Young badminton talent chasing Rio success
BADMINTON: The future of badminton in Australia rests with the young crop of players who recently swept the events at the 2015 Oceania Championships in Auckland.
Leanne Choo, Daniel Guda, Gronya Somerville and Sawan Serasinghe have become 2015 Oceania Champions in their respective events and all are under the age of 23.
Dual Olympic Badminton player, Glenn Warfe believes the current group of young badminton players are some of the most talented that Australia has ever seen.
“Only time will tell how good they can be, but the future is bright for Australian badminton,” said Warfe, whose own Olympic experiences at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games were the highlight of his career.
With only two players from the 2014 Commonwealth Games Team still competing, Badminton Australia is experiencing a major transition leading into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, with what will most likely be a much younger team.
Warfe who now works at the National Junior Development Manager at Badminton Australia, says a number of athletes are on their radar after having transitioned from junior international competitions like the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and Youth Olympic Games to top senior competition.
Warfe believes these athletes have the potential to have long and successful careers on the international stage.
“I’m excited to see how they will all develop through to the Rio Games and beyond,” Warfe said.
Leanne Choo, a 23-year-old from Adelaide, is the only athlete looking to compete in her second Olympic Games, after making it to the quarter finals in the women’s doubles at the 2012 London Games.
Choo is currently residing and training at the National Training Centre in Melbourne, and kicked off her 2015 campaign with two major wins, taking out both the women’s and mixed doubles Oceania Championships.
Badminton started as a social game for Choo, who began playing with her parents and brothers, but her competitive nature drove her to want to be the best.
“I stuck with badminton because there are so many aspects of the game, which always keeps me challenged,” said Choo.
An amazing experience at the 2012 London Games, helped Choo grow as both an athlete and person, and would love to do it again in Brazil.
“I would be really proud to represent Australia again at the Olympics,” said Choo.
The 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, provided Choo with her first taste of international competition, but she said her greatest career moment so far was winning against the World Number 10 women's doubles pair at the Canada Open in 2011.
Choo’s partner in women’s doubles, Gronya Somerville also trains at the National Training Centre in Melbourne. It would be a ‘dream come true’ for Somerville to compete at the Olympic Games.
This 20-year-old from Melbourne, competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and has secured the Oceania Women's Doubles Championship, two years in a row.
Somerville said badminton is a game that has everything but it was the tactics of the sport that ultimately led her to choose badminton over tennis.
“It is such a mental game as much as physical and I think that's one of the main reasons I preferred it. There are so many options of shots to hit from every position and it is full of creativity.”
The diversity amongst players was another big draw for Somerville with tiny Japanese players often competing against tall Europeans. All athletes utilise their different advantages and skills making the sport open to everyone.
For 19-year-old, Daniel Guda, the Rio Olympic Games would be an amazing opportunity that he has been dreaming about since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Residing and training in Sydney, Guda recently took out the Oceania Championships men’s singles title, which he said has been the highlight of his career.
Guda’s junior Olympic journey became a reality last year, when he was selected in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games team to compete in Nanjing, China.
The Youth Olympic Games was a great experience both on and off the court for Guda, who said it was a privileged to experience such a high standard of competition at such a young age.
“I was also able to draw lots of experiences in it on court to improve my overall game and off court to improve things such as interviews and preparation before a match.”
Another member of this young Australian team was Melbourne local, Sawan Serasinghe whose first international experience was at the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
Serasinghe trains at the National Training Centre, and took out the men’s doubles at the Oceania Championships with partner, Matt Chau after having also recently won the 2014 Sydney International Challenge mixed doubles (with Setyana Mapasa), against some of the best in the world.
With the 2015 Australian Badminton Open next month, these athletes will be vying for World Ranking Points which will hopefully lead to qualification in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The world’s best badminton players will converge on Sydney for the exclusive event, one of only 12 events in the Badminton World Federation Superseries, when the competition hits off from May 26-31 at Sydney Olympic Park.
The Australian Badminton Open Superseries offers one of the most lucrative sporting prize pools in the country, with US $700,000 up for grabs. It also gives athletes one of the first opportunities to earn the world ranking points needed to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
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