Belgians out on a mission

Badminton players begin World meet preparations

Belgian flavour: (From left) Nathalie Descamps, Severine Coruilain, Wouter Claes, Steffi Annys and coach Alan McLain after their practice session in Bangalore on Saturday. DH photo

“Badminton is not at all big in Belgium, it’s more of a recreational activity,” he says as his five wards wind up their day’s practice at the TATA Padukone Badminton Academy.

McLain, 48, took up coaching when he stopped playing at the age of 32. In his 16 years of coaching, he says, he has seen a steady growth of the game in his country, though much remains to be done. “From a couple of players a few years ago, we have moved on to fielding a larger group of players competing at the international level now. That’s an encouraging sign for the game at large and for me also as a coach,” points out McLain, who arrived in the City on Saturday morning with his players to prepare for the World Badminton Championship in Hyderabad from August 10.

The Belgians are here to acclimatise to Indian conditions, though McLain is aware that conditions in Bangalore and Hyderabad are not quite the same. “I know it’s a bit warmer in Hyderabad, but we will at least get used to the food here. Plus, we also needed quality sparring partners for our players and when Go Sports approached us, we readily agreed to travel down here,” he explains.

The country’s top men’s and women’s singles players, Yuhan Tan and Lianne Tan -- siblings born to an Indonesian father -- are currently training in Indonesia.
The duo will join the group of Wouter Claes, Fred Mawet, Nathalie Descamps, Steffi Annys and Severine Coruilain in Hyderebad.

Claes, Belgium’s top doubles player, reached the quarterfinals of the European Championships last year and according to McLain, that remains their countries’ best show so far at the international level in any category.

Claes, 33, doesn’t quite lament the state of the game in his country, but agrees it’s a struggle to be a badminton player in Belgium.

“There is not much coverage for badminton in Belgium, be it in the print or electronic media. With the Tour de France on, you can see the first six pages of sport dedicated to cycling,” he says.

McLain butts in: “It’s tough to be a badminton player in our country. There is not much money and players are either doing part-time jobs or are students supported by their parents.”

McLain feels the proposed move to recruit badminton players in the army may help the game’s cause. “It’s (recruitment) starting in September and if that happens, it will be a big step forward. The assurance of a job, which you need to attend only half a day a week, will certainly attract more people to badminton,” he remarks, hopefully.

DH News Service

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