Friday, September 25

Thomas and Uber Cup postponed after coronavirus pull-outs

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KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton’s showpiece Thomas and Uber Cup was postponed yesterday after a string of countries withdrew over coronavirus fears, officials said, in a major blow to the sport’s restart.

The men’s and women’s world team championships had been set to take place in Denmark next month, and would have been the first international tournament since the pandemic halted badminton in March. But the Badminton World Federation said it had taken the “tough decision” to delay the event as the pull-outs meant they were not able to deliver a high enough level of competition.

No new dates were announced for the tournament, which has now been postponed three times, but the BWF said it wouldn’t take place before 2021.

“These are exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in and while a return to international badminton remains a priority for the BWF, the health and safety of the entire badminton community is of utmost importance,” a BWF statement said.

“It has been realised that we are not in a position to deliver the level of competition reasonably expected by fans and all stakeholders,” it added.

A further delay to the tournament, which had been scheduled to take place in Aarhus from Oct 3-11, had started to look inevitable in recent days after some of Asia’s top talent withdrew.

Indonesia, who are 13-time Thomas Cup champions, as well as Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Australia had all decided to skip the event.

Leading Indian player Saina Nehwal, who had been due to play in the women’s Uber Cup, had questioned whether pushing ahead was a good idea, while the Olympic Council of Malaysia had also called for a postponement.

The delay is a major setback to efforts to resume international competition, as it was the biggest event left on the calendar this year after the Olympics were postponed.

It also means that players face a packed calendar next year, potentially with four major tournaments.

If the Thomas and Uber Cup goes ahead in 2021, it could take place in the same year as the Olympics, the world championships and the Sudirman Cup, which is for mixed teams.

Former world number one Lee Chong Wei, who retired last year after a cancer battle, said he thought it was “way too many”.

“I can foresee many countries complaining to the BWF about the hectic schedule,” the Malaysian told the country’s Star newspaper. “If I’m still playing, I would want to play well in all four events but there’s no way you’ll be able to prepare and peak in all.”

Two other tournaments had been due to take place in Denmark in October.

The first of these, the Denmark Open, will proceed as planned, but the second – the Denmark Masters – is cancelled, the BWF said.

The BWF added that it was also looking into the “feasibility” of an additional three tournaments planned for an as-yet-unnamed location in Asia. — AFP