PETALING JAYA: China have made a spectacular return to the international stage after a three-month absence with a rare feat of scooping all five titles in the All-England.
And the heat is on their traditional rivals, including Malaysia, to find a way to close the yawning gap.
In Birmingham, the Chinese players showed that the break from competitions did wonders to their appetite to win honours. The champions were Lin Dan (men’s singles), Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (men’s doubles), Wang Yihan (women’s singles), Zhang Yawen-Zhao Tingting (women’s doubles) and He Hanbin-Yu Yang (mixed doubles).
It was the first time in the history of the modern All-England that country won all five titles. The last country to achieve the feat was Denmark in 1948.
It was also the first time that China made a clean sweep if the titles in a major championships outside their country. They won all the World Championship titles in Beijing in 1987.
“We have great team spirit and all the players wanted it to happen,” said delighted chief coach Li Yongbo. “I think they put in far more than anyone else.”
The most significant success of the Chinese team at the All-England on Sunday was probably in the women’s singles. Unseeded Wang Yihan scored a sensational win over hot favourite Tine Rasmussen of Denmark and it showed that China have a player to step into the shoes of two-time Olympic champion Zhang Ning.
And Lin Dan’s blasting of Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei underlined the fact that China will still dominate in the men’s single for some time yet.
While China continue to find new stars for their aging players and maintain a high standard of play in other events, the other countries have problems in producing world-class players.
And a former coach with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), Cheah Soon Kit, said that Malaysia lagged behind China because of the poor execution of plans.
“I have come through their system. I know that they like to make plans but are poor in implementing them. China are way ahead of the others,” said the former national doubles star.
“It will take years for the others to catch up unless something drastic is done. The BAM should not only think of the 2012 London Olympic Games but also way beyond that in order to narrow the gap.”
Soon Kit was also impressed with China’s plan to start a Super League later this year in a bid to revive the interest of the sport among their youngsters and also to prevent their players from being snapped by other countries.
“China are far sighted. Imagine, the number of youngsters who will come through this league,” he said.
Their Super League is being revived after a failed attempt seven years ago. About 20 million yuan will be pumped in the league, which is expected to create excitement in the provinces.
The China BA are expected to come out with a way to ensure that their top athletes get to compete in the league and also to take part in major international tournaments.
In contrast, there are not many national domestic competitions in Malaysia. The focus is on the elites and if more emphasis is not given at the grassroots level, Malaysian badminton will certainly not be able to come to the class of the Chinese.