Olympic champion Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen was like any other badminton player when he first started: he lacked speed, technique, and motivation. He played the sport just for fun. 'I was just hitting the shuttle with a small group of friends not knowing it would one day become part of my life,' said the 32-year-old Dane. Hoyer-Larsen said he knew he had found the right sport after developing his skills to a point where he was good enough to represent his district in age group competition. This allowed him the chance to travel around his country. 'I played football in school but that didn't give me much chance to travel. I found that playing badminton was better in this respect. The good thing about badminton is that you get to meet all sorts of people and make new friends,' he said. Hoyer-Larsen advises youngsters thinking of taking up the sport to do what he did in his youth: to play with a group of friends. That way, they will be able to enjoy the sport a whole lot more. 'Youngsters should get together with two or three friends and play after school or when they have time. They should join up with other classmates and play together. Then they can develop basic badminton skills and take it from there,' said Hoyer-Larsen. 'Developing skill and technique requires a lot of practice. But playing with friends is fun. Hoyer-Larsen said Hong Kong people have an advantage when it comes to the sport. 'Badminton suits Asians. You don't have to be big physically to be good. 'The Chinese players are normally very good at it because they have all the natural attributes. They possess good speed and good technique,' he said. His training schedule is gruelling. 'It is important to develop good co-ordination while training yourself physically. You must be fit of course to play the game properly. 'The good thing about badminton is that you can develop all these things by merely playing. If you have a coach, that is even better,' he said. Hoyer-Larsen has been a professional player for more than 10 years. After making a name for himself in Europe, the world number four scaled new heights by winning the gold medal in men's singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games - the only non-Asian to win an Olympic gold in the sport.