Denmark Are a Tricky Team, Says Axelsen

It was just over seven weeks ago that one of Denmark’s biggest badminton moments happened with Viktor Axelsen winning gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Dane is still enveloped in the warm afterglow of that momentous achievement, and as the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2021 gets set to start tomorrow, he will have to switch game mode from individual to team. Denmark aren’t one of the favourites for the Sudirman Cup – a trophy they have never won – but there will be no dearth of motivation. On a personal level too, having won every other major title – Olympic gold, World Championships gold, and Thomas Cup – Axelsen agrees that winning the Sudirman Cup would complete the circle, as it were.

Axelsen with head coach Kenneth Jonassen.

“Definitely,” he says, but in the same breath mentions the scale of the challenge facing the team. “Obviously the Sudirman Cup is hard to win because we know that everything has to fall into place, everyone has to perform their best. And we have to make some surprises along the way, and in key matches we cannot disappoint if we have to win. So it’s tough. Obviously I want to win the Sudirman Cup, but it’s really tough, and if one match doesn’t go the way you hope to, then it will be tough.”

What did it involve to switch focus from individual to team event?

“It’s obviously different while playing a team event. I really enjoy it, to be honest, because it’s not often that we get to experience this team feeling (or) I should say being part of a team. The Danish team is a tricky one, we’re a tricky one to talk about because we can do really well I think, but obviously also we’re not the biggest favourites here. The key players have to perform, and we also have to make some surprises along the way. But it’s nice to be here.”

What makes this campaign significant for him, and certainly the next one at the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas Cup Finals 2020, is that, as a recent Olympic winner, he will be expected to give the team a head start every time.

Axelsen at a practice session with Anders Antonsen.

Axelsen believes he is still riding the wave from Tokyo.

“Definitely. The Olympics has given me a lot of motivation. Also, I’m feeling more calm and composed. I know what works and what doesn’t. It would be much to ask if I believe I can just come out there and play the same level I did at the Olympics. I’ll be ready to do my best.”

How have things changed for the Olympic champion?

“Well, I’m still Viktor. The only difference is that I have a heavy medal at home. It’s really important that I don’t let anything change who I am. Obviously there’s more attention overall. There’s pressure, but that’s been there for many years now. So I’m just trying to navigate through this in the best way possible with both feet on the ground and it’s worked well so far, and hopefully I can continue a good run and if anything gives me motivation to work even harder, and to see if I can experience this again, so the journey is not over yet.”

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