2021 Tokyo Olympics: Beiwen Zhang hopes to find sponsors

United States badminton star Beiwen Zhang, who played for Awadhe Warriors in the 2020 PBL, hopes to find sponsors ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Beiwen Zhang in action during the Premier Badminton League.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

United States (US) badminton star Beiwen Zhang has experienced a mixed lockdown period so far at her home in Paradise, Nevada. Her Instagram account was hacked, while she feels when there's nothing to do, motivation is difficult to come by. 

- Lockdown Diary - 

However, the women's singles world No.15 is getting to spend some quality time as a dog mom with her pets Maru and Peanut. She's also working out in her backyard and going for short jogs.

"My Instagram was hacked and finally it's been reactivated. Funny thing is, I was contacted by the hacker and we became friends," quipped Zhang after regaining control of her social media handle.

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"I'm eager to get back on the badminton court. I will continue to do some workouts at home and also use this time to appreciate my family and friends," she added.

- No Support in the United States -

Zhang's nation is an Olympic superpower but it hasn't won a single badminton medal at the quadrennial spectacle. The country's top-ranked shuttler explained why the sport isn't given much importance. 

"It is unfortunate that they don't consider badminton important. The sport only has five gold medals, whereas Swimming offers 34. That's why it's considered small and this is sad," she told Sportstar.  

The 29-year-old, who beat Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu on her way to the 2018 India Open crown, doesn't train much in the States, while she hardly gets any government funds. She is currently looking for more sponsors to help her in her attempts to get a seeding for the Tokyo Olympics.

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"I don't train in the U.S. before tournaments. Normally, I go to Malaysia and Singapore. The government doesn't support me, I'm self-funded. I'm unable to pay for my coach's travel from Singapore. So he doesn't accompany me overseas.

"There's no travel-expense program in the country. It would be nice if the government helps me with that. I only have my Hong Kong sponsors and Yonex to fund me now. I'm trying to find more so that I can handle all the expenses and eventually end up as one of the seeded players at the upcoming Olympics," she said.

- Goals for Tokyo Olympics -

The U.S. doesn't have a single men's singles shuttler ranked in the top-100. The rankings aren't any convincing in doubles either. However, due to several wildcards, the nation is prepared to send more athletes than ever before to the Tokyo Games.

Zhang, who played for Awadhe Warriors in the 2020 Premier Badminton League (PBL), remains the country's top medal prospect, with the men's doubles duo of brothers Phillip and Ryan Chew coming a distant second. She opened up on the goals for her first-ever Olympics.

"The first goal is to not get injured. From last May to October, I was out because I had hurt my ankle and knee. That shouldn't happen again. The next step is to find a proper place to train with my coach and another good sparring partner.

"I think badminton is slowly getting recognition from fans in the U.S. People are taking it up as a career. Hopefully, in five to 10 years it should develop more. If I get an Olympic medal, maybe they'll start considering the sport important," the 2018 Korea and US Open runner-up added.

- Move from China to Singapore to USA -

Zhang was born in China and had moved to Singapore later. She represented Singapore at different levels until 2011, after which she moved to Las Vegas.

The PBL star was dropped by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) after falling out with then-singles head coach Luan Ching. She didn't head back when SBA requested her to return and chose to represent the U.S. instead. 

Beiwen Zhang has a 4-6 win-loss record against Indian star P.V. Sindhu.   -  Sandeep Saxena

 

"I was born in China, represented Singapore for close to 10 years and then moved to the US. I didn't play for China though. US Badminton Association gives me more freedom as compared to Singapore. I can choose whatever tournament I want to play in.

"However, I've reached the level I'm playing at today because of the experience I gained in Singapore. It was not only me who had a problem with the coach so I had no other option but to leave," said the American shuttler.  

- The Tougher Opponent: Sindhu or Saina? - 

Zhang and her Warriors side had finished fifth in the latest edition of PBL. She went on to praise Indian badminton.

"I think PBL is a great tournament. The Indian players did a great job. They perform well at the big tournaments now. They get good support from fans and their board. So they are stepping up and reaching higher levels. And I think sport is heading in the right direction in India."

When asked whom she would prefer to face between reigning World Champion P.V. Sindhu, against whom she has a 4-6 win-loss record, and former World No.1 Saina Nehwal, whom she has beaten only once in four meetings, Zhang said: "Both of them are superstars. I think Sindhu is a fighter. But I prefer to play her over Saina. This is because Saina counters my game better and she isn't my favourite opponent."

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