Badminton to strike Down Under
27 November 2006
Badminton is a sport that has not managed to attract the spotlight in Australia over the years. However this could all change at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) in January 2007.
One player that deserves plenty of attention is Erica Pong. The 17-year-old has only been playing badminton competitively for three years however her domination over the Australasian competition is remarkable. She holds the number one ranking going into next year’s important international competition.
However, Pong will be kept on her toes with fierce international competition coming from seven teams including China, Malaysia and Singapore.
Pong’s coach and Athens Olympian, Lenny Permana, believes that the AYOF will be a “real eye-opener [for Pong] as she will see the strong standard of other countries”.
Pong’s teammate and fellow AYOF competitor, Boris Ma agrees, “it will be a great learning experience”.
Ma is at the top of his badminton game ranked number one in the under 17 Australasia championships. Ma recently returned from competing in Korea with the experience being invaluable.
“It was exciting to see how the top nations play,” he recalled. Competing on home soil will be of great benefit to the Aussie athletes and to raise the profile of badminton in Australia.
“It is such a great feeling representing Australia in this sport,” said Ma. For both Ma and Pong, Permana has high hopes.
“By competing at an Olympic style event our athletes will stay dedicated. They have a very strong chance to compete in the Olympic Games down the track. And this is a good opportunity to learn from other competitors,” said Permana.
Pong is “excited about staying in the villages because of the team environment and the opportunity to meet with other athletes”.
All badminton competitors at the Festival will benefit from Athens Olympian Stuart Brehaut who is the athlete ambassador. Brehaut will offer tips for improving an athlete’s game as well as dealing with the other pressures of being an elite competitor. There is every chance the AYOF will expose athletes that will go on to be badminton bombshells in Beijing in 2008.
The badminton competition at the AYOF will take place at Sydney Sports Hall A at Sydney Olympic Park from 17-21 January. All events across the 16 sports are totally free for all spectators to attend with 2200 athletes and officials attending from over 20 nations.
The Australian Badminton team includes:
Leanne Choo (Glen Osmond SA 5064)
Nicole David (Sebastopol VIC 3356)
Samuel Ho (Mitcham VIC 3132)
Boris Ma (Camberwell VIC 3124)
Louise McKenzie (Swan Hill VIC 3585)
Olivia Na (Glen Waverley VIC 3150)
Kenny Ng (West Pennant Hills NSW 2125)
Tara Pilven (Wendouree VIC 3355)
Erica Pong (Glen Waverley VIC 3150)
Mitchell Wheller (Noosa QLD 4567)
Mathew Wilson (Brown Hill VIC 3350)
Leslie Yau (Carlingford NSW 2118)