With the qualifying period for the 2012 Olympics in London approaching, the stakes are quickly getting higher in the international badminton world. The 2011 season begins in earnest today with the Yonex All England 2011 tournament in Birmingham, one of the sport’s “Grand Slam” (BWF Super Series) events.
China is looking to maintain its dominance in the sport, but faces strong challenges from the likes of Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Denmark. Hosts England, with just one entrant in each of the singles events, faces an uphill battle to assert itself more strongly as both the next Olympic host and the game’s country of origin.
Play begins Wednesday March 9, and runs through Sunday March 13. I haven’t checked the TV schedule, but expect plenty of CCTV-5 coverage. The tournament website is here.
China’s Wang Shixian is the favorite after Wang Yihan (China) and Tine Baun (nee Rasmussen, Denmark) withdrew due to injuries. Her toughest opponents will be countrywoman Wang Xin and India’s Saina Nehwal, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion.
Lin Dan, aka Super Dan, one of Chinese sport’s biggest stars, is going for an unprecedented fifth All England title. Other major contenders are defending All England champion, Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia); and reigning world champion Chen Jin (China).
To reach the finals, China’s third-seeded Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang will likely need to get past the top-seeded Taiwanese pair of Cheng Wen-Hsing and Chien Yu-Chin.
This is probably the most wide-open event this year. China’s top pair are world title holders Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, but they are only seeded sixth behind the top-seeded Danish duo of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, and teams from Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.
China has four teams in this event, including top seeds Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, and the fifth-seeded Tian Qing and Tao Jiaming.
Related: Badzine’s All-England Preview
Tags: badminton, Lin Dan, Wang Shixian, Wang Xin, Wang Yihan