To win three titles at a badminton tournament is exceptional, but to then go on and repeat the same feat a year later is quite amazing.
Through his dominant display of shuttlecock chasing and hitting, Bongani van Bodenstein (Tuks) might have done enough to book his place in the South African team for this year’s World Student Games in Taipei.
He won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at the South African Universities Championships (USSA) in Pretoria. Last year he also achieved a hat-trick of victories.
The men’s singles was an all-Tuks affair as Van Bodenstein played Anoop Nair in the final. The BCom Accounting Student won in two sets (21-10 21-9).
The two Tuks players then teamed up and went on to win the men’s doubles by beating Pieter Hattingh and Stefan Steyn (Pukke) in the final (21-13 21-15).
But Van Bodenstein wasn’t done yet and continued his dominance by teaming up with Lee-Ann de Wet (Varsity College) to win the mixed doubles, beating Nair and Anri Schonees (Maties) in the final (21-13 19-21 21-7).
The Tuks player made it clear that there were no guarantees that he would dominate to the extent he did, as he injured his knee during the Gauteng North Championships and only got the all-clear to play last week.
‘It was important to me to do well at the USSA Tournament, as I had to prove to myself that I’m able to overcome setbacks. To win all three titles for the second time is something special.’
Collecting titles seem to come naturally to Van Bodenstein. As far as local tournaments are concerned, he has a perfect record, winning the South African singles title in each age group that he has competed in.
Part of his success is that he is a true student of the game. He never misses an opportunity to learn something new about badminton. When he played a tournament in Bangkok, he talked to a good few players to find out how they work towards improving their game.
An Indonesian player helped him understand that it is all about hard work. The player is part of the training squad that does nothing but train all day. It’s a luxury that Van Bodenstein, as a student, cannot afford to do and he’s lucky if he gets to train three hours a day.
The 19-year old Van Bodenstein learned the importance of fitness from own personal experience.
‘When you play at a senior level it’s not just about the quality of your shots, trying to move your opponent around in the hope of catching them off balance. You need to be fit because in badminton you are constantly thinking about your next move. Sometimes it is a case of out-thinking your opponent, rather than just outplaying him.
The SA Universities women’s single champion is Janke van der Vyfer (Kovsies) while the women’s doubles were won by De Wet and Schonees.
Picture of Van Bodenstein courtesy of Zander Erasmus