Even before they do battle in the Dubai World Superseries Finals, some of the year’s top badminton players will face off in the desert for another coveted prize – the BWF Players of the Year Awards, including inaugural honours for para-badminton players as well as recognition for the Most Promising young athlete.
In the Male Player of the Year category, Men’s Singles world No. 1 Chen Long of China – who won the title last season – has been nominated alongside his doubles-playing compatriot, Zhang Nan, and Korea’s exciting duo, Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong.
Chen dominated the Men’s Singles scene, winning five World Supeseries titles besides retaining his World Championship title and starring in his country’s defence of the Sudirman Cup on home turf in Dongguan. Meanwhile, Zhang excelled in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles. Zhang and Fu Haifeng made four Superseries finals in Men’s Doubles, while in Mixed Doubles, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei reigned supreme with six World Superseries crowns and the World Championships gold medal.
Korea’s Lee and Yoo enjoyed a blazing spell of form in the second half of 2015, picking up four World Superseries trophies on the trot – in Japan, Korea, Denmark and France. With other Superseries titles in Australia and Hong Kong, Lee and Yoo totalled the highest number of World Superseries points compared to any other player or pair. They also won a bronze medal at the BWF World Championships and a gold at the Badminton Asia Championships.
On the women’s side, the year’s leading singles exponents – Carolina Marin of Spain and India’s Saina Nehwal – have been nominated. Another stellar performer for 2015 and the 2014 winner – Zhao Yunlei – is again in the running for the Female Player of the Year as is her Chinese team-mate, Bao Yixin.
Marin started and ended the year on a perfect note – winning the Yonex All England Championship in March and the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open in November. In between, the current world No. 1 picked up three other Superseries titles and retained the Women’s Singles World Championship. Nehwal became India’s first World No.1 in Women’s Singles and
enjoyed a consistent run this season, winning her home leg of the MetLife BWF World Superseries tour in Delhi and also reaching the finals of the TOTAL BWF World
Championships, the All England and the Thaihot China Open.
Zhao was the pre-eminent woman doubles player. Partnering Zhang Nan, she won six Mixed Doubles Superseries. She repeated the remarkable feat of winning two World
Championships – in Mixed and Women’s Doubles – while capturing the Yonex Open Japan and Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open titles in Women’s Doubles. Overall, she collected eight Superseries titles in 2015.
Bao was successful in both her disciplines – winning the All England Women’s Doubles crown and Mixed Doubles at the India Open. She reached the Mixed finals in the World Championships, the Australian Open and the Hong Kong Open.
In a historic first, there are three nominees each for the Male Para-Badminton Player of the Year and the Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year. On the men’s side, Malaysia’s Cheah Like Hou (SU 5 sport class); Lee Sam Seop of Korea (WH 1) and Poland’s Bartlomiej Mroz (SU 5) will battle it out for the first-ever award for athletes with impairments. Among their female peers, Englishwoman Rachel Choong (SS 6) as well as Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy (SL 4) and Julie Thrane of Denmark (SU 5) are in contention for the inaugural annual accolade.
China leads the race for the Most Promising Player of the Year (Eddy Choong Award), with four nominees while Japan has one.
Three females – Saena Kawakami (Japan) and China’s He Bingjiao and Chen Qingchen – and two males (China’s Huang Kaixiang and Zheng Siwei) will vie for this honour which salutes an emerging talent in world badminton.
The winners will be announced at the Players’ Reception and Gala Dinner for the Dubai World Superseries Finals next Monday night (7 December) at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai. The evening will also feature special player prizes for the Best Dressed Male and Best Dressed Female.
PARA-BADMINTON PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
MALE NOMINEES Cheah Liek Hou (MAS – SU 5)
Lee Sam Seop (KOR – WH 1)
Bartlomiej Mroz (POL – SU 5)
__________________________________________________________ FEMALE NOMINEES Rachel Choong (ENG – SS 6)
Helle Sofie Sagoy (NOR – SL 4)
Julie Thrane (DEN – SU 5)
MOST PROMISING PLAYERS OF THE YEAR – (EDDY CHOONG AWARD)
MALE NOMINEES Huang Kaixiang (CHN) 19 years old
** Zheng Siwei (CHN) 18 years old
__________________________________________________________ FEMALE NOMINEES Chen Qingchen (CHN) 18 years old
** He Bingjiao (CHN) 18 years old
** Saena Kawakami (JPN) 17 years old