With a first-ever TOTAL BWF Thomas Cup title behind them, Denmark will look to build on an already-successful year with a strong performance at the Rio Olympics.
A strong squad, with several players at the top of their game, promises rich pickings for Denmark. The Thomas Cup victory, besides successful performances in the MetLife BWF World Superseries circuit, suggest that the Danes will return home with a few medals.
A preparatory camp prior to the Olympics has seen the players making the necessary tweaks and getting into the right physical and mental frame of mind for the biggest stage of all.
“The preparations have been very good, we have no injuries, and we’ve worked hard to be here,” said Joachim Fischer Nielsen, bronze medallist at the last Olympics with Mixed Doubles partner Christinna Pedersen. “The Olympics are of course very special, we’re here to try to do a good result. I would say ours is the strongest group in all disciplines. We cannot change that. We know we can beat everybody, we also know we can also lose if we don’t find our top level.
“It will be my last Olympics and that can be motivation, but it can also be dangerous. Because I know I won’t be coming back to the Olympics, it can be tricky. Of course you want to do well because it’s the last time. It’s about how to manage it the right way, and I’m trying to do that.”
“I’m really looking forward to it, you know the Olympics is really special,” said Viktor Axelsen, who spearheaded Denmark’s Thomas Cup campaign, “All of the other players who have already played the Olympics once or twice say that it’s a special thing and you have to see what happens when you get there and let the feelings come to you.”
Axelsen, who is in Group L with Korea’s Lee Dong Keun and Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana, played down his medal chances, only saying that he was aiming to give it everything:
“I just think the most important thing is that I go in there and try to make it all work and if I play my best then I have a good shot of doing really well but I also go in there with a realistic perspective and I know that I have to perform my absolute best if I want to be in the top three.”
The Danish challenge in Men’s Doubles will be in the form of experienced duo Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, who staged a remarkable recovery following his brain surgery in February. The Danes are in Group C and are expected to finish in the top two of their group to make the quarter-finals.
“He’s had an amazing recovery and of course he was starting a little bit below his normal level when we started the preparations but I think he’s catching up,” said head coach Lars Uhre, of Mogensen.
Four years ago, at the London Olympics, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl had upset eventual gold medallists Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei in their group encounter. The Danes however fell in the quarter-finals. In the time since then, they have developed into one of the most consistent combinations, having made the final of the TOTAL BWF World Championships last year.
“It’s going to be really, really tough in both Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles,” said Pedersen. “We also know that the competition, especially Asia in Women’s Doubles and in Mixed Doubles, they’re hungry and I’m sure they have been preparing as good as we have here at least so it’s going to be really tough but we’ll do our very best.”
Coach Uhre said he’d be happy with whichever medal came their way. “We have a strong team and we believe that the team is strong enough to win medals. A singles medal, a doubles medal is equally fine for me so as long as we get someone on the podium.”