With memories of their eventful BWF World Championships 2015 campaign still fresh, Jacco Arends and Selena Piek are looking ahead to the Rio Olympics with zest.
The Dutch pair are in difficult Group B with second seeds Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Korea), Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara and USA’s Phillip Chew/Jamie Subandhi.
For inspiration, Arends and Piek can fondly recall their experience of the Worlds in Jakarta last year, when they upset sixth seeds Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong on the way to the quarter-finals. A similar performance in Rio will be what they will aim for.
“We are trying to make sure we’ll be in the best shape of our lives,” says Piek, who will also be seen in Women’s Doubles with Eefje Muskens. “We already did it at the Worlds. We caused an upset beating the Chinese. It’ll be our main goal, beating high ranked players. Let’s see what happens. Anything can happen once you’re at the Olympic Games.
“The most memorable match was reaching the quarter-finals in the Istora Senayan. It’s the loudest stadium on the tour. To do so, to perform well and beating the Chinese in the World Championships, it was one of my greatest victories together with (Jacco).”
“Yes definitely,” states Arends. “It was amazing. I think we had goose bumps.”
The Dutch pair will be among the Europeans in focus as they head into the Rio campaign. The run-up to Rio has seen a few ups and downs, with the highlight being a semi-final finish at the 2016 European Championships.
Both Arends and Piek have played with different partners before settling down as a pair. The experience of playing with others has come in handy and helped them mature.
“I think we both sensed that we both grew and benefitted a lot by playing with different people,” says Arends. “I think we both learnt a lot from those years. It also made me feel that I don’t take Selena for granted anymore. After that, that wasn’t the case anymore. So it was really good.”
While badminton is not quite among the big sports in the Netherlands, a strong performance at the Olympics will go a long way in propelling the sport forward, and they are conscious of the responsibility that lies on their shoulders.
“I really hope Dutch badminton keeps getting bigger and bigger,” says Piek. “I hope we can inspire a lot of people – more people wanting to play the sport, that it becomes bigger in Holland, being broadcast a little bit more because right now there is nothing actually on TV. That will be my main goal. I really hope to inspire people, to let them see what an amazing sport badminton is.”
“Selena and I just want to inspire people, to get as many people as possible to come and watch us and the other Dutch players and hopefully a lot of new young kids will pick it up and see what an amazing sport it is,” adds Arends.
Catch Arends and Selena Piek on Badminton Unlimited: