The curtain that COVID-19 drew over the BWF World Junior Championships finally lifted after three years, with the world getting a glimpse of the next generation.
And what view was on offer! There is little doubt that senior badminton will be enriched in due time by those who were in Santander.
With the top teams opting to field several 16- and 17-year-olds, there was less physicality on offer, and greater reliance on skill. The women’s singles winner, Tomoka Miyazaki, for instance, just 16 and slightly built, enthralled spectators with her dexterous display.
Players like Thailand’s Pitchamon Opatniputh and Panitchaphon Teeraratsakul, Korea’s Kim Byung Jae, Indonesia’s Muhammad Putra Erwiansyah showed breathtaking skill, while China’s Liu Sheng Shu and Yuan An Qi, Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Kuan Lin and France’s Alex Lanier showed great maturity.
Another feature of the World Juniors was the strength of players from outside the traditional powerhouses. Italy’s Luca Zhou, Ukraine’s Polina Buhrova, Canada’s Josh Nguyen, USA’s Ella Lin and Sweden’s Romeo Makboul, for instance, are likely to become familiar faces as they carry the flag for their countries on the senior circuit.
China bounced back strongly after their quarterfinal exit to Indonesia in the Mixed Team Championships by claiming three gold from four finals in the individual event. Two names stood out for China – Yuan An Qi and Liu Sheng Shu. Yuan was combative in the women’s singles final before bowing to the wondrous skills of Tomoka Miyazaki. The powerfully-built Liu Sheng Shu, who already trains with the senior squad, swept through to two doubles titles in the company of Zhu Yi Jun in the mixed and Wang Ting Ge in the women’s doubles.
As for Indonesia, who lost a narrow semifinal to Chinese Taipei after beating China, they can look forward to the services that players like Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo (women’s singles) and Muhammad Putra Erwiansyah and Muhammad Reyhan Nur Fadillah (men’s doubles) will render in time to come. The left-handed Erwiansyah is a player pretty much in the mould of Kevin Sukamuljo with his daredevilry at the forecourt, and it should be exciting times ahead for fans of Indonesian badminton.
Indonesia were the dominant power at the HULIC DAIHATSU BWF Para Badminton World Championships, which too was held for the first time after 2019.
Their most prominent star, Leani Ratri Oktila, was returning from childbirth and yet won gold in women’s doubles (SL3-SU5) with Khalimatus Sadiyah, who finished with a double, as she claimed the mixed doubles gold with Fredy Setiawan.
Ukraine’s Oksana Kozyna made history as the first gold medallist at a world event for her country; the occasion made memorable by her fightback from a game down against Turkiye’s Halime Yildiz in the women’s singles SL3 final.
♦ Germany’s Thomas Wandschneider earned the perfect 59th birthday gift for himself as he and Rick Cornell Hellman won the WH1-WH2 gold. Wandschneider made history as the oldest winner of a world event.
♦ A familiar face on top of the podium was India’s Pramod Bhagat, who overcame a recent slump in form to pick up his fourth world singles title. His younger compatriot Manisha Ramadass, making her debut at this event, swept to a straight games win over home favourite Mamiko Toyoda.
♦ Hong Kong China’s Chu Man Kai celebrated his first gold medal after two earlier quarterfinal exits. “It feels nice to be addressed as a world champion,” said the SH6 men’s singles winner. Among the other first-time winners were Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy (SL4) and Peru’s Pilar Jaurequi (WH2).
♦ Indonesia’s Rina Marlina (SH6), making her debut at the world event, picked up a double – in women’s singles and mixed doubles, with Subhan Subhan.