Olympics: Badminton's future in doubt, says gold medallist Taufik

(REUTERS) - Badminton's Olympic future is in jeopardy due to the continual mid-tournament retirements of leading players, Athens Games gold medallist Taufik Hidayat said on Wednesday.

Last week's US$1 million (S$1.2 million) Korean Open, the most lucrative super series event on the schedule, was blighted by a number of match retirements by players in the singles and doubles draws, a now common occurrence on the tour.

Chinese coaches have long been criticised for withdrawing their players to stop them going head-to-head in tournaments, and Indonesian Taufik is concerned the International Olympic Committee could end the sport's 20-year run at the Games.

"The situation has worsened since I started playing badminton at the age of 15. The constant retirements of players do not augur well for the game," the 31-year-old told Malaysian media on Wednesday.

"There is talk that badminton may not make it as a sport in the 2020 Olympics. We must bear in mind that other sports are strongly lobbying to be included.

"I have just started my own centre. It caters for eight or nine-year-olds. Now, I am not sure whether they will get a chance to play in the Olympics."

Squash is one of the sports that is campaigning heavily for a place in the 2020 Olympics alongside karate, the Chinese martial art of wushu, baseball/softball, roller sports, wakeboarding and climbing.

Badminton received a barrage of negative headlines in London last year after four women's doubles pairs played to lose matches in order to get a more favourable draw.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) disqualified and banned the players involved and Taufik called for the Malaysia-based body to take a similar stance on withdrawals.

"I hope to see BWF amend or strengthen their rules and regulations on players and the tournaments. And the BWF must also make a greater effort to make the sport big in America and Africa," said Taufik.

The Indonesian is in Kuala Lumpur to take part in the ongoing Malaysian Open, one of his final events before he retires in June after his home Indonesia Open.

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