Badminton - Men's Singles Preview

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Let the games begin! Tonight, at eight o’clock, the quest begins in earnest with the badminton men’s singles due to take part at the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre – a humbler beginning is hard to imagine.

Yesterday, I bought some brand new shuttlecocks – that was an education in itself. I had thought the decision as to what type to buy was pretty much limited to nylon or goose-feather, with the former aimed at the recreational player and the latter at the aspiring superstar. Of course I had chosen the goose-feather ones before even venturing out to the shop.

However, when I got there, I was faced with a choice of five different “grades” of goose-feather. In the end, I felt sorry for the poor old geese deemed rubbish enough to provide only the lowest grade of shuttlecock feather and plumped for the cheapest ones. I had no idea it was such a complex issue.

While I was in the shop, I picked up a new grip for my racket too. It doesn’t really need one, but somehow the packaging convinced me that my game would be improved almost beyond recognition by an additional 2mm of faux-leather between the existing grip and my hand. We shall see.

Badminton was a demonstration sport in 1972, an exhibition sport in 1988, and was granted full Olympic status in 1992 in Barcelona (is it just me, or is it impossible to say that word without hearing Freddie Mercury in your head?). The rules were first laid out in 1877 by the Bath Badminton Club, and the first All England Championships were held in 1899. The International Badminton Federation was founded in 1934.

Historically at the Olympics, the Indonesians, Koreans and Chinese have dominated the medal tables. Great Britain has only ever won two medals – both in the mixed doubles - Simon Archer and Jo Goode took bronze in Sydney in 2000, and (of course) Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms took silver in Athens in 2004.

The current men’s singles champion is Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia. He beat Shon Seung of Korea 15-8, 15-7 in the final in Athens. The top placed Briton was Richard Vaughn, who made it to the last 16.

My opponent this evening is my good friend, Gareth Forber. We played a fair bit of badminton against each other last winter, and we’re quite evenly matched, so I’m hoping tonight will make for a suitably exciting start to this ridiculous undertaking. And I’m hoping I win. Because I’m a bit like that (apparently).

In other news, I got my first official pledge of sponsorship. It had a strangely unsettling effect on me to have my sponsor form returned by e-mail with a pledge on it – I think it was the point at which I realised that now I have to actually follow through and do this. For the first time, excitement stepped aside for a moment to let trepidation sit down. Still, the running total has begun and stands today at £50. Thank you, Mark!