By Mark Etheridge
It’s busy times for South African badminton with the announcement of a new national coach as well as a team for the World Team Championships in China and news that Jacob Maliekal has another international tournament win under his belt.
With former national coach Stewart Carson having taken up a position in Ireland after last year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland, former national player Chris Dednam (pictured above) has stepped into the breach.
The two-time Olympian (2004, 2008) and Commonwealth (2006) player has been named national coach until next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
With 22 national senior titles under his belt Badminton South Africa must be cock-a-hoop that a man with his expertise is in charge.
Looking ahead to Rio the Bloemfontein based Dednam (31) says: ‘Jacob Maliekal (singles) and Wiaan Viljoen and Andries Malan (doubles) are on SASCOC’s OPEX programme and will be trying to qualify for the Rio Games. I’ll have to manage their funding very carefully in order for them to play the correct international tournaments to improve their world rankings and qualify them for Rio.
‘Basically the mens’ doubles combination must be top 50 and mens’ singles top 100 on the world rankings of 5 May 2016, as well as the highest in Africa. The qualification period is from May 2015 to May 2016.
‘Our girls will also obtain world ranking points through participating in events, but due to funding they will not try to qualify.
‘The other priority is to start working on combinations for the next Olympic cycle up to 2020.’
The national players recently had a training camp in Pretoria where Dednam conducted fitness tests and worked on match fitness. ‘I’m pleased with the current form of the players and the training was of a very high intensity. We also had three sport psychology sessions.’
The South African team for next month’s World Team Championships, otherwise known as the Sudirman Cup) was announced recently and will include the three players mentioned earlier as well as Prakash Vijayanath, Elme de Villiers, Jen Fry, Michelle Butler-Emmet and Sandra le Grange.
There they’ll come up against Turkey, Czech Republic and Austria in Group 3A.
‘After the pool matches we’ll play a cross-over with group 3B and be competing for a team world ranking between 21-28. We’ll be the lower ranked team and I think our girls may struggle but the guys will have the chance to win a few games.
‘Our biggest goals this year are to win gold medals at Africa Games in Congo, both team and individually. The World Team Champs are part of this preparation.’
Meanwhile Maliekal will be a happy man after winning the Waikato International Championships in New Zealand where he beat James Eunson (world No96) in the final, winning a tough three-setter 20-22 21-19 22-20.
‘I beat an Indonesian in the quarter-finals and then top ranked Eunson in the final so was a good result. It will boost my ranking up but not sure by how much until the list is published for the next week,’ Maliekal told Road to Rio 2016.
‘It’s probably 163 after this tournament. I’m feeling good so I hope I can continue this through in China. This will be the first time I’m working with Chris so I’m looking forward to a good player-coach relationship.
‘I was in China for a few big tournaments over the past few years and the atmosphere is great in the big stadiums so I’m looking forward to doing well for the team there.’