Before COVID-19 hit in 2019, Anders Antonsen was in imperious form.
The Dane had claimed titles at the European Games and Indonesia Masters and was a runner-up at the TOTAL BWF World Championships in Basel. En route to the final in Jakarta, the then 21-year-old knocked out home favourite Jonatan Christie in the semis before an impressive win over top seed Kento Momota to clinch the title.
In short, Antonsen had proved to himself he could battle it out with the badminton heavyweights and climb the world rankings.
“I have plenty of good memories from 2019. I had great progress that year. Suddenly I was in the top half of the rankings,” exclaimed Antonsen.
“The highlights are winning the Indonesia Masters; my first big title and silver medal at the World Championships. Everything was going well. My training was really good, I was consistent. No big injuries or anything like that. All in all, it was just a very, very good year.”
At the YONEX All England Open 2020, disaster struck.
In the semifinal against Chou Tien Chen, Antonsen twisted his ankle and was forced to retire, with Tokyo 2020 just four months away.
“I don’t know if I would have been in great shape if the Olympics had gone ahead as originally planned. I remember feeling happy the Games were postponed instead of getting cancelled,” Antonsen revealed.
After picking up a Super 750 title at the DANISA Denmark Open 2020, more was to come. The HSBC BWF World Tour Finals early this year marked a pivotal moment in Antonsen’s career as he stunned compatriot and favourite Viktor Axelsen in a gripping final. His confidence continued to grow.
Ahead of making his Olympic debut in Tokyo later this month, the now 24-year-old is filled with excitement.
“I’m very curious to experience the Olympics. I look forward to getting started and experience it on my own body,” said Antonsen. “I’m very excited and I look forward to seeing all the players back in action.”
Surely being world No.3 in men’s singles adds that much more pressure?
“I can challenge all the guys, for sure. I don’t feel any added pressure because of my ranking. I’ve gained confidence from it,” said Antonsen.
“I’d love to get a medal and I’d love gold for sure. I’m definitely not going to Tokyo to just have fun and experience the Olympics. I want to do well, but I’m not sure how my life will change. There are so many questions, and I’m just curious to get the answers for all of them.”