Marc Zwiebler could not live up to his expectations at the Rio Olympics. However, in the aftermath of his bitter early exit, the German learned a useful lesson from one of the greats of the game.
Zwiebler revealed that he had met up with Lee Chong Wei following the Malaysian’s loss in the Olympic final. Lee, having fallen short once again in his search for a first Olympic gold from his third final, was philosophical in defeat; his positive attitude left Zwiebler impressed.
“Winning and losing are both part of the game,” says World No.12 Zwiebler, recounting his memories of the season gone by. “What helped me a lot was when I spoke to Chong Wei after the Olympic final. We were sitting at the Olympic village and we talked for quite long. I think I can learn a lot from him. He said I’ve done all that I can, I can do nothing more. I think he shows very good sportsmanship.”
Zwiebler had mixed fortunes in 2016. While he began brightly, with a final at the Swiss Open and quarter-finals at the All England and the India Open, he suffered early exits in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Failure to progress past the group stage in Rio led to self-doubt, but Zwiebler decided to keep on trying, and he was eventually rewarded with a qualifying place at the Dubai World Superseries Finals.
“I had high hopes and goals before that (Olympics),” says Zwiebler. “I had two options: to be disappointed or to keep on playing, which I did. And I got rewarded with the semi-final finish in Japan… In the end, 2016 has been a good year, overall.
“The Olympics is something special, not because of the badminton competition but everything around it. Maybe my target for this year’s Olympics was too high but I needed a goal for myself. I practised really hard and I prepared really well for the Olympics. And of course it’s not good if you fall short of your target when you needed to deliver but in the end it I think it has make me stronger.”
At 32, Zwiebler is one of the veterans on the tour, but the German believes he’s physically in good enough shape to keep going.
“I have changed, especially in the last four to five years. I’m now physically much stronger. Before that I always had some good technique and instinct for the game. But now I’m physically much stronger and this helps to keep my balance on court and to be a little more stable and consistent.”
Contrary to most observers who believe that Men’s Singles features an all-out attacking style to the detriment of other facets of the game, Zwiebler insists that the category has evolved in a more tactical direction.
“The game has changed a lot during the last 15 years. It has become a lot faster. Especially in singles, people are not attacking so much anymore because everyone in the world has amazing defence. It’s more tactical at the moment.”
Although he has had a fairly rewarding career, Zwiebler has an unfulfilled ambition: a Superseries title. He will keep up the search in 2017.
“It’s always my dream to win a Superseries tournament. I’ve been to some semi-finals but I’ve never won a (Superseries) tournament. So that will be my big dream. I’m not sure if I can achieve it but I’ll just try.”
Catch Marc Zwiebler in Episode 154 of Badminton Unlimited: