Tokyo 2020 ‘wide open’: Badminton star Viktor Axelsen predicts end to Chinese domination at Olympic Games
- China’s dominance of the discipline is unlikely with new generation of players coming up
- World No 1 Kento Momota has a strong year, but no one knows what will happen in two years
The badminton men’s singles has entered an exciting era where no one can predict who the champion will be at the Tokyo Olympic Games in two years, according to one of the challengers for the gold medal.
China has dominated the discipline over the last three Games, twice through Lin Dan in 2008 and 2012 with Chen Long reigning in 2016, but it could be wide open this time, said Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
The Dane is in town for a badminton promotion activity with HSBC Life along with two-time Olympic men’s doubles champion Fu Haifeng of China and South Korea’s Lee Yong-dae, the doubles expert who won the mixed gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.
World No 1 Kento Momota of Japan, champion at the Fuzhou China Masters on Sunday, is having a strong year with a number of titles under his belt including the world championships and three more wins at tournaments above 750 level.
“It’s hard to say right now,” said Axelsen, the bronze medal winner in Rio. “This is an exciting time as many of the new generation of players are coming up and doing very well. Momota will be tough on the home soil but you never know what will happen during the next two years.
“China may not have as many good players as before but they still have Shi Yuqi and I still think the player and China will be in good form in the Olympics. They are the superpower of badminton you can’t rule anything out. Shi is their biggest card and Chen Long has also been playing well and he may have another go of the Olympics.”
World number four Axelsen is still recovering from a knee injury and will not be playing until the new season in January.
Fu, who won men’s doubles gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games, said many countries are improving quickly, posing great danger to China who won all five titles at the London Games.
“It’s an opportunity for all the teams and they are all making good progress, especially Japan who have invested a lot on sports science to life the standard of the players. China is always the target of other teams but unfortunately we are not making the same progress as many other teams.”
Both players, however, welcomed the news that former world number one Lee Chong Wei would be coming back to the court after recovering from nose cancer.
“Lee is a quality player, not only for his skills but also his personality. I am glad to hear he plans to come back after recovering from the disease,” said Fu.