To what extent do the powers that be, and the fates, listen to what Badzine readers vote should, or will happen? We take a look below at both the influence and the clairvoyance of our readership.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto
From time to time over the past four years, we have asked you to cast your votes in Badzine polls. About half the time, we’re asking you to predict the future. The other half, it’s been for your opinion on some issue or about who is deserving of certain distinctions.
In the case of your opinions, we can often look back and observe whether people with actual decision-making power went along with the opinion of the majority of Badzine readers. In the case of predictions, well, no one expects badminton fans to have crystal balls and the fact that there have been so many surprises is what makes the sport interesting.
In exactly one case, there was no real hindsight possible. That was when we asked, this past winter, where you would like to watch badminton in 2014. I hope some of you did, or will, manage to make it to some of the most exciting badminton destinations or events this year.
Who is most likely to prevent a Chinese sweep at the Asian Games? (Oct-Nov 2010)
Badzine readers’ choice: Lee Chong Wei
Reality: Shin Baek Cheol / Lee Hyo Jung, Markis Kido / Hendra Setiawan
In fact, for this poll, because of the vast number of contenders involved, we limited the choices to merely the highest-ranked contenders in each discipline. As it happened, the mixed and men’s doubles gold medallists were the only exceptions to Chinese domination in Guangzhou and they weren’t on the list. Good on those 11% of you who voted for ‘Other’.
Who will be the first double doubles gold medallist of 2011? (Jan-July 2010)
Badzine readers’ choice: Zhao Yunlei
Reality: Valeri Sorokina
Once again, Sorokina was not on our radar. In fact, unlike in some years, no one achieved a doubles double at the Superseries level. Sorokina’s two-title day came at the Russian Open Grand Prix, followed a few weeks later by both Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun at the U.S. Open Grand Prix Gold. Ko Sung Hyun (2nd in our poll) and Yoo Yeon Seong both pulled in two titles at the Grand Prix Gold level later in the year while Kunchala Voravichitchaikul added a doubles double at the Dutch Open Grand Prix.
Badzine readers’ prediction were perhaps just a year early, though, for while Zhao Yunlei reached two finals at the Worlds in 2011 and left with one title, she returned to London a year later to become the first to win the ultimate doubles double: two golds in one Olympic Games.
Which of the world’s top 4 in women’s singles will stay home from the London Olympics? (May-July 2012)
Badzine readers’ choice: Wang Shixian
Reality: Wang Shixian
This poll could have been framed as an opinion but we chose to ask for predictions and the plurality of voters, or 46%, guessed correctly that then-world #3 Wang Shixian would be passed over for then-#4 and All England champion Li Xuerui. Of course, the prescience was not only on the part of Badzine readers but also on the Chinese authorities as their pick was the eventual gold medallist in London.
Which new/reunited pair has the most potential? (Sept-Oct 2012)
Badzine readers’ choice: Ko Sung Hyun / Lee Yong Dae
This one was not exactly cut and dried. We ended the poll as soon as Mads Pieler Kolding and Kamilla Rytter Juhl began their campaign at the Dutch Open, which became their first, and so far their last, international title. Ko Sung Hyun and Lee Yong Dae were certainly the first of the fall 2012 pairs to reach #1 in the world and so we have to say that Badzine readers identified their potential.
It should be mentioned that the current men’s doubles #1, Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan were only third in our poll and they are one of only three pairs that are still together 19 months later. Shin Baek Cheol received only one vote for each of his new pairings but he and Yoo Yeon Seong won the Denmark Open two weeks after the poll closed and then took Eom Hye Won all the way to the World Championship semi-finals the following summer before both of those partnerships ended.
Who are 2013′s most promising badminton rookies? (Jan-March 2013)
Badzine readers’ choices: Tai Tzu Ying, Viktor Axelsen
Again, the term ‘promising’ is a little vague. Two choices were allowed mostly because we had to include Tai Tzu Ying, who had already won two Superseries titles and who is still the only candidate to reach the top ten.
Well, almost the only one. Lee Chun Hei was entered on the list with Ng Ka Long and the fact that Badzine readers evidently didn’t see much in this partnership was in tune with how things turned out, as Ng Ka Long has since concentrated on singles and recently reached the Canada Open final; however, Lee Chun Hei is now the Asian Champion in mixed with Chau Hoi Wah and is the other 2013 to have reached the world’s top 10.
Viktor Axelsen was the readers’ second choice and though he has not been back to a Superseries final, he did pick up his first Grand Prix Gold title in Switzerland this spring. However, five other players on the list had titled at Grand Prix or Grand Prix Gold events by that time and Axelsen is currently ranked one rung lower than Japan’s Kento Momota, who finished fifth in the poll.
What Superseries runner-up deserves to be the next title winner? (June-Dec 2013)
Badzine readers’ choices: Angga Pratama / Ryan Agung Saputra, Marc Zwiebler
It is not correct to call these votes predictions when the wording ‘deserving’ was used. However, it is still worthwhile looking at the poll in hindsight to observe whether those our readers’ choices got their just deserts. Unfortunately, both Pratama/Saputra and Zwiebler were among the five who have not made another appearance in a Superseries final since that poll began.
More hopeful have been the experiences of Hu Yun, Endo/Hayakawa, and Kenichi Tago, who have extended their respective runs of unsuccessful finals appearances to two, five, and six! The one piece of good news for players on our list concerns Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi. After adding a fourth runner-up finish earlier this year, they finally converted when they won the 2014 Japan Open title.
Also worth noting is that Michael Fuchs / Birgit Michels have moved up to three career runner-up finishes, while Chai Biao / Hong Wei and Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin now have two each.
Who will be the next teenager to win a major men’s singles title? (Jan-April 2014)
Badzine readers’ choice: Jonatan Christie
Reality: Wang Tzu Wei
This poll was pretty straightforward and when 2013 World Junior Championship runner-up Wang Tzu Wei won the New Zealand Open Grand Prix shortly after turning 19, he took almost everyone by surprise. Only three voters – including this writer, incidentally – pegged Wang as the first winner.
It is true that our readers may still be hoping for Christie to take a Grand Prix Gold or even a Superseries title before September 2017, though Wang still has about 7 more months himself to better his feat. As for the 2nd place finisher in our poll, Kento Momota, the World Championships are his only remaining chance to justify the faith that 12% of Badzine voters had in his potential as a teenager.
Who deserves Badminton Player of the Year honours for 2010? (Jan-Feb 2011)
Badzine readers’ choice: Lin Dan
BWF choices: Lee Chong Wei, Wang Xin
Badzine readers voted long before the BWF announced their Player of the Year honours. Lin Dan’s name was not even on the list originally as his mere 3 titles seemed to pale in comparison to both his normal achievements and to Lee Chong Wei’s 7 Superseries and 2 Grand Prix Gold titles, as well as Commonwealth Games gold and Asian Games silver.
Lee Chong Wei was a close second in the Badzine poll, while the BWF’s other choice, Wang Xin, received only 2% of the vote despite her two Superseries titles and silver at both the Asian Games and Worlds. The top woman in the Badzine poll was instead Saina Nehwal, who won 3 Superseries titles and one Grand Prix Gold in addition to Commonwealth Games gold and Asian Games silver.
Should female players be required to wear skirts? (Jan-Feb 2011)
Badzine readers’ choice: No
BWF Council decision: Regulation was ‘shelved’
In the case of one of badminton’s biggest controversies since Badzine went international in 2006, the BWF backed down and listened to public opinion, which was made clear in our Badzine poll, as well as in the global media reports, which were uniformly negative.
We actually had three accompanying polls on this issue. While a plurality of our readers thought women looked more attractive in skirts and a majority thought it might increase the sport’s popularity, nonetheless, a strong majority voted that skirts should not be made mandatory. From the results of the fourth poll, we can assume that the opposition to the rule had more to do with respect for freedom of choice than with a fear of bad publicity, which only 55% of readers felt was likely.
Shortly after the article, the poll and an editorial on Badzine on the skirt issue, the BWF hired our editorial writer and announced that it intended to do ‘further study before implementing new clothing regulations’. As nothing further has materialized, perhaps most Badzine readers are hopeful that the issue has simply been swept under the rug.
Do you agree with the BKA punishment of Korean coaches and players? (Aug 2012)
Badzine readers’ choice: Disagree. Neither the players nor the coaches should be punished further.
BKA decision: Both players and coaches received additional, reduced suspensions
This poll was opened immediately following the announcement of a two-year ban by their national association of the four players ejected from the London Olympics for attempting to throw matches. Badzine readers voted that the Olympic disqualification and shame were enough but the BKA still suspended the players, though reduced the period to one year. The suspension was lifted after five months, after which Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na, the two who had not already retired, promptly won the German and Swiss Open titles.
What hosts should be awarded the next round of Superseries events? (Oct-Nov 2012)
Badzine readers’ choices: INA, ENG, DEN, CHN, MAS (Premier); AUS, SIN, JPN, KOR, FRA, TPE, THA
BWF Council decision: INA, ENG, DEN, CHN, MAS (Premier); AUS, SIN, JPN, KOR, FRA, HKG, IND
Badzine readers’ choices matched the BWF Council choices precisely on the Superseries Premier hosts. If we count votes for Singapore and Australia as Premier hosts along with their votes as regular Superseries events, they were voters’ top two choices for the remaining seven.
However, Badzine readers also seemed in favour of some additional expansion, voting to promote the tournaments in Thailand and Chinese Taipei to Superseries status but the BWF Council preferred the bids from existing Superseries hosts India and Hong Kong.
What is your opinion of the suspension of Kim Ki Jung and Lee Yong Dae? (Jan-Apr 2014)
Badzine readers’ choice: Suspension for not updating whereabouts is too harsh. They should be given a warning or a fine only.
It is difficult to assess whether the authorities and Badzine readers agreed on this issue. In a way, what came to pass was what readers wished, since the players’ offenses were annulled later by the BWF and the BKA was fined. In another way, the opinion of a different 20% of voters was realized as well, since the players were forced to sit out all competition for three solid months.
As the poll finished before the additional evidence was presented to the BWF, it may be that the votes of Badzine readers were for lighter punishment for players guilty of whereabouts violations, rather than votes of belief in Kim and Lee’s lack of culpability in this case.
Should Lin Dan be given another wild card, to compete at the 2014 BWF World Championships in Copenhagen? (Mar-Apr 2014)
Badzine readers’ choice: Yes
BWF decision: No
The vote on Badzine was very close – with only 52% in favour of another wild card. This time, the BWF decision came down the other way.
Who would you send for China to the 2014 World Championship men’s singles competition? (May 2014)
Badzine readers’ choice: Chen Long, Lin Dan
China Badminton Association decision: Chen Long, Du Pengyu, Wang Zhengming (and Tian Houwei)
It seems Badzine readers’ desire to see Lin Dan in action at the Worlds again was enough to sacrifice a third spot for China. The Chinese authorities did not see it that way.
In fact, the World Championship qualification rules actually have a flexible quota provision that allowed a fourth Chinese player, Tian Houwei, to be sent to Copenhagen from the reserve list, even though they only had three ranked within the top 8. In hindsight then, even if it had been possible to reject the invitations of six other Chinese players and still be given one for Lin Dan, this would have meant a Chinese contingent of two instead of four.
What scoring system would be the best for badminton? (May-Jun 2014)
Badzine readers’ choice: Current system
BWF decision: Test a fourth new idea that was not proposed at the AGM
This is one of the most decisive polls we have had on Badzine. Even with three other options presented, readers voted overwhelmingly for the current system. On one hand, we could say that the BWF read the writing on the wall by scrapping the three new proposals it had made at the Annual General Meeting in May. However, they pivoted to a fourth option, five games to 11 points with no extra points, and announced both a poll and a period of trial tournaments.
So those are your choices in retrospect. If not so many of our collective predictions came true, that’s probably a good thing as it means that our sport keeps surprising us. As for the decision-makers, we can only hope that they continue to take into account the views of fans. Hopefully, our polls will keep getting more response as this is the surest way of producing meaningful results that those in power will have to take seriously.