Sunday, August 25, 2019
TEXT BY William Kings | Alan Spink
It could be a badminton quiz question: Who was the first man to win the World Championships?
The answer, of course, is Flemming Delfs. Yet the Dane would never have won in Malmo back in May 1977 but for an act of sportsmanship by England’s Ray Stevens.
Delfs was disqualified from his match in the early rounds against Stevens for exceeding the five-minute interval. But the Englishman successfully pleaded with the referee not to disqualify his rival and the rest, as we say, is history.
Delfs went on to become the first men’s singles champion by beating fellow Dane Svend Pri in the final.
No wonder Delfs will make a beeline for Stevens when they meet again in Basel on Sunday as VIP guests at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019.
Stevens will never forget that day in Malmo. He said: “My memories of 1977 are quite vivid. I can remember the shock of Flemming’s disqualification but I didn’t accept it from referee Ole Mertz and he was reinstated.”
Delfs went on to win the match and Stevens added: “It seemed to be the catalyst for Flemming to ignite his play to another level.
“I can also remember another great singles match with Thomas Kihlstrom beating Liem Swie King in an amazing quarterfinal.”
As for Stevens, he didn’t leave Malmo empty-handed after winning a bronze medal with Mike Tredgett in the men’s doubles.
More importantly, he also received a special award from IOC President Lord Killanin, namely a UNESCO citation for sportsmanship of the highest order.
After his playing career ended, Stevens enjoyed a fine coaching career with first England then Scotland.
He also had the satisfaction of coaching his nephew Darren Hall, who surpassed Stevens’ own record of five National men’s singles titles. Hall’s record of 10 still stands today.
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, Gillian Gilks, Nora Perry, Steen Skovgaard, Derek Talbot, Ray Stevens, Thomas Kihlstrom, Etsuko Toganoo, Emiko Ueno and Joanna Flockhart.