Friday, August 23, 2019
TEXT BY Frankie D'Cruz | BWF Archive
Denmark’s Lene Køppen, a superstar of her era, was a magnetic presence in badminton.
Køppen’s artistry, industry, ingenuity and fair play made her a national darling.
Her image graced a 2.70 Danish krone stamp issued by the postal service to mark the 1983 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
A year earlier at the height of her popularity, Køppen was voted the most popular sportsperson in Denmark in a poll by one of the country’s leading newspapers, Ekstra Bladet.
Imagine beating the Danish national football team that featured the likes of Jan Molby, Michael Laudrup, Lars Bastrup, Frank Arnesen, Preben Elkjaer and Allan Simonsen!
World badminton’s romance with Køppen (born 5 May 1953 in Copenhagen) began when she won two gold medals at the first World Championships in 1977.
In Malmo, Sweden, less than an hour’s drive from her base in Copenhagen, Køppen dazzled and peaked at the right time.
In singles, her marvellous running and retrieving skills helped her overcome the dominant English and Japanese players.
In the final, she fought hard to edge England’s Gillian Gilks 12-9 12-11 and take the first women’s singles crown at the World Championships.
It was sheer entertainment value and Denmark was delirious.
The Malmo Isstadion erupted with scenes of joy. An excited fan snatched the shuttlecock of victory, only for security to retrieve it and award it to Køppen.
Her second gold came just as her partnership with fellow Dane Steen Skovgaard peaked to dispose of England’s Derek Talbot and Gillian Gilks 15-12 18-17.
Køppen was on a roll in her personal life as well as she graduated from dental school the same year.
The dentist grit her teeth in disappointment at the 1980 World Championships in Jakarta where she only got two bronze medals in singles and the mixed doubles with Skovgaard.
Hopes were raised in the 1983 World Championships on home ground despite China’s domination of women’s singles.
Sadly, in what was to be the last match of her career, Køppen crashed in the second round to youngster Kim Yun-Ja of Korea.
In 1979, Køppen became the first Dane to win the All England women’s singles since Marie Ussing achieved the feat in 1953.
Noted for her speed and athleticism, she was the best player in Scandinavia in her prime and earned 48 caps for Denmark from 1971 to 1983.
Her other achievements include the singles crown at the 1980 All England and at the 1978 and 1982 European Championships.
Køppen will be missed at the grand occasion in Basel this week to honour the medallists from the 1977 World Championships, but her exploits are sure to be a huge talking point.
To honour the medallists of the first World Championships, BWF has organised a reception on the final day of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019. Among the attendees are Flemming Delfs, Lene Koppen, Gillian Gilks, Nora Perry, Steen Skovgaard, Derek Talbot, Ray Stevens, Thomas Kihlstrom, Etsuko Toganoo, Emiko Ueno and Joanna Flockhart.