A pair of badminton siblings qualifying for the Olympics is rare but that’s what has happened for Yuhan and Lianne Tan at London 2012.
The Belgians have beaten the odds to secure their places at the Games and, in doing so, become part of an elite Olympic club.
Badminton siblings have competed at the Olympics before. Many will remember the Brehaut brothers from Australia who played in Men’s Doubles in Athens 2004 and the famous Sidek brothers who took home bronze in Barcelona 1992 for Malaysia.
However, three distinct differences here are that this is the first brother-and-sister combination and the first European siblings to play Olympic badminton; and they are competing in singles – not doubles.
The celebration of their achievement is tempered by the challenges each has faced in their respective journey to this moment in history. Four years ago, Yuhan made the final Olympic qualification list for the Beijing Games but his home Olympic committee did not ratify his selection. This year, both Tans qualified via their world rankings but Lianne was kept waiting while her selection was deliberated by Belgian badminton authorities.
Finally, the good news came. She was selected. Both Tans would be flying to London.
“It was indeed an anxious wait. I knew there was still a chance that they would send me but I was prepared for the worst as this happened to Yuhan in 2008,” said 21-year-old Lianne.
“I had been waiting for almost a month for my NOC’s decision. I was happy and relieved when my father called me from Belgium. It was around midnight in Indonesia where we were training. I was so excited I could not sleep.”
Having experienced disappointment in 2008, her big brother advised her to “stay calm and positive” and not to panic.
“I was very disappointed when my Olympic committee didn’t select me for Beijing. I made so many sacrifices in order to qualify…after this I decided to start studying again and I had no clue if I would try to qualify for the London Games…but watching the 2010 Winter Olympics on television I realised that I really wanted to take part in the Olympics and I decided to go (for it) a 100 per cent,” said the 25-year-old of his resolve not to be denied his dream.
Naturally, there has been a whirlwind of media attention surrounding the Tans since their selection. They represent the first Belgian badminton interest in the Summer Games since 2000. Both Lianne and Yuhan have taken it in stride, using the positive vibes as motivation to excel.
“I don’t think our qualification will be a distraction to us performing to the best of our abilities. I’m really happy that we will go together. We have been practising, travelling, playing tournaments all year together so we are used to this and it would have been a big disappointment if one of us had to stay at home,” commented Lianne.
Looking beyond their fairytale story, Yuhan added the spotlight is a “rare opportunity” for them to promote badminton “and we have to take it with both hands”.
That’s precisely what they are doing.