This was my second year at the All England Badminton Championships in Birmingham, UK. This time, Rajio and I did not limit ourselves to just one day of action, but two.
The Championships were fantastic this year in part because of the range of nations which were represented. Where in 2007, China seemed to dominate in most categories, in 2008, this was not the case. The men’s final comprised of 2 Korean pairs, and the Ladies’ singles was won by a European (from Denmark)…apparently this is the first European victory for 7 years!
If I may summarise the 3 highlights of the trip for me…
The first has to be seeing Gao Lin (and her partner Zheng Bo – see right) in the mixed doubles. It is difficult to put into words what I enjoy about her game, but two points come to mind. First of all, she seems to play and move very naturally, covering the court with ease. Then, all of a sudden, she can explode into a devastating attack. Awesome to watch; terrifying to play against. The second reason is that she plays in a traditional mixed position, returning to (and dominating) the net whenever possible. Because this system is most similar my own, I can learn so much – positioning, timing, shot choice etc. It would also be dishonest of me if I didn’t note that I do not find her altogether displeasing to the eye!
A second highlight was watching the ultimate all round singles player of his generation, the genius that is Lin Dan (see left). You know when you play social badminton with a weaker partner, you push them to their limits, run them from corner to corner whilst practising your shots, knowing that at any time, you can choose to up your game and win the point. This is the same feeling that I sense in Lin Dan; the only difference is that he’s playing against the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best players in the WORLD! A true badminton God. Hats off!
The third highlight of the trip was the company. I could not have had a better travel buddy for the 2 days than Rajio. His steady and thoughtful outlook on life was a joy to engage with (…however, how steady he would claim this to be might have altered after we had managed to taste more than half of the hotel’s whiskeys 🙂 ). On the Friday, we also managed to meet up with Gerry, who, having been at the tournament all week, was able to fill us in on the form of the players (and try to sell us his programme which Lin Dan had ‘allegedly’ autographed 😉 ). Then on the Saturday, I had the good fortune to spend some time with my Combined Team compadres – Peter and Cray.
Bring on the All England 2009!