Rachel Chan, Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo, Joakim Oldorff, Nella Nyqvist, Elias Maublanc, Nour Ahmed Youssri.
These are yet unfamiliar names on the badminton circuit, but it could turn out that the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2021 set the stage for the arrival of the teenaged prospects who will carry their country’s hopes for the next decade and more.
This edition of the Sudirman Cup has seen several teams field young players, but what’s remarkable is the number of those who are of school-going age. The youngest, Tahiti’s Elias Maublanc, is just 14, but the others aren’t much older. Rachel Chan, who led Canada’s women’s singles charge in the absence of Michelle Li, is 17. The Indonesian she beat yesterday, Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo, is a year younger.
Other teens in action were rising star Brian Yang, who is only 18; Finland’s Oldorff (18) and Nella Nyqvist (15), and Egypt’s Nour Ahmed Youssri (18).
“Of course this is a good opportunity for me, it’s the first time competing at a tournament like this,” said Chan, who served notice of her potential when she finished runner-up at the Pan Am Championships in May. “I felt like I was able to perform well. There were a lot of ups and downs in the match, but at the end I was rushed and wasn’t able to do as well as I usually do.”
Ester Wardoyo had the rare honour of representing her country at a major event aged 16. Quite surprisingly for an Indonesian, she hadn’t even played a senior event before her selection to the Sudirman Cup team. Her biggest achievement has been reaching the final of the Badminton Asia U17 & U15 Junior Championships 2019, but her talent has apparently impressed the senior team’s think-tank, who believe she’s a good bet for the future. Indeed, against Canada, Wardoyo was given her chance ahead of the team’s second-ranked women’s singles player, Putri Kusuma Wardani, who is also in her teens.
“This is my first time at such a major competition,” said Wardoyo. “It was a good experience and will try to do better in future. I was very nervous when I stepped in, but after I got the first few points I was relieved.”
Although a right-hander, Wardoyo’s idol is the left-handed Carolina Marin “because she is quick and has a lot of skills.”
Of the teenage set at the Sudirman Cup, Brian Yang is perhaps the best-known, for the Canadian had a breakthrough season this year, having won the Pan Am Championships and given a good account of himself by stretching Chou Tien Chen at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. He added to his stature by beating Jonatan Christie yesterday. In Yang and Chan, Canada have two bright young stars who can carry Canada to unprecedented heights.
Yang acknowledged the importance of the new role he’d been given, as Canada’s lead in men’s singles.
“This is my first time as top singles player for Canada. I think it’s an honour and also puts pressure because the country is relying on me to get that point. But for myself, I just want to keep expectations low, just try and compare myself to these world class players and see how it goes.”
Among the biggest takeaways for hosts Finland could be opportunity that two young prospects – Joakim Oldorff and Nella Nyqvist – got on home soil. Oldorff, who trains one week a month at Peter Gade’s academy in Denmark, wasn’t fazed by the level of competition he witnessed.
“I’m pretty comfortable. It’s easier for me when there are no expectations. I can try to play my best and see if it’s enough or not,” said the Finn.
“I think it’s awesome that such a high level tournament is in Finland, it’s nice to see top level players and to challenge them. It’s awesome.”
Click here for Match Centre.