Wembley Arena feels like home, says Li
Wembley Arena might seem a world away from Beijing, but China badminton head coach Li Yongbo feels right at 'home' as his charges prepare for their London Games campaign this week.
Completing their first training session at the north-west London venue yesterday after their arrival on Monday, the team are ready to defend at least three gold medals they won at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
'I like the environment here and it is just like the time when I snatched my last All England Championship doubles title some twenty years ago,' said the coach.
'It's not just me, our current players also have some great moments here such as Lin Dan, who clinched his 2011 world championship singles title and this year's All England title at this venue. The players feel like returning to a venue they are familiar with and it's nothing like entering the Olympic Games. This will ease some of the pressure off them.'
Defending Olympic champion Lin looked comfortable in the main arena as he practised with world number three compatriot Chen Long on the middle court, where both will be hoping to contest the men's singles final on August 5. In the women's singles, world number one Wang Yihan and number two Wang Xin warmed up alongside them on an adjacent court. Chinese players are heavily favoured to contest gold medals in all five events.
The coach also noted the change of the venue's colour tone as they returned to the scene of their 2011 world championship triumph, where they captured all five titles.
'The pink colour - it's romantic. It's like a place where boyfriends and girlfriends meet,' said the coach, referring to the flooring surrounding the green courts.
The choice of colour is in keeping with the London 2012 theme, although in other badminton competitions, the courts are usually boarded by a more neutral coloured flooring.