Junior players from around the world gathered in Sydney, at the sports halls at Olympic Park, from 17-21 January, to compete for medals in the teams and individual championships at the Youth Olympic Festival. Badminton was one of 16 sports to be contested at this years event.
By Lynne Scutt, Badzine Correspondent in Oceania.
Teams were to be a maximum of 3 men and 3 Ladies. China, United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore played a round robin competing for the main teams medals.
After the first round of team play all participants and officials gathered with the other 2000 athletes to be part of the opening ceremony at the Entertainment centre. It was great to see representative from badminton as Flag bearers from Singapore and Fiji.
There were some fantastic games throughout the first two days of play, United Kingdom gave Malaysia a scare with pushing them to the last game, Malaysia were eventual winners 3/2. NZ and Australia had another typical battle with the home crowd helping the Australian team win 3/2.
By the last round of the teams event it was clear who the top two teams were, China and Malaysia and they would compete for the Gold Medal. China had looked very strong and dominated throughout the competition and although Malaysia put up a strong fight, it was China who were crowned champions and Gold medallists.
Singapore had earlier beaten England in some very exciting and long games of badminton to win the Bronze.
This year there was a section for development Australia B, NZ B, Fiji and Oceania made up this group. This was a very even group with some very close games with the NZ team coming out on top with the Australian team getting silver. The Oceania team (made up of New Caledonian players) won over Fiji to get the bronze.
ImageWith the limited numbers of players in each team, the individual draws were small but very competitive. The heat in the stadium was very draining and sometimes hard to take but by the quarterfinal stage all seeds had come through without any trouble. In the quarterfinals there were again some big battles especially when Malaysia, Singapore and China met.
In the finals it would be Malaysia and China competing in all events for the gold medal. Malaysia were hoping for a more successful result this time after the 5-0 score in the team event.
The mixed doubles was first and this set the scene for some high quality and exciting badminton. Chinas Tian Li and Xiao Li Wang claimed gold over Malaysias Tan Wee Kiong and Woon Khe Wei 21-17, 11-21, 21-17. United Kingdoms Christopher Adcock and Gabrielle White won the bronze in a walkover match.
In the Ladies singles, Chinas Jie Liu continued with her dominance at this event and defeated Lydia Cheah 21-15, 21-10. In the bronze playoff it was United Kingdoms Michelle Cheung who would get revenge from the teams event against her Singapore opponent and capture the Bronze
ImageIn the highly anticipated mens singles final, Chinas Long Chen defeated Mohammad Arif in 3 sets. The very popular Arif took a set to find his touch and amazing shot ability that he had showed in earlier rounds. The crowd were definitely on the Malaysians side and started to get very vocal and supportive. But Long Chens determination got him through in the 3rd to become Champion. Singapore players battled off for the bronze medal with Ashton Chen the eventual winner.
Ladies Doubles – Xiao Li Wang and Jie Liu defeated Woon Khe Wei and Ng Hui Lin 21-14 22-20 with United Kingdoms Samantha Ward and Gabrielle White picking up the bronze over Singapores Ting Ting Thng and Vanessa Jill Poo.
In the last match of the festival the large crowd was treated to a very high quality game. Arif teamed up with Indra Mawan Vountus and won support from the crowd with their style of play, determination and smiling faces. In the end they defeated Chinas Tian Li and Biao Chai 17/21 21/16 21/12 to win Malaysias only gold medal. United Kingdoms Christopher Adcock picked up his 2nd bronze with partner Marcus Ellis with a win over NZs Ethan Haggo and Oliver Leydon-Davis.
The badminton competition runs from the first day to the last day of the youth Festival. Although the programme was very full, the bus rides to and from the stadium from the village were sometimes quite eventful and gave the teams a chance to get to know each other. All games were played in a great spirit and everyone looks forward to seeing many of these players competing in this part of the world later in the year at the World Junior Championships in New Zealand.