Former India doubles coach Mathias Boe on Thursday slammed the Badminton World Federation for the crammed international calendar which saw a number of players suffer injuries following participation in back-to-back tournaments in the last three months.
As many as 40 badminton players, including two-time world champion Kento Momota, have been injured since the international calendar resumed with the Sudirman Cup in Finland in September this year, following a break forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last 10 weeks, eight tournaments have taken place, including Sudirman Cup, Thomas and Uber Cup Final and five World Tour events and the ongoing World Tour Finals.
"What should have been a feast for fans have ended up being a joke. @bwfmedia what did u except demanding players to play back to back for more than 3 months in a row?," Boe, a silver medallist at London Olympics, wrote on his Twitter handle.
"Do u care about the players well-being at all? No. of injuries have never been higher and level never been lower." On Thursday, India's top men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who had been coached by Boe in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, pulled out of the season-ending event after the former complained of a knee pain.
What should have been a feast for fans have ended up being a joke. @bwfmedia what did u except demanding players to play back to back for more than 3 months in a row? Do u care about the players well-being at all? No. of injuries have never been higher and level never been lower. pic.twitter.com/YRZQJtCi6N
- Mathias Boe (@mathiasboe) December 2, 2021
A day earlier, former World No 1 Kento Momota of Japan and Denmark's Rasmus Gemke had withdrawn due to back and knee injuries respectively.
The BWF, however, said that "the tournament schedule for the end of 2021 is actually not significantly different from a normal pre-COVID-19 year except that we have been able to complete a high ratio of our top-level tournaments." "Overall, though, the calendar for the end of the year actually includes considerably fewer tournaments than we normal would have," BWF secretary Thomas Lund said in a statement.
"Yes, there have been more Major Championships following the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but these have been played over reasonably extended periods of time with less relative pressure on each player. "These BWF Major Team Championships in Finland and Denmark have then been followed by a series of HSBC BWF World Tour tournaments in Europe and now here in Indonesia, but this programme has seen less tournaments across all levels compared to a normal year."
Momota, who played six events, had recently retired hurt during the French Open semifinals against compatriot Kanta Tsuneyama, thus conceding all his ranking points. He had also complained of being "very very tired" after losing in the Indonesia Open semifinals last week. Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen too had stressed on the players, saying that the "schedule is slowly running everyone down". Badminton Association of Malaysia coaching director Wong Choong Hann had also raised concerns about the affect of the schedule on world number 8 Lee Zii Jia.
"In normal circumstances, top players have the obligation to play all top-tier tournaments, but we have actually waivered the Top Committed Player Obligations under the BWF Player Regulations during COVID-19 to ensure that players can better manage their tournament programme in the interest of their own health and safety," Lund said.
"This was communicated to all Member Associations and players through an official communication on 1 September 2020.
"For the Bali Leg in Indonesia, being mindful that we have come off a very long stretch of tournaments in Europe, we also communicated that the players do not have to play both the DAIHATSU Indonesia Masters 2021 and Indonesia Open 2021 in order to be eligible to qualify for the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals.
"However, it does seem that many players have decided to play based on their own decision and that of their coaches, which is potentially an effect of the lower quantity of tournaments at the start of 2021 due to COVID-19." The game's governing body had to make a lot of changes to the international calender due to the travel restrictions forced by the pandemic in the last two years.