Badminton tournaments: A Round-Up

The holy grail of any sport is a tournament that brings forth its competitiveness. Lifting a trophy and bagging the title of a ‘champion’ is the ultimate glory sought by any aspiring player. All major sports with a huge base of patrons and enthusiasts boast of high-powered tournaments and competitive events. These events have a multifold purpose-they raise the overall performance of the game, serve to bring international enthusiasts on a common platform and enhance the popularity of the sport.

The major body governing badminton is the International Badminton Federation (IBF), now known as the Badminton World Federation (BWF). With the exception of the pinnacle of all tournaments – the Olympic Games, the BWF hosts and runs all the major badminton tournaments in the world.

Competitions and tournaments help identify talent in the sport across the world with tough screening criteria, which ensure that none but the best qualify to play. Fans and players alike favor specific tournaments and watch out to be a part of them. There are players who nurture dreams of conquering specific events and train for them. Further along in this blog is a quick introduction to the major badminton tournaments held around the world.

Every tournament has an interesting beginning, evolving into a finer, more sophisticated version of the initial event. From being confined to elite groups, badminton was introduced to a wider population through multiple championships in the early 1900s. The first All England Open Championship was held in 1899. This is the world’s longest standing tournament till date. Read more about the evolution of the game here

After the founding of the IBF in the early 1930s, barring the slow-down caused by the aftermath of WWII, the first ever International Men’s competition – the Thomas Cup was held in 1948-49, the trophy presented by Sir George Allan Thomas, after whom the Cup is named. An equivalent tournament for women was introduced as The Uber Cup in 1956-57, an International Badminton Championship competition.

The biggest tournament hosted by the BWF is the World Championships, which began in 1977. While the Olympic Games are a once-in-four-years occurrence, the Badminton World Championships are also a sought-after competitive event for badminton players across countries. 

 

 

Prakash Padukone After His Famous Win at the All England in 1980
“I was very confident, but I was not thinking about winning the tournament. But the two victories, back-to-back, had given me a lot of confidence. I was always focusing on one match at a time but feeling confident that I could do well,” Padukone quoted by ESPN, recounting the tale of 1980.

The Olympics

Badminton is a relatively new entrant to the Olympics, being included in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

Held in once in four years, it is one of the toughest and most prestigious tournaments for players to represent their country in. 178 players represented 32 countries in badminton’s Olympic debut in 1992, with matches played in four categories – men’s and women’s singles and doubles. 

Fast forward to 1996, this season of the Olympics saw the introduction of the mixed doubles format of the game. Badminton is one of those rare sports in which men and women shared a court. The badminton Olympic Games saw a lot of change over the years, such as a competition for bronze medal, group competitions and knock-out rounds. There was no dearth of game for enthusiasts and fans, and players could demonstrate their mettle on such a prestigious platform. The Olympics significantly catapulted badminton’s popularity as a sport.

All England Open

The oldest ever badminton tournament ever held, the All England Open began as a prestigious tournament in the late 1890s. Comprising of both singles and doubles format of the game, the All England Open reigned as the supreme competition for badminton players until the BWF world championships were introduced. 

Though the World championships are the ultimate goal for any player, the All England Open is a sought-after feather in the cap due to its legacy of being the oldest ever competitive version of the game. 

Badminton World Championships

The BWF’s crown Jewel, the world championships was the tournament where the first ever ‘world champions’ were crowned. The badminton world championships was launched in 1977, overtaking the All England Badminton Championships as the most prestigious event in the sport, held once in three years at the time of its inception. Between 1985 and 2006, the tournament was held once every two years. From 2006 onwards, the world championships was made an annual event, held every year except in the year of the Summer Olympic Games.

This badminton tournament is the one offering the most ranking points for any player. Winners are not offered prize money, but they walked away with the most coveted title of ‘world champion’. 

BWF World Junior Championships

A platform for recognizing young talent, the BWF World Junior Championships crown the best players under the age of 19. This tournament is an annual affair with two competitive events- individual championships and team championships. The Suhandinata Cup, Named after Justian Suhandinata (a BWF member who steered the launch of a junior world championships) is awarded to the best young team, while the Eye Level Cup is awarded in the individual championships. 

This tournament aims at identifying and propelling young talent in badminton, offering them a perfect platform for representing their country on an international arena. It also is the perfect exposure for national level badminton players to glimpse the level of talent and skill required to excel at a world championship level.

BWF Senior World Championships

The BWF senior world championships are held biennially with events in all formats such as singles and doubles for both men and women. The age categories of players competing in these tournaments range from 35 years of age and above, until 75 years of age. The categories are divided as 35 and above, 40 and above, 45 and above, 50 and above, 55 and above, 60 and above 65 and above, 70 and above, and 75+. While there is no prize money in this tournament, winners are crowned ‘World Senior Champions’ and are awarded a gold medal. Participating nations may enter up to four players or pairs of players in each event in each age category.

Thomas Cup / Uber Cup

Badminton as a game enjoyed huge popularity from the late 1800s. In the aftermath of the World War II, dwindling resources experienced worldwide affected the sport too. The Thomas Cup was the comeback for the sport in its true spirit as the first International Men’s competition held in 1948-49. The trophy was presented by Sir George Allan Thomas, after whom the Cup is named. The Thomas Cup is a team championships tournament for men, while the women’s equivalent to it is The Uber Cup, an international badminton team championship competition introduced in 1956-57. The Thomas and Uber cups are held once every two years, and have undergone several format changes during the period.

At the beginning, there were three qualifying zones- America, Europe and the Pacific. This format continued till the early 1980s. As the number of nations participating in the game grew, changes accompanied the same. Additional zones were added and winners among these zones competed to churn out challengers for the leading champion nation.

After revamping the formats, the Thomas and Uber Cups were held concurrently. The ties in various stages were reduced to five from nine in the earlier formats. 

Sudirman Cup

Popular as the World Mixed team championships, the Sudirman Cup is special for having brought players of both genders on a common court. There are five matches in every Sudirman Cup comprising singles in mens’ and womens’ categories, doubles in mens’ and women’s categories and mixed doubles. Named after Dick Sudirman, a former Indonesian badminton player and the founder of the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI), the Sudirman Cup is an opportunity for badminton players to rake up BWF ranking points. There is no prize money in this tournament, with the platform itself being a matter of prestige for players to represent their country in.

In the next blog, we shall delve into drills that any badminton player must excel in to have their name go down in history in any of the above tournaments.

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