Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

Badminton legends Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, left, and Lin Dan of China have complained that competing in so many events this year would be a burden, especially with their age. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018

Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

KUALA LUMPUR: World number one Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan have expressed concerns about a new badminton tournament structure requiring players to compete in more events.
The complaints emerged at the Malaysia Masters in Kuala Lumpur, which has been upgraded this year by governing body the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as it looks to raise the sport’s profile and ramp up revenues.
The new tour series — featuring six levels and higher prize money — kicks off this year and runs until 2021. At least a million dollars is up for grabs in each of its top four events.
But it also requires athletes to compete in more events — the top 15 singles players and top 10 doubles pairings must take part in 12 a year, an additional two from the previous structure.
The Malaysia Masters, which has seen its prize money almost triple to $350,000, attracted many more big names than it had in the past as players seek to fulfill the requirements.
But some complained competing in so many events this year would be a burden, and a string of top players crashed out on the opening day Wednesday — world number two Lee, five-time world champion Lin and Olympic champion Chen Long.
Lee said he was prepared to pay a penalty to skip an event if he felt he needed to.
“If I have to pay a fine for skipping an event, I will. I’m not 25 anymore, I’m 36 this year,” said Lee Wednesday after losing to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.
“I don’t think BWF will review the format, because if they wanted to, they would have done it.”
Denmark’s Axelsen, who beat South Korea’s Lee Hyun-Il in the opening round, was also critical: “We (would) rather have high quality than too many tournaments where the best players can’t perform because we don’t have time to train.”
Five-time world champion Lin, who was beaten by Indonesia’s Ihsan Maulana Mustofa, added: “The top players will focus on the big tournaments... If we have to play in so many tournaments, we won’t play our best.”
The BWF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Malaysia Masters runs until Sunday.


Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2019

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.