Net gain as players give new format the thumbs-up
Support is growing as badminton looks to the future with unpredictable and fast-changing team relay. The innovative team relay event being trialled at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games has been winning applause from players after four days of badminton competition.
The relay event, which has eight teams of comparable strength based on world rankings, has encouraged players to strive for a common goal alongside young stars from other nations. “This format is new for me,” New Zealand player Oscar Guo said. “No one was that sure how it would go until we started playing, but it works really well. I get to meet new people and get the team spirit which is quite important at the Olympic Games.”
Each team consists of eight players of different nationalities, with each tie decided by a cumulative total of points scored over 10 matches - two each for men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
“The way you play affects your teammates because of your combined score,” Grace King (GBR) said. “There is pressure on you to try to do well for your teammates and yourself.”
Wednesday’s quarterfinal between team Sigma and team Zeta demonstrated just how unpredictable the relay event can be, with the score fluctuating back and forth before Zeta eventually prevailed in the final two matches to claim a hard-fought 110-106 victory.
“The scoring is interesting. It has never happened before. It’s really good, getting to know all the players,” Christopher Grimley (GBR), playing for Zeta, said after taking the final two points in mixed doubles and men’s doubles.
The Youth Games is as much about learning as it is competition. Sigma’s Wang Zhiyi said she was becoming familiar with her teammates, adding: “My English is not so good, but we can still have a lot of fun together.”
Arnaud-Sylvain-Andre Merkle of France shared the same opinion. “It’s quite good for us. We eat together. If there was no team event, I wouldn’t even talk to the players from other countries.”
On singles quarterfinal day at the YOG, world junior champion and men’s top seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn (THA) was knocked out by Merkle 21-13, 21-10. The Frenchman set up a semifinal clash with China’s fifth seed Li Shifeng, who came from behind to beat Nhat Nguyen of Ireland 15-21, 21-19, 21-19.
The bottom half of the semifinals of the men’s singles is between India’s Lakshya Sen and Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.
In women’s singles, Thailand’s top seed Phittayaporn Chaiwan avoided the fate of her male compatriot, defeating Hungary’s Vivien Sandorhazi 21-9, 21-8. Up next for her will be Malaysia’s Goh Jin Wei, who was just as comfortable winning her quarterfinal against Vietnam’s Vu Thi Anh Thu 21-12, 21-9.
Second seed Wang Zhiyi made her way past Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yinhsuan and will take on Singapore’s Jaslyn Hooi, who beat USA’s Jennie Gai 21-16, 21-18.