And They’re Off!

Ready, set, go!

The race to qualify for the badminton competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is on!

Today – Monday 29 April 2019 – begins a hectic year for badminton’s elite athletes vying for 172 places in next year’s Summer Games in Japan.

Susi Susanti celebrates on the podium at Barcelona 1992.

Across the sport’s landscape from Africa to Asia, Europe, Oceania and Pan Am, the best badminton players will be plotting their route to qualification and fulfilling their dreams of writing their names in Olympic history like their esteemed predecessors, such as Indonesia’s Susi Susanti (badminton’s first gold medallist in Barcelona 1992), iconic Chinese Gao Ling, Lin Dan and Zhang Jun, Korea’s Kim Moon Soo/Park Joo Bong, Denmark’s Poul-Erik Høyer and Rio 2016 trailblazers, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan) and Carolina Marin of Spain. Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir also joined the pantheon of gold medallists in Rio 2016.

Qualification concludes on Sunday 26 April 2020 and while some will canter coolly to Tokyo 2020, others will endure a nervous finale, fighting until the last day to book their tickets to sport’s biggest and most spectacular event.

Poul-Erik Høyer proudly displays his gold medal from Atlanta 1996.

“This is what every athlete lives and trains for – the chance to go to the Olympics and to win a medal,” said BWF President Høyer, who sent Denmark to dizzying heights when he won the coveted men’s singles gold medal at Atlanta 1996.

“It’s a unique experience that stays with you forever, regardless of how you fare. If you are lucky – and despite all the talent, some luck is involved – enough to step on the podium, that is the most special moment you can ever imagine as an athlete.”

Proud hosts Japan will be expecting their star performers across all five disciplines to qualify and bring honour to their country on home turf. All eyes will especially be on men’s singles supremo and reigning world champion, Kento Momota, who has settled comfortably into the world No.1 ranking. His accomplished women’s singles teammates, Nozomi Okuhara – the Rio 2016 bronze medallist – and Akane Yamaguchi, winner of the Badminton Asia Championships on Sunday, will have the spotlight on them also as will defending Olympic women’s doubles gold medallists, Matsutomo/Takahashi; aiming to emerge from a packed field to have the opportunity to repeat their Rio success in front of family and friends.

Fans will also be tracking the fortunes of legendary Malaysian, Lee Chong Wei, and defending women’s singles gold medallist, Carolina Marin. Lee, aged 36, is a triple Olympic silver medallist in men’s singles. He is rebounding from nose cancer which was diagnosed last year. Spanish sensation Marin was given a six-month recovery timeline following an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injury to her right knee in late January. The 25-year-old is determined to be back on court as soon as possible.

“I’ve been working on an anti-gravity treadmill so I can control (how much of) my weight I want (to use) to walk on the treadmill. Now, I’m working with half of my weight so we can control my steps. Also, I’m doing some work on the bicycle and I’m trying to walk in the pool,” said Marin, detailing her rehabilitation programme.

Meanwhile, the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open 2019, which starts tomorrow, will have the distinction of being the first event in which players can gain Olympic qualification points.

Marin suffered an ACL injury at the Indonesia Masters and is working hard to get back on court.

QUALIFICATION FACTS

  • The total quota of places in badminton has been set at 172. Of this, 164 places (82 each for men and women) will be determined through the qualification process, while six places in singles (three each for men and women) will be Tripartite Commission Invitation places. The remaining two, also in singles (one each for men and women), will be reserved for the hosts.
  • Each National Olympic Committee (NOC) can have a maximum of two participants per singles category if both are ranked in the top 16, and two pairs in each doubles category if both pairs are ranked in the top eight, at the end of the qualifying period. The BWF ranking lists of Tuesday 28 April 2020 will be used to determine the qualifiers.
  • The initial number of athletes has been set at 38 for each of the singles categories and 32 (16 pairs) in each of the doubles categories. The break-up is as follows: the 38 places consist of the 34 quota places (including continental representation places), three Tripartite Commission Invitation places, and one host country place. There is no quota for Tripartite Commission Invitation places or host country places in doubles.

Qualification Timeline

29 April 2019 to 26 April 2020 – Ranking Period for the World Ranking Lists

28 April 2020 – World Ranking Lists published

6 May 2020 – Deadline for the Host Country to confirm in writing Host Country Places to BWF

7 May 2020 – BWF to inform NOCs/NFs of their allocated quota places

21 May 2020 – NOCs to confirm in writing the use of allocated quota places to BWF

By 6 July 2020 – BWF to reallocate all unused quota places

6 July 2020 – Tokyo 2020 Sport Entries deadline

24 July – 9 August 2020 – Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Read this article in the latest issue of Shuttle World