It was a year to remember but also a year to reminisce and Badzine special contributor and Badmintonphoto photographer Yves Lacroix tells of how both figured into the last badminton event of 2012, the Yonex Copenhagen Masters.
Story and photos by Yves Lacroix
The holiday season – in North America, at least – is usually synonymous with Christmas shopping, a little bit of time off work and year-end reviews in newspapers and magazines. For me, however, it instead rhymes with badminton, due to the yearly Copenhagen Masters taking place in a city I absolutely love. Attending this year’s edition would prove even sweeter to me as it was not until late November that I was sure I’d be going.
The Copenhagen Masters is a small invitational tournament whose main purpose is to showcase badminton in a small but warm one-court setting over a period of three days. The organizers usually try to invite in-form Danish players and a selection of European and Asian players.
Every match is televised live only a few metres away from the crowd. One couldn’t think of a warmer setting to witness some world-class badminton. Another big plus is that the hall is only two minutes away from our hotel rooms.
The tournament also becomes the stage for two important Badminton Danmark awards for Danish players: Årets Komet and Årest Spiller, respectively rewarding the most promising player and the player(s) who had the most impact during the year. As for event finalists, the stakes are almost purely honorary as results do not count for BWF world rankings.
This year, it was decided that only three events – only the ones including men – would be played and over a period of two days only. This year’s edition was, however, going to showcase something special…really special. It would be 36-year-old Peter Gade’s last official match after a playing career spanning over three decades.
His pedigree is simply awesome: number one in the world, All England winner, Japan Open winner, European champion, World Junior champion and so many more incredible achievements. Oh, and incidentally, he also won the Copenhagen Masters 10 times!
Gade’s wish was to play his last match against Lin Dan. The Chinese superstar was kind enough to accept the invitation and a lot of buzz was made around that special encounter. For me, it definitely was the end of an era as Peter was the last player still active who had participated in the first international badminton tournament I ever attended, namely the 1995 Danish Open. Active players such as Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon were just babies back then!
The match between Peter Gade and Lin Dan would in fact be an exhibition showcase – a good move by the Danish association, in my opinion – and it was played during the tournament. Tickets had been sold out for many weeks and I had never seen so many photographers and media at the Copenhagen Masters.
The match proved to be a real crowd-pleaser and was one of the best matches I’ve seen this year. Both players offered a very good show and Lin Dan showed real class in letting Peter go out in style. Well done, Mr. Lin. The Dane ended with a 20-22, 21-16, 21-14 victory but one could sense that Lin Dan still wanted to send the message that he is the master on court.
All due homage was paid to the Great Dane – no pun intended – in front of a standing ovation. Gade showed a lot of emotional control during his farewells, in contrast to his tear-eyed family. Seeing his loved ones cry was indeed heart-wrenching and I felt a little bad taking pictures of the scene but it’s unfortunately part of the job of being a photographer. Argh.
The other match I will remember most fondly was the men’s doubles final between Danish pairs Bonde/Conrad-Petersen and Mogensen/Pieler Kolding. Pieler Kolding was called as a last-minute replacement for Mathias Boe, who fell ill earlier during the day.
This is one of the reasons I like the Copenhagen Masters so much. Instead of calling off the match and in order to honour their promises in providing the crowd and TV broadcasters with three finals, the organizers simply ask an available player to fill in the partnership. The show must go on! That move proved to be a great battle which ended with a score of 21-23, 21-16, 23-21 in favour of Mogensen and Pieler Kolding.
During the final night, Thomas Laybourn and Jonas Rasmussen – both ex-world champions – were both showcased in a small goodbye ceremony, really small in comparison to the one staged for Gade.
Gade, Laybourn, Rasmussen. Denmark surely has a lot of young talented players but I will be hard to replace these three. But like I said before, the show must go on…
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