Great Danes eye Rio glory after Cup breakthrough
May 23 2016 09:01 PM
Viktor Axelsen of Denmark celebrates his victory over Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia in their men’s singles final group match at the Thomas Cup badminton tournament.

AFP/Kunshan, China

Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen believes he will go far at the Rio Olympics and is confident his fellow countrymen will also prove themselves after their historic Thomas Cup victory.
The Danes have momentum on their side following their maiden title at the world team championships, where Olympic powerhouse China crashed out in the quarter-finals.
In a sign of badminton’s shifting fortunes, Denmark became the first European team to win the men’s trophy while hosts China, who hold all five Olympic titles, suffered an early exit.
“I think in Denmark we have many strong players who can really be up there at the Olympics,” Axelsen told a press conference – much of which he conducted in fluent Mandarin, to the delight of the Chinese press corps.
“I have to believe I will go far in the Olympics because if you don’t believe in yourself then it won’t happen.”
He added: “I’m confident and I’m just looking forward to having a good preparation and I’m sure Denmark will prove themselves.”
Axelsen, the world number four and reigning European champion, led the team to victory at the Thomas Cup, scoring a straight-sets win over Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto during the team’s nail-biting 3-2 final win.
“I managed to stay calm and that’s why I won,” said Axelsen.
However, the brash 22-year-old displayed visible cracks in his mental game earlier in the tournament.
Axelsen was felled by second-ranked Lee Chong Wei 23-21, 21-18 during the semi-final – screaming on court at bad shots and once throwing his racket.

Mentally strong
“For the Olympics you must be prepared and mentally very, very strong,” said Malaysia’s Lee, when asked about his own gold medal ambitions after the win.
“Every month there is a Superseries (tournament).For the Olympics, in four years there’s only one.”
Still, Axelsen’s performances have been impressive enough to garner close attention from China’s formidable coach, Li Yongbo.
Li named both Axelsen and his teammate Jan O Jorgensen as possible threats to China’s dominance at the Olympics this summer.
“Now, there’s many elite players from many teams,” Li told reporters.”The competition is fierce.”
China’s quarter-final defeat to South Korea raised fears about their prospects for Rio, with world number one Chen Long chief among their concerns.
Chen admitted he suffered an attack of nerves in his 87-minute loss to South Korea’s Son Wan-ho, which placed the team in a deficit they never recovered from.
Axelsen has beaten Chen once before and says doing it again at the Olympics is a real possibility.
“I’m of course really happy that Li Yongbo went out there saying that I might have a good chance,” he said.
“I’ve been playing good matches with Chen Long. I’ve beaten Chen Long once and I was close with Lee Chong Wei (in the semis) so I have to believe in my chances,” added Axelsen.
Now to see what happens next.

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