Danish badminton star Viktor Axelsen is still enamoured of the sport he first played when he was just six years old. Axelsen, who was introduced to badminton by his father in his hometown of Odense, in Denmark, said he fell in love with the sport almost instantly.
“There are just so many good things about badminton. To me, badminton is quite a comprehensive sport,” the world number four and former world champion said, adding that there are tactical, physical, and mental aspects to the game to deal with.
Axelsen, 24, was a special guest at an event at Olympian City on Sunday. He visited a temporary badminton court that had been set up at the shopping centre in Kowloon. The court was open to the public for three days last week as part of a programme set up by HSBC Life, to promote a healthier lifestyle through sports.
He spoke to Young Post about his career and offered some tips to budding sports stars.
After some friendly matches against well-known regional players such as China’s Fu Hai-feng and South Korea’s Lee Yong-dae, Axelsen performed a few trick shots and surprised the audience by explaining his style of play in fluent Mandarin via a headset microphone.
“I’ve seen with my own eyes, many times, how big a sport badminton is in China,” Axelsen said. Speaking Mandarin, he added, will hopefully help his Chinese fans feel closer to him and better appreciate some of his playing techniques.
Badminton is, he said, an individual sport – or one in which a player typically relies on their skill. This is part of the appeal for him. “When I win, I know it’s because I have managed to play some pretty good shots.”
In the 2017 BWF World Championships final, Axelson beat China’s Lin Dan in straight sets, 22-20, 21-16. His most memorable achievements include winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and lifting the 2016 Thomas Cup title. The Thomas Cup, sometimes called the World Men’s Team Championships, is considered the premier international badminton competition.
“The Danish team had a big win at theThomas Cup in 2016,” he recalled. “You don’t often get this feeling in badminton – where you are part of a team. That was pretty awesome.”
Behind a sport star’s glitz and glamour, though, lie hours of hard work, and painful injuries. In September, Axelson struggled with his asthma while playing in China. He also had to withdraw from last month’s French Open due to an ankle injury.
“It’s very disappointing, as I had been really looking forward to play[ing] there,” he had posted on social media when he announced his withdrawal.
Like any good athlete, Axelsen is always striving to improve his game, but he is also aware that he can’t be too harsh on himself if he plays badly. When the pressure to do well is too much, or when he begins to doubt himself, he spends time with his family and friends. Axelson said he has decided to take some time off to make sure his injury is fully healed. This is why he is not playing in the Hong Kong Open, which began on Tuesday.
“I think badminton is tough on the body and it’s a lot of training,” Axelsen said. “It’s also a lot of travelling and you often have to get used to new conditions quickly because every stadium is different. Badminton is very challenging but also great fun.”
To all aspiring young badminton players, Axelsen said that the key to success is to keep working hard.
“If you can tell yourself you’re doing better than you were before, and that you’re doing everything you can to become a better player, then you’re already succeeding.”