Badminton, Ice Hockey and the World Championships

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

To celebrate 25 editions of the Badminton World Championships, we look back at some of the iconic moments that have shaped its history.

Bizarre as it may seem, but the Badminton World Championships will forever be linked to the sport of ice hockey.

Why, you say?

Well, unknown to many, both the inaugural World Championships in 1977 and the 2005 edition in Anaheim in the USA were played at iconic ice hockey stadiums, where the sight of shuttlecocks flying about was as rare as ice hockey pucks pinging back and forth at the Istora in Jakarta.

Long-time badminton journalist William Kings recalls what it was like when the best of the best in badminton raided the home of the then Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now Anaheim Ducks) for one week in August.

William Kings: “It’s funny how things stick in the mind.

“The year was 2005 and it remains the one and only time the World Championships has visited North or South America.

“I distinctly recall on arrival at Los Angeles airport the customs officer asking the purpose of my visit. When I told him ‘badminton’ he politely inquired if the US were any good at badminton. Little did he know?

“Anaheim, if you don’t know, is 26 miles from Los Angeles and, apart from the airport, that was the nearest I got to seeing the sprawling city of LA.

“What’s more vivid was that the venue was home to the famous ice hockey team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, with a capacity of 18,000 spectators.

“But for all that the arena was not familiar with badminton, they were certainly familiar with good service.

“It was a very professional World Championships – excellent, efficient security with smart and polite staff who insisted on escorting you everywhere you wanted to go, right to your seat.

“There was also an impressive mixed zone where media were able to lean over a railing to intercept players for a quick word, quite often getting a personal interview rather than the group huddles we have today.

A file picture of men’s doubles World Champions Howard Bach (right) and Tony Gunawan.

“If I look back now, it’s up there with one of the best venues to ever host a World Championships.”

As good as the setting was, the performances on the court also remain vivid for Kings.

“The tournament was marked by some fantastic action, too.

“Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat won the men’s singles to add another gold to his 2004 Olympic title. In doing so he defeated Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in the semifinal and another newcomer in Lin Dan of China in the final 15-3 15-7.

“One could have only wondered what would become of Lin and Lee back then.

“The women’s singles title went to China’s Xie Xingfang, Lin Dan’s future wife, with Zhang Ning claiming silver and Chinese-born Xu Huaiwen gaining a bronze for Germany.

“The mixed doubles title went to Indonesia’s Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir, who were to win again two years later, while the women’s doubles was won by 2004 Olympic champions Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen as China took gold, silver and one of the two bronze medals.”

If you’re wondering about the men’s doubles, it’s for a reason. It turns out the USA did unexpectedly claim the men’s doubles gold.

“I didn’t happen to see my friend the customs official when departing LA airport, but I would have been delighted to tell him that Tony Gunawan and Howard Bach defeated Indonesia’s Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto 15-11 10-15 15-11 in an enthralling men’s doubles final.

“What a great vintage it was.

“There’s certainly some great memories from those times.”