating for the first time.”

Besides the number of players, a much greater number of countries was represented in the tournament as well.  Even John was pleased to note: “Because this tournament is held outside China, this tournament attracts more diverse nationalities and has become more international.  We have top teams from New Zealand and China especially in the Open Events fielded with ex-international players from New Zealand, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Korea and the UK.  Also the 50+ and 60+ teams were fielded with ex-international players from New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia and China.”

2016 – Home sweet home

After having taken its first step outside, the World Chinese Badminton Team Championships will take a step back home in China, while the host city is being decided.  It remains to be seen if 2016’s edition can surpass the size of 2014 and playing level of 2015.  Through the organising of such amateur tournaments, badminton continues to grow in popularity, encouraging even more people to take up and enjoy the sport.

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