World No. 2 Viktor Axelsen got 2021 off to an explosive start after claiming back-to-back titles at the YONEX Thailand Open and TOYOTA Thailand Open in January.
Despite the empty arenas, the 27-year-old went on a vibrant attacking display, felling his opponents at will on court.
Prior to that, during a somewhat bumpy 2020 that saw the tournament calendar upended by a global pandemic, the Dane faced another challenge – injury.
After winning the All England last year, Axelsen missed out on badminton’s international restart at his home event DANISA Denmark Open 2020. The Odense native needed time off to recover from ankle surgery.
“I focused on my development, tactical awareness and physical training and it paid off well,” said Axelsen.
Now, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist’s attention turns to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I’m living the life I’m living and to sit here and be preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, it’s a dream come true. I started out as a five or six-year-old kid playing badminton, and now I’m here. Sometimes you have to take a step back and be thankful for everything,” said a humble Axelsen.
“I’m happy to have qualified for what will be my second Olympics. Going through qualification is always stressful. The seeding is everything.”
The expectations are high on the broad shoulders of the former world champion.
“I have a bronze medal at home. I’d like to make it a more interesting colour. That’s my dream. That’s my goal. I’ve had injury challenges and not played my best. So it’s been nice to have a strong finish in the qualification period.”
What’s his strategy for Tokyo?
“It’s just a matter of making a good plan, which I’ve already done, and then follow it through in the best way possible. It’s a little bit of a cliché, but it’s often the journey that is the most joyful. I’m trying to enjoy the process of working hard. And then hopefully, I’ll have a good result at the Olympics,” smiled Axelsen.
Axelsen has played an incredible 32 matches this year and despite picking up four titles, there’s one achievement that just cannot match those crowns.
“The biggest accomplishment in my life has been the birth of my daughter (Vega). Besides that, on the court too,” he laughed.
“The Asian Leg (in Bangkok) was my first time competing after the birth of my daughter, and being able to play at such a high level is definitely high up there, but the All England still sits at the top.
“I’m enjoying life. One thing I know for sure is I’m going to do my best and I’m going to enjoy doing it. So we’ll see what happens in Tokyo,” concluded Axelsen.