The year-long countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games starts today. In just 12 months we will be welcoming in the Games of the 32nd Olympiad.
Fittingly, the world’s elite badminton players are in Tokyo this week for the DAIHATSU YONEX Japan Open 2019, playing at the very venue that will host the Olympic badminton competition next August – the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
The Japan Open is in its 37th year, and as a World Tour Super 750 event, holds great significance to players on many counts.
Players are seeking to find form in the run-up to next month’s TOTAL BWF World Championships; ranking points will be vital for seeding at the Worlds, and also to qualify for the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals, besides, of course, Tokyo 2020.
Given that they experience different playing environments throughout the year, those with Tokyo 2020 on their mind were keen to experience the conditions at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
USA’s Beiwen Zhang was relieved to be playing in an arena that offered stable conditions, without the drift that makes the shuttle hard to control.
“This is like a real hall for badminton. It’s easy to control, there’s not much wind. It’s really good that we will play the Olympics here,” said Zhang.
Zhang has shifted her training base from Singapore to a private academy in Kuala Lumpur as she seeks to improve various aspects of her game in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.
“For me, it’s just about playing more tournaments. If I stop, I don’t get training. At least at tournaments, I can get good opponents to play against,” said Zhang.
For Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, the year ahead presented a test not only against opponents on the circuit but also the other two contenders for the Olympic spot from her country. She acknowledged that she was looking over her shoulder at the performances of Ruselli Hartawan and Fitriani Fitriani.
“I don’t want to just participate at the Olympics; I want to achieve something,” said Tunjung. “I feel a bit nervous because of the in-house competition. There are three of us, so at each tournament, I feel I have to perform better than the others.”
Former All England men’s doubles champion and two-time Olympian Ivan Sozonov, on the other hand, was pretty certain of what lay ahead.
“There’s no pressure as such. We’ve been to the Olympics twice, and we know what we need to do to qualify. There are no surprises, we will just prepare well. We just need confidence and if we start to win at the World Tour, that will give us confidence.
“It’s a very nice arena. I like playing in Japan. There is no drift, and it’s easier to control. We just need to get as many points as possible from every tournament. We will now focus on the Thailand Open.”
BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer wished players well as they embarked on the year-long journey to Tokyo 2020: “We are very much looking forward to the badminton competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“With Japan’s fantastic pedigree in the sport and recent successes, the atmosphere at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza will be amazing.
“We are lucky there have been two test events at the Olympic venue – both last year and the official test event this week at the Japan Open – and we are very satisfied the venue will stage a wonderful tournament.
“The Olympic qualifying period is well underway and already we have seen some spectacular badminton. I wish all players the best of luck in their quest to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and I look forward to seeing everyone back here in Japan in 12 months’ time.”
Get ready …
— BWF (@bwfmedia) July 24, 2019