Europeans must close gap with Asians, says badminton chief
New boss of world federation says Western players need to raise training intensity if they want to catch up with Eastern counterparts
Newly elected Badminton World Federation (BWF) president Poul-Erik Hoyer has urged the Europeans to increase their training intensity if they want to catch up to their Asia counterparts who dominate the sport.
The Dane, the only European to win a badminton gold at the Olympics, was elected to the top job at BWF headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in May. He urged his fellow Europeans to try to close the gap on the likes of China.
"There is a general saying that you need 10,000 practice hours before you can become an excellent player," said the 47-year-old, who arrived in Guangzhou yesterday for the World Championships. "In China, we estimate their players complete [that] standard by the age of 19 or 20, but in Europe, they are 24 before they can reach that amount of training hours. There is a big gap to close.
"The Europeans need to be ready when they are 21 or 22 so that they compete against the Asians. It can also foster their possibility of taking part in at least two Olympic Games."
Hoyer said progress had been made in his home country as they were expecting some Danish players to reach that 10,000-hour mark at the age of 22 in four or five years.
"Germany and Great Britain are also following the same philosophy as far as I know, as they try to incorporate sports training into education, and hopefully we can get closer and closer in the near future," he said.
China won all five available gold medals at the London Olympic Games and are likely to repeat the feat in Guangzhou.
Hoyer would like to see golds spread out more, but admitted: "The best players always should win. So, in a competition if you have the best players from China, that's it. You cannot avoid it, if China have done a good job they should benefit from the work they have done.
"But looking back in those years, China have not been the best all the time. There were also times when Malaysia and then Indonesia were in dominance. At one point, China will not be strong and then there may be another country that can become the stronghold of our sport."
Hoyer condemned the ugly scenes at the London Games that saw players deliberately throwing matches to get a better draw in the next stage. But he did not agree that the reputation of badminton had been damaged.
"It's unfortunate when things like that happen," he said. "We reacted quite fast and directly by disqualifying the players involved, which gained some credibility for our sport.
Hoyer said an analysis from the International Olympic Committee put badminton in group C of the Olympic core sports, ranking them between nine to 16 out of the 26 sports in London.
"The result proved we had a good Olympic Games," he said. "But there is no complacency as we want to push badminton into the top 10 to be secure as one of the definite sports at the Olympic Games. We still face a lot of hard work."
Hoyer also dismissed complaints from players about the hectic playing schedule.
"They are required only to play nine tournaments a year to get a world ranking, but of course all event organisers want to get top players like Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei," he said.