10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SERIES – Tales from the mixed zones, Part I

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It has been 10 years since Badzine went international.  Since the autumn of 2006, we have been relying on amazing volunteers who took some time off their usual occupations to put their analysis in writing, to shoot photographs, to report live from domestic and international competitions for our readers, or all of the above.

Photos: Badmintonphoto and Chee Ying Fan

In this series of articles, they share with you their best memories of their experience reporting for Badzine in the last decade.  We hope you will enjoy these first two contributions from two of our long-time associates…

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Mark Phelan, Badzine Correspondent 2007-2011(ish)

So Badzine is 10 years old.  Wow, where did those 10 years go?

When Badzine first came to our screens 10 years ago, I personally was going through an extremely tortuous stage in my life and for some strange reason Raphael and Don took a leap of faith and offered me an outlet to write about the sport I love.  I don’t know if they consider that a mistake or not but for me it was a blessing in disguise as Badzine became my outlet, my distraction, and more so it gave me a new outlook and direction in life.

I have so many great memories during my time contributing during my few short years involved.  I remember my first two All Englands and in particular when Tine Rasmussen (as she was then, pictured) won in 2008 against Lu Lan 22-20 in the deciding game.  I remember one day that week in Birmingham I managed to post 12 articles on Badzine in one day, a record at the time, but one that Raphael informed me has since been broken.

Tine was and forever will be my hero in the sport.  Always the most approachable lady after a match, she was someone who I personally felt gave their all in an interview and respected us journos as much as we respected them as players.  If it were not for Badzine, I would have never had the opportunity to meet and talk to her.

There were, of course, other great and memorable moments, most of them involving some form of organised chaos as I remember.  I will never forget when we eventually convinced Raphael to change publishing platforms and in typical Badzine form it was decided to do it the week of the Worlds in Paris in 2010.

Mark with Gail Emms at the 2009 Danish League Finals

Mark with Gail Emms at the 2009 Danish League Finals

Mayhem, to say the least, but what a job the crew did – in particular Jeff at the back end – to get it all off the ground and live for those World Championships!  I also remember those Worlds as the hottest press room I have ever been in.  A basement in the Stade Pierre De Coubertin in Paris was a sweaty place with the external temperatures uncharacteristically high for the time of year, coupled with the ambient heat of all the tech and sweaty journalists.  But I loved it and was in my element!

One of my most treasured memories was getting the opportunity to go to Copenhagen to cover the Danish league finals in the iconic KB Hallen in 2009.  Gail Emms had retired but was still playing league in Denmark from my memory.  I will never forget the atmosphere at that event and in that hall, a hall full of history that unfortunately burnt to the ground the following year.  TSS won that year in a match that went to the ‘golden set’. A dramatic night in a most fitting venue with players such as Emms, Robertson, Russkikh, Persson, Mogenson, Gade, Fischer, Brosolat, Rasmussen, Boe and Gunawan all on show and in top form.  Again, if it were not for Badzine, I would never have had the opportunity to witness one of the greatest Danish League finals in recent history.

There have been so many great memories with Badzine, family memories I will cherish for life.  Being able to stay with my friend and mentor Raphael Sachetat and his family during 3 consecutive French Opens are the kind of off-court memories I will cherish forever.  Badzine was and is a family with family values.

Badzine offered me a chance to be involved in the sport I love.  Its leaders gave me the opportunity to find my feet with my keyboard and instilled a passion for both writing and photographing our sport.  This grounding has served me well and my times with Badzine will forever be the substance and basis for my work in the sport.

Like our mothers, whom we rely on so much when we are young then forget about when we leave the nest, as we grow older and take the time to reflect, we realise what they did for us and will be forever grateful for the sacrifices made to bring us up as good human beings.  In Badminton terms, Badzine is that mother to me.

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Chee Ying Fan, Badzine Correspondent 2007-present

I started writing for Badzine in 2007 and had the privilege to cover live on site a few times.  Each coverage had its own unique experience which I treasured a lot.  I will never forget the time when I was on the job for 2014 World Junior Championships.  It was different because I had to write and also take pictures for Badzine.  It was double duty but also double the excitement as I love photography.

I remember entering the stadium with mixed feelings, excited but also nervous as that was the first time I would shoot badminton in an elite tournament and I was not familiar with the development of junior badminton.  Thankfully, I was prepared with the tips from Don about juniors and also photography tips from Yves before the tournament, which helped me a lot.  The first few photos that I shot were blurry but it got better.  It was quite intimidating as other photographers were using long lenses to shoot, while I was using a 50mm fixed lens, which looked so small and I needed to move a lot because I couldn’t zoom.  There were times when I moved back further away from the court till I was the only photographer sitting at the middle of the adjacent, empty court.

After a match ended, I had to quickly follow the players to interview them as there was no press conference and then quickly run back to the court to shoot the next match.  It was tiring but worth the effort.  Honestly, I was quite shy when I approached Jonatan Christie – a very talented and good-looking player – and asked him for an interview.  He was very friendly and modest.  It was also the first time I saw Akane Yamaguchi and other promising players like He Bingjiao, Zheng Siwei, and Chen Qingchen live.  Witnessing the success of these players in their junior times followed by their great achievement transitioning into senior tournaments is an amazing feeling.

I learnt a lot from the experience in the World Juniors and applied them in Malaysian Masters Grand Prix Gold this year.  Still using my 50mm lens, this time I was able to position myself better (not in the middle of the next court this time).  The experience of being so near to the action on court is priceless – a very different feeling from watching the match from the seats.  I could hear the sound of the smashes so clearly.  There were times when the shuttle flew out of court and dropped near the photographers’ section.

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It was great to meet some players whom I had not met for 7 years, since covering the Malaysia Open in 2009.  When Lee Chong Wei won the men’s singles title, the crowd was very delighted.  Some shook hands with him and a fan presented him with an “I LOVE LEE CW” shirt, which Lee happily waved to the cheering crowd.  Even the photographers were chasing Lee to capture the moment as he was walking to the press conference room.  I felt like one of the paparazzi chasing a celebrity.  What a thrilling experience!  I also saw Lee write some greetings in Chinese as requested by a journalist as Chinese New Year was coming up soon afterward.  There were also some Chinese New Year decorations under which some players, including Lai Pei Jing, posed for pictures.  These were the off-court moments when you can see the candid side of players.

Sometimes there were two interviews going on simultaneously in the press conference room so I left my mobile phone on the table to record one interview while I went to the other side of the room to take notes for the other interview.  One day, I forgot to collect my phone from the table after both interviews had ended.  When I realized that, I saw my phone was the only phone left and it had already been recording for 15 minutes!

Through my experience covering for Badzine, I have met many new friends, fellow Badzine volunteers, other journalists, photographers, etc.  Thanks a lot to everyone especially Raphael, Don and the team for making Badzine a success.  Happy 10th anniversary and cheers for more years to come!

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