Badminton’s Deng Xuan still dreaming of world number one after swapping China for Hong Kong to rebuild career
- The 2010 Youth Olympic silver medallist came to Hong Kong last year through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
- The Guangzhou-born shuttler hopes to follow in footsteps of Wang Chen and Zhou Mi
For Hong Kong badminton newcomer Deng Xuan, the goal is clear: to prove she is still capable of playing at the highest level and becoming world number one, following in the footsteps of predecessors Wang Chen and Zhou Mi.
Once hailed a promising player for China after capturing a silver medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics, Deng, who will turn 27 next month, has had to start from scratch in Hong Kong since leaving the mainland late last year.
“The future is not easy in competitive sports but I chose the road and believe I can still play at the top level. There’s plenty of room for improvement,” said the determined Deng after a tough session at the Sports Institute in Fo Tan, where she is now based. “In fact, I didn’t have a ranking when I first came here and now I am the world number 42.
“My goal? Of course it will be the top of the rankings like Wang Chen and Zhou Mi who came to Hong Kong to rejuvenate their careers.
“I still yet to work back to my peak as I have stopped for a couple of years but I believe it will not be too far away. Next year will be pivotal to measure my progress.”
Deng clinched her first world tour title in the New Zealand Open in 2013 but then acute appendicitis the following year put a stop to the her budding career with the China national team.
“It was too difficult to get back to the team against world class players such as Wang Yihan, Li Xuerui and Wang Shixian,” said Deng. “But thanks to Hong Kong offering me a second chance, I am now able to compete again.”
Deng arrived in the city in late 2017 through the government’s Quality Migrant Admission Scheme and kicked off her career for the second time with the Hong Kong team.
Deng beat Carolina Marin of Spain in the quarter-finals of the 2010 Youth Olympics and overcame Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in the New Zealand Open final.
Marin has since become the 2016 Olympic champion and a three-time world champion in 2014, 2015 and 2018, while the Japanese shuttler currently ranks fifth in the world and a medal favourite for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“There are no hard feelings watching them become so successful,” said Deng. “They work very hard to get where they are, just like any top player in any sport, but I was forced to stop for several years before picking up my badminton racquet again. Those results only prove I could beat players at the top level and provide me with the needed confidence to chase my badminton dream.”
Deng is happy to have Wang Chen as her coach, a role model she can follow in her new career. Wang came to Hong Kong in 1999 after quitting the China national team. She reached the world number one spot in 2003 and clinched the 2006 Asian Games gold medal for Hong Kong.
A bronze medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Zhou Mi came to Hong Kong in 2006, also through the same scheme as Deng ,and became the second world number one player for Hong Kong in 2008. However, she was banned for two years for doping in 2010 and has since left Hong Kong.
“Wang was a top class player with both the China and Hong Kong teams and her experience is invaluable to me,” said Deng. “Not only she can teach me in badminton but also how to adapt to a new life in a new place.”
But the Guangzhou-born player should have less adaption problems than Wang as she speaks the same language as most Hongkongers and Guangzhou is not too far.
“I came to Hong Kong on my own but I am used to this, just like when I left home to train with the Guangzhou team and then the national team in Beijing,” said Deng.
Although the training intensity with the China national team was much tougher, Deng feels she can still do well with the new settings in Hong Kong.
“We don’t train here as hard as in China which means you need to be more self initiated if you want to do well,” said Deng.
“In China, the coach always pushes you to the limit and you will be out if you cannot meet their target. Here you train hard because you want to.”
Deng has won four tournaments for Hong Kong over the last 12 months but these were all low level events. “If you want to improve your ranking, you must play high ranking tournaments but you need to reach a certain level of ranking before you are eligible. I can now plan to play more top level tournaments in 2019 after getting my ranking back and want to make a big jump,” she said. “Let’s see.”