The decision by Badminton England to drop the Olympic bronze medal men’s doubles pair of Chris Langridge-Marcus Ellis in favour of the younger Ben Lane-Sean Vendy is being widely panned by the badminton fraternity.
The decision is said to have been made by the selection panel because they viewed the younger pair had demonstrated greater consistency over the last two years and have better long-term potential as a duo beyond Tokyo 2020.
This decision amplifies on how badminton and sports administrators in general have no idea on the sacrifice athletes have made to ensure their qualification for the Olympics.
It is same people, who just last year, were complaining that the postponement of the Olympic was unfair to athletes, who have spent the last four years slogging in training and competition. They athletes were being denied their moment of glory, they had crowed.
It is the same sort of people, who are now insisting that the Tokyo 2020, must go on despite the fact that Tokyo is being ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic with scant regard to the athletes’ health or the sentiment of the Japanese people.
And it the same sort of people, who believe that Langridge’s sacrifice over the last year’s to earn an Olympic spot on merit, was worthless. Ellis will still be in action in the mixed doubles, but the 36-year-old Langridge is out in the cold.
Ellis will partner Lauren Smith and are viewed as strong mixed doubles medal contenders for the Tokyo Olympics. They are said to be downbeat about their prospects after a near total breakdown in their relationship with the sport’s coaching and management staff, as well as some players.
Part of the blame must also go towards the Badminton World Federation (BWF). This is what happens when the governing body itself has no qualms on setting a rule that allows the best from each country be automatically picked instead of giving the discretion to the national bodies.
This is in total disregard to a growing number of players, who spend their own money to train and compete in the qualifying tournaments.
Age should never be a consideration because Langridge-Ellis had fought hard to gain their rankings, something that would no longer be viable for them when Paris 2024 comes.
That they are the reigning European and Commonwealth champions as compared to the so-called “consistent” Lane-Vendy, who have yet to win a single major senior title, seems to carry very little weight.
If age is a factor than the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Chen Long, Tiger Wood, Tom Brady and many more past the age of 30 have no place in sports.
Age ain’t nothing but a number and many of these athletes had proven it in the arena against much younger opponents.
To be fair it would be an uphill task for Langridge-Ellis to win a medal this time around, and it is probably much harder for Lane-Vendy. The Olympics is certainly not a venue for any sport to allow athletes to be selected purely to gain experience.
It is the pinnacle of sports and only those deserving must be given the right to participate.
The least that the association should have done to be fair to the players would have been to ask them to play in a qualifying tournament. This is something that the Americans have adopted successfully in getting all their qualified athletes to take part in a national qualifying tournaments including for athletics and swimming, to confirm their places.
Luxembourg’s China-born table tennis star Ni Xialian has qualified for Tokyo and would probably be dropped from the team if the Badminton England selectors were making the decision. The 56-year-old won bronze at the European Games in Minsk in 2019 and has qualified on merit.
The tiny nation did not see it as prudent to deny her of a place. This will be a fifth Olympics for Xialin, who made her Olympic debut for Luxembourg at Sydney in 2000. She has been at every Games since Beijing in 2008.
This, however, is not the first time that deserving badminton players, who had qualified on merit being denied a place at the Olympics.
Malaysia had also taken the same path back previously when they stopped their women’s players from the 1992 Olympics, despite them qualifying on merit.
The reason was that neither the singles of Lee Wai Leng nor the women’s doubles pairing of Tan Lee Wai-Tan Sui Hoon had any chance of winning a medal.
All three players never got the chance to ever don the national colours at the most prestigious of tournaments – the Olympics. A denial that can never be forgotten by the players themselves.
That the decision to drop any athlete from the Olympics, especially in individual events, is taken out of the ability of the athlete concerned and into the hands of those in fancy suits is the ultimate of hypocrisy.
When top professional stars refuse to participate in the Olympics, they were often labeled as prima donnas or do not have the sports at heart. But when the lesser players are dropped for trivial reasons from the Olympics by their national associations, it is in the interest of sports.
The hell with Olympism! It is all because of financial benefits. Losing a top drawcard also means less attention for the event, but losing a lower ranked player does nothing to ruin the financial gains.
The BBC headlined the issue as ‘Players treated like dirt’ by Badminton England.
Any athlete in the same shoes would certainly feel the same sense of betrayal.
Badminton is not the only sports that gives the final decision making power solely to the national association. It is also the case with archery, where only quota places are booked by winning archers. Who fills the quota place at the Olympics is decided by the administrators from the cozy confines of their air-conditioned office.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well as International Federations (IF) must look into the athletes welfare more seriously instead of just paying lip service when issues like this arise.
Our heart goes out to the English doubles pair, who have to suffer this heartbreak and ignominy.