CHANGZHOU, Jiangsu Province, Sept. 15 — Leading a gigantic team at the China Masters badminton tournament, Chinese head coach Li Yongbo would not leave the up-coming National Games behind.
The six-day China Masters takes place one month before the quadrennial National Games where all Chinese provinces compete in events included in the Olympic Games.
Keeping the National Games in mind, Li fielded over 100 players from the national top string team, the reserves and the provincial teams to the badminton super series which kicks off on Tuesday in the east city of China.
"This time it is a little different. The China Masters kind of serves as a practice field for my players because they need to prepare for the National Games a month away," said Li. "So we reshuffled some of the pairs."
Indonesian super series mixed doubles champions Zheng Bo and MaJin were split in this event as Zheng would partner his Hunan province teammate Tian Qing and Ma Jin would play together with Shen Ye from east China’s Shandong.
Winning team members of the Thomas Cup men’s team event Shen Yeand He Hanbin temporarily say goodbye to each other as Shen is set to pair up with Li Tian in the upcoming National Games.
China also brought back some retired internationals as their experiences are valued by their respective provincial teams.
Liu Yong, former mixed doubles world champion, became the oldest Chinese player at this tournament as the 34-year-old is partnering with Xu Yanshi, more than 10 years of his junior, in the men’s doubles.
Liu is expected to anchor in Jiangsu’s defense of their men’s team title at the National Games and handed his experience down to his younger teammates Xu.
"Without the support from the provincial teams, there will not be some many good players in the national team. So it is a way we repay them," said Li.
On the other side of the balance, Li leaves China’s star pairs unchanged.
All-England winners Yu Yang and He Harbin stand a good chance to capture the mixed doubles title as top seed and one of the Beijing Olympic champions Lee Yong Dae of South Korea withdrew due to injury.
In the women’s doubles, China look to continue its dominance as Beijing Olympic titlists Du Jing and Yu Yang, defending champions Cheng Shu and Zhao Yunlei pose as strong title contenders. Chinese players occupy seven of the eight seeded positions in this event.
The men’s doubles seems to lack some suspense with Lee’s withdrawal, Beijing Olympic Games gold medalists Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia skipping the event. Newly crowned world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng will find themselves on a rather smooth road to the title.