I often get asked who was my favourite player or who inspired me most when I was younger, so I thought that I would put together a blog and share them with you.
Peter Gade – Denmark
What can I say about Peter… he is a badminton legend, he has flown the flag for Europe for so many years. I had heard about Peter before I actually saw him, oh I’m showing my age a little here, as back then, there was no YouTube!! Everybody I played with was talking about Peter, this young dynamic player from Denmark who burst onto the scene with aggressive style of play and incredible deception. He was also beating Asian players consistently which filled a void.
I remember the first time I saw Peter play was at the Yonex All England when I was 9 years old, and he really lived up to the hype around him. He went on to win the tournament that year, he was awesome!
During the first few years that I started competing on the senior international circuit, I was fortunate to watch Peter up close as he was in the latter years of his career. He had great longevity and adapted his game across his career. He was around before Taufik Hidayat, Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan’s era and was still competing at the highest level when they were established on the circuit.
From time to time I chat with Peter and he is an incredibly humble and down to earth guy, which is remarkable, especially due to all the success that he has had throughout his career. Now a coach on the circuit it’s great to see that he is giving back to the game.
Rexy Mainaky – Indonesia
One half of the Ricky and Rexy partnership and also one of the greatest men’s doubles players to have played the game. With a list of honours as long as my arm including Olympic Champion, World Champion and multiple Asian Games titles.
When I watched Rexy play he was practically unbeatable. His style of play was so dynamic, powerful and skilful around the net. Rexy always played the game in the right spirit, with charisma, playing at 100% and always with a smile on his face. Still, to this day, he has an aura, when he walks into a room everything stops, everyone knows there’s going to be fun or a joke coming. Nobody has a bad word to say about Rexy, everyone loves him.
Whilst Rexy was the England Senior Head Coach, from time to time he would come and visit us at the Junior England camps and put us through our paces. The sessions were extremely tough, making us do pyramid training to develop our speed, strength and endurance. We would sprint the length of the hall and then perform 10 press ups, run back and then do 9 press ups and so on. He would keep us going till we couldn’t go anymore. Getting this first-hand experience made me appreciate even though he was so skilful, he had a strong work ethic to ensure that he was physically at his peak at all times.
As I grew older and became a stronger player, I was less in awe of the other players on the circuit. My focus turned to what I could learn from them, taking the best aspects and putting them into my game.
That said there are lots of great players currently on the tour but these, in my opinion, are the ones to watch.
Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – Indonesia
At the moment one of the most exciting players for me is Kevin Sukamuljo. He personifies the Indonesian way of playing, so quick, explosive and unpredictable. He also reminds me of Rexy in the way he has so much fun on court.
He made an immediate impact when he came onto the circuit. He’s won so much at such a young age. I’ve also never seen a player move so quickly and have such great touch around the net. In every highlight reel, there is always a montage of Kevin pulling out all the shots, from behind the back, between the legs and still winning the rally!
Credit has also got to go to his partner Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, as together they beat the record for most Super Series title wins in one year, where they walked away with 10 titles in 2017. Marcus’ is also an amazing player, with great agility, speed and power especially in the rear court, his energetic style of play compliments the partnership.
I’ve spoken with the guys on numerous occasions and they are always happy and absolutely love the game.
Viktor Axelson – Denmark
Viktor is such a great ambassador for European badminton, he has led the way for European men’s singles, playing high-quality badminton and even learning Mandarin!
I first heard about Viktor when he became World U19 Champion and he’s since converted that success onto the senior game. I remember waiting for our medal ceremony at the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow, when Gabby and I watched Viktor from the stands when he won the World title, it was an incredible moment.
He’s also one of the most professional players I’ve come across, he is focused on every single aspect of his game to create those marginal gains. Not to mention he’s a top guy, always happy to make time to speak to fans. Being multilingual certainly helps Viktor chat with all the players on the tour and he is well liked by everyone.
The common trait with each of the players who I have highlighted is that they are all extremely talented athletes who are dedicated to their sport but also down to earth, regular guys.
Gabby and I are now on our tour of Asia for the next few weeks so follow us on our social media channels to see our progress in the lead up to the World Championships in Nanjing.
All the best
Photo Credits: Badminton Photo