Olympic Preview: Racquet Sports

The Racquet sports are all extremely similar except on very different scales as athletes use a racquet to hit an object over a net to the other side where they hope the opponents cannot get it. It is a simple and traditional sport grouping that has some great history behind it with two of the sports being dominated by one region. This will also be the first sport grouping during the Olympic preview to talk about one of the few sports that allows professional athletes to join the ranks of the amateurs. There are many small difference between these sports with the major one coming in the scale of the sport. They are all very similar except that Table Tennis is played on a small table, badminton on a small court, and tennis played on a big court. These three sports are all still very similar though as they all reward the same skills, although in different ways. These are sports that require speed to be dominant and each sport rewards this speed more and more. It also requires exceptional hand eye coordination to be able to handle the speed of these balls and shuttlecocks. These sports are also similar in the way they have evolved as they have similar beginnings. They are all very recreational sports that are done by many people around the world. This is where they all started as people would just go out and play these sports for fun whether or not you are a great athlete. Then they evolved as people began focusing more on the sports and took them to a new level. Now these three Olympics sports involve some very specific skills and allow some people to see them for the first time while others get to see their favorites perform on an international stage.

 

Badminton:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1992

Most Medals: China, 30 (11 Gold)

 

Badminton is a relatively young sport in the Olympics as it made its first debut in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was seen earlier as a demonstration sport in 1972 and was added permanently since ‘92. Since that time it has been a sport dominated by the Asian continent with China, South Korea, and Indonesia leading the way in medals. There have been very few Gold Medals handed out to other countries other than these three with China taking the majority of them. It is an extremely popular sport in Asia and has spread to the Asian communities around the world. While watching the sport you will notice many of the countries will be represented by those with and Asian background. The sport is a simple one to follow as athletes use their racquets to hit the shuttlecock over the net to their opponents. The most complicated part of the sport is the creation of the shuttlecock that has very specific directions. For the 2012 Olympics the shuttlecock weighs between 4.74 grams and 5.5 grams and is made of exactly 16 feathers plucked from the left wing of a goose. It is a very specific piece of equipment but it is made that way so that everyone has the same piece of equipment to use. This is important because a shuttlecock can change a lot in the sport especially when some athletes can hit the shuttlecock to upwards of 250 km/hr. In the Olympics there are five different competitions including men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. In each competition the teams or athletes play a group stage where the winners move on to the next level until the winner or winners are determined. In competition athletes or teams score when the shuttlecock hits the floor on their opponent’s side of the net or their opponent hit the shuttlecock into the net or out-of-bounds. Every match is determined by the best of three games with each game won by the first team or person to reach 21 points with at least a 2 point difference. It is a basic competition that involves some great athletes that hit the shuttlecock with tremendous speed forcing these athletes to play one of the quickest games in the Olympics.

 

Who to Watch:

Dan Lin (China)

– Lin is ranked #2 in the world but is considered a legend as he is the defending Olympic Champion, the four-time world champion, and the only person to complete the Super Grand Slam winning all nine major badminton events

 

Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)

– The biggest rival of Dan Lin Wei is the #1 player in the world and will be entering his second Olympic Games as he won the Silver in 2008 as well as winning the silver in the 2011 world championships and winning the All-England Championship twice in 2010 and 2011

 

Canadian Content:

Michelle Li (Richmond Hill, ON)

– One of the best hopes for a medal for Canada Li has won gold in both the women’s single and women’s double at the 2011 Pan-American Game along with a Senior National Championship in 2012 as she looks to win the first badminton medal for Canada

 

Alex Bruce (Toronto, ON)

– A part of the Women’s Doubles team along with Michelle Li, Bruce is one of the most accomplished badminton players on the team with a gold at the 2011 Pan-American Games and a National Championship in 2011

 

Table Tennis:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1988

Most Medals: China, 41 (20 Gold)

 

Table Tennis is a very unique sport that is one of the quickest sports in the Olympics with a rapid pace almost always necessary. The sport is another young one with its official debut in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where South Korea won many of the first medals. It is another sport that has been dominated by the Asian continent and more specifically by the Chinese. China has dominated the sport since it was added to the Olympic program in 1988. Much like badminton this sport is extremely popular in Asia and is considered by many the national sport of choice for many people. This makes this sport one of the most popular in the world as in Asia the stars are heroes despite not making the same impact in the west. It is also one of the fastest and most impressive sports in the Olympic program. The game moves at a rapid pace that few can follow with athletes jumping from side to side and hitting the ball at blazing speeds. The sport is another one that is played recreationally by numbers of people around the world as recreation but the Olympic level of the sport is something otherworldly compared to most causal players. The rules are not too hard to understand in Table Tennis as it is essentially a mini version of tennis, without the strange scoring system. The Olympic tournament has four different competitions including men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s team, and women’s team. All competitions are based in a single elimination tournament but the rules are slightly different between teams and singles. In singles competition the athletes face off head-to-head in a match with the best of seven game format. Each game is finished when one athlete reaches 11 points with a 2-point difference and points are scored when the ball cannot be returned or is returned outside of the table by the opponent. The team competition involves an entire group of athletes as the tournament is structured differently. The team competition involves four singles matches and one doubles match where each match is decided after the best of five games. It is an extremely entertaining sport to watch at the Olympic level with athletes going back and forth in an extremely fast game. A section of the world will be extremely focused on this sport in London to see their heroes play on the international stage as the rest of the world watches in awe.

 

Who to Watch:

China

– Really anyone representing China at the Olympics has a chance at a medal as they will look to continue their dominance from 2008 when they won all four Gold Medals and every medal in the men’s and women’s singles competition in Beijing

 

Canadian Content:

Mo Zhang (Ottawa, ON)

– Zhang is one of the top athletes in North America for Table Tennis as she has won multiple gold medals including gold in the 2011 Pan-American Games and is a three-time North American Champion from 2009 to 2011 as she looks to test herself against the best in the world

 

Eugene Zhen Wang (Victoria, BC)

– Wang is likely one of the newest Canadians on the Olympic team getting his citizenship in June 2012 but he is also the #1 ranked table tennis player in North America after finishing 5th on the World Tour as he looks to represent his new country with Canada’s first table tennis medal

 

Tennis:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896 (after a layoff returned in 1988)

Most Medals: Great Britain, 44 (16 Gold)

 

Tennis is a traditional sport in the Olympics that has gone through a number of changes through the years. The first appearance of Tennis in the Olympics was the 1896 Olympic Games and it was a part of the program until 1928 which was the first year that it was not an Olympic sport. Then in 1988 it made its return, after being a demonstration sport in 1968 and 1984, where it became a permanent part of the program. This year it will take on a special meaning as the British fans will get to see one of their favorite sports at home in the most legendary venue to ever host Tennis at the Olympics. It will also be the first sport that these previews will talk about to involve professional athletes. These two aspects go hand in hand as these professional athletes from around the world will essentially have an extended stay in London. Only weeks before the Olympic tournament starts the Wimbledon Championship will end in the historic Wimbledon Club that will serve as the Olympic Tennis venue. British tennis fans will get their fill this summer with two major tournaments occurring back to back as they get to see the best of the best face off twice. Tennis in the Olympics is divided into five different competitions including men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Every competition is set up like the Wimbledon Championship in a single elimination tournament. Each match requires the athletes to win a number of games and sets that are won by scoring points, each point is valued at 15. A match is the best of three sets which is determined by the first player to win 6 or 7 games being two games ahead of their opponent with each game won by being the first to 4 points with a 2-point difference. It be a big draw as some of the biggest names in sports will be in attendance as they play for their countries. Players like Nadal, Murray, Williams, Wosniaki, Sharapova, Federer, and many more will all be in attendance as they all look to win a Gold medal for their countries. There will be plenty of fans out at these matches with more than just money on the line as professional athletes look to play for something bigger at Wimbledon.

 

Who to Watch:

Roger Federer (Switzerland)

– He has been the most dominant men’s singles player in the world and after a win at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships he will go in to the Olympics, played at Wimbledon, as the favorite to win the Gold medal

 

Serena Williams (USA)

– She is one of the most accomplished women’s tennis players in the world with more wins than any active player including the 2012 Wimbledon Championship and is one half of the toughest women’s doubles teams she will be looking to earn two gold’s for USA

 

Andy Murray (Great Britain)

– Murray will be one of the most talked about athletes in Britain throughout the Olympics as he is clearly one of the best medal hopes for the home team as he looks to win Gold to add to his 22 ATP titles and earn some redemption after losing in the Wimbledon Finals

 

Maria Sharapova (Russia)

– She is the #1 ranked women’s tennis players in the world and is coming off of a great performance in the French Open where she won the title as she looks to win Gold for Russia at Wimbledon in 2012

 

Canadian Content:

Milos Raonic (Thornhill, ON)

– He is the highest ranked Canadian tennis player ever and clearly the best player to come out of Canada winning the SAP Open in 2011 as he makes his first Olympic appearance for Canada and looks to win a medal for his country

 

Daniel Nestor (Toronto, ON)

– He is the old guard of Canadian Tennis and has been one of the best doubles players in the world winning 75 doubles titles and will play alongside Raonic to try to win the men’s doubles tournament in London

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