The New Zealand Olympic Committee and Badminton New Zealand today confirmed an 8-person team to travel to Glasgow and represent the country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in July.
A team of largely young and yet experienced players will represent New Zealand in the Badminton Teams event with NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith announcing the team to play in Glasgow.
“The Commonwealth Games are a pinnacle multi-sport event for badminton,” she said. “We are delighted to welcome the players to our team. They have each met our top six selection criteria and we look forward to them contributing to a strong result in Glasgow”
The team named for Glasgow is (followed by age, home town and current world ranking in specialist discipline):
Joe Wu (28, Northland – Men’s Singles - 96)
Michael Fowke (23, Waikato - Men’s Singles - 155)
Michelle Chan (26, Auckland, Women’s Singles - 67)
Anna Rankin (24, Southland – Women’s Singles - 76 and Women’s Doubles - 51)
Oliver Leydon-Davis (23, Waikato – Mixed Doubles – 50 and Men’s Doubles – 50)
Susannah Leydon-Davis (22, Waikato – Mixed Doubles - 50)
Kevin Dennerly-Minturn (23, Auckland – Men’s Doubles – 50)
Madeleine Stapleton (21, Waikato – Women’s Doubles - 51)
While largely a young team, they carry a wealth of recent experience with all named in the 2014 Oceania Championships and a number of them living overseas as they play in semi-professional club leagues and play on the Badminton World Federation tour. The team is currently ranked 6 in the Commonwealth and 22 in the world.
Badminton New Zealand CEO Joe Hitchcock spoke of his pride at the qualities in the team that see many of them making huge personal sacrifice to improve their own personal rankings and that of the team.
“We are very proud that this group of players has qualified and been selected to wear the silver fern in Glasgow. It is a fantastic achievement that speaks to the commitment, hard work and drive these players have shown over the last year. All of the badminton community is excited to see them compete at the Commonwealth Games and we know they will represent themselves and our sport with passion and a total focus on performance.”
The team will also play under the guidance of a new National Coach. Former Badminton New Zealand Director of Coaching and current National Centre Coach with Badminton Elite centre Aarhus in Denmark, Svend Sorensen has been named as National Team Coach.
The players spoke of their pride upon hearing of their selection to the Teams Competition in Glasgow but were quick to acknowledge selection is just one step on the way to strong performances at the Games.
“It is a big weight of the shoulders to finally see the name on paper,” said Oliver Leydon-Davis.
“It was rewarding as well though as we have all worked so hard. It was in the balance for some time for us to make top 6 on team rankings, so there is some relief but it is also exciting to see it confirmed. It is always an honour to be named in a New Zealand team and to know we will wear the silver fern - that is huge.
“The hard works starts now though, this is part one of the process and while it is nice to say it is out of the way, the focus of our attention is on the next three months to be at our absolute best in Glasgow.”
Oliver will play Mixed Doubles with sister Susannah, she too is thrilled to gain selection but knows this is only the start of the hard work.
“Now that we have qualified it isn’t the end to the journey, rather the beginning of the next phase in completing more hours of hard training and conditioning to ensure we are in peak form leading into the event. As a representative in the mixed doubles, with my brother Oliver, we are aiming for a seeding inside the top 8 and at minimum a quarterfinals finish in our individual event.”
Michelle Chan is excited at the chance to play in a second Commonwealth Games and is well and truly over the disappointment of missing the London Olympics.
“I think this a great stepping stone for not only the team but for badminton in New Zealand. This has been a hard and very long process as planning for something like this happens almost two years out for me. Missing out on a medal last time in teams and individuals was tough, so to have another chance again during my career is really something special.
Maddie Stapleton says the qualification process has been a two year journey for her.
“I have had my mind set on being a member of the New Zealand Badminton team to compete at the Commonwealth Games since 2012 when doubles partner Anna Rankin and I began our journey towards qualification. It was a major goal within our partnership to be selected into the Games team and I am extremely proud to say that we have both achieved this and that our hard work to this point has finally paid off, we know that there is more to do of course.”
Kevin Dennerly-Minturn will partner Leydon-Davis in the Men’s Doubles in the New Zealand team.
“Gaining qualification but more importantly at level that I feel I can compete at the Commonwealth Games has been at the forefront of the last 8-10 years. Particularly over the last 3 years I have based myself through self-funding in Denmark to gain training and more exposure to International Competition.
“Badminton is a massive sport worldwide and to become competitive compared to other countries with big resources has been incredibly difficult task, absolutely nothing has come easily and this is something I am very proud of.”
Michael Fowke is the current New Zealand player of the year, named at the awards during the recent SKYCITY NZ Badminton Open.
“The effort to gain selection has certainly been going on for a couple of years now. There’s been plenty of international tournaments and flights across the world. It’s been a big investment but everyone has improved and the exposure to world class badminton will be invaluable.
“I feel incredibly proud to be named in the team, our first goal will be to exceed our ranking coming into the Games. Hopefully if we all perform as well as we can then that’s very doable.”
Jo Wu was in Delhi in 2010 and believes he will be all the stronger for that experience.
“It is very positive that we have qualified as a team, we have been trying for over a year as a group working hard towards this, now it is confirmed, it is great news. It is not the end of the journey though, some athletes mistakenly think that now they have made it (been selected) they can relax, we want to do well though and we must ensure a good preparation so will continue to work hard.”
Anna Rankin hails from Invercargill but has travelled far and wide to enhance her badminton career.
“Along with qualifying for the World Champs, competing in Glasgow has been one of my main targets since Delhi 2010. After graduating from University end of 2012 I have been living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and training and competing full time. It is great living in a country where badminton is to the nation as rugby is to Kiwi's. Being able to fully immerse myself in badminton has been great, however being away from home and traveling a lot has its challenges. I train 11 times a week, which includes on court, gym work and track training, in temperatures between 30-40 degrees all year round.”
Badminton New Zealand is working on final submissions to the NZOC in regards the individual medal competitions and will make nominations to the NZOC in the next two weeks with an announcement on individual event selections to be made at that time.