New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) Denmark is synonymous with badminton - and not inappropriately the country's official website for the sport is simply badmintondenmark.com.
Denmark's capital Copenhagen is to be the first city ever to hold for the fourth time the BWF World Championships when it hosts its 21st edition from August 25-31. Copenhagen earlier conducted the championships in 1983, 1991 and 1999.
A look at Denmark's impressive credentials will make it clear why it is still known as badminton capital of the world, though Asia is the dominant force today. For a country which introduced the game only in 1925, Denmark became a top badminton nation within the next 25 years.
For a tiny nation which has a spread of 43,094 square km and a population of 5,584,758 -- likely to be pegged at a lower 5,200,000 by 2025 -- it has a badminton club and playing facilities at every nook and corner. Even their exclusive courts are too packed for players' comfort, so they share facilities earmarked for gymnasts, table tennis players and other indoor sports.
The sport has tremendous following, but not all aim to play competitive badminton, many of them take to it as a routine physical exercise to keep them fit. From this fitness regimen come the champions, quality comes out of quantity.
The European country has carved a niche for them in world badminton even though China, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia have moved ahead of them in the last four decades. Yet, Denmark is the only European team to have won an Olympic gold in the sport -- a unique achievement for a country of its size and population.
There was a time way back in the 1960s and '70s when players from all over the world travelled to Denmark to train and play at top notch clubs in domestic circuits. India's greatest player Prakash Padukone is a shining example of this. He even settled there to enhance his quality of performance, practising with the top Danish star "Mr.Gentleman" Morten Frost Hansen.
Suffice to mention that the president and the secretary general of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) are former Danish Olympic and World Champions to show that the long line of champions it has produced, starting from Erland Kops, an Indophile who even won the singles title at the national championships here in India, Peter Gade, Tine Rasmussen, Kamilla Rytter Juhl, Lene Koppen, to name a few top players. The country also hosts one of the oldest tournaments on the badminton circuit since 1935 -- the Denmark Open -- which is now a Super Series Premier event.
Former World No.1 Padukone won it in 1979-80 while current queen of Indian badminton Saina Nehwal became the second Indian to win the event in 2012.
Ask any badminton player, he or she will say that training or playing in Denmark is an experience in itself, it is akin to a cricketer playing at Lord's or a tennis player at Wimbledon. It has its own charm and special feeling, they all will say.