Synthetic shuttles to come into play

Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew believes it will take time for players to get used to the synthetic feather shuttles, but lauded the BWF for making badminton more sustainable. ST FILE PHOTO
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew believes it will take time for players to get used to the synthetic feather shuttles, but lauded the BWF for making badminton more sustainable. ST FILE PHOTO

BWF says they can be used for tournaments from 2021, in bid to 'increase sustainability'

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday announced that synthetic feather shuttlecocks would be allowed for its international tournaments from next year, in "an effort to increase sustainability within the sport".

Synthetic feather shuttles, it said, had proven more durable and economical compared to traditional naturally feathered shuttles when they were tested during three BWF tournaments in 2018.

BWF secretary-general Thomas Lund said elite shuttlers were able to adjust to the "slight variances".

"During the various tests, it was discovered that the synthetic feather shuttle could reduce shuttlecock usage up to 25 per cent, providing a significant environmental and economic edge for badminton going forward," the BWF said in a statement.

It also insisted that the synthetic shuttles provided "a very similar flight and performance" as naturally feathered ones.

Lund added: "The vision is to ensure the long-term sustainability of badminton and become less dependent on using natural feathers for shuttlecocks."

Naturally feathered shuttlecocks are made of 16 feathers plucked from the left wings of a live goose or duck, a method which has been deemed cruel by animal rights activists in recent years.

The curvature of the wing feathers allows the shuttle to spin and fly more consistently, according to Satoshi Yuza, a promotion manager at Yonex, in a 2016 article in the New York Times.

Singapore's top male shuttler Loh Kean Yew told The Straits Times that he was looking forward to testing the new innovation for the first time. He noted that consistency would be key in the implementation of the new synthetic feather shuttlecocks.

The world No. 39 said: "It is good that the BWF is doing more to make badminton more sustainable.

"We have not tried the new shuttlecocks yet, but I think it will take some time for players to get used to them."

Singapore badminton player Yeo Jia Min, who is 26th in the women's world rankings, also applauded the move. "It's good they are trying to make shuttlecocks sustainable because they are easily spoiled and players change them many times a day," said the 20-year-old.

BETTER OPTION

The synthetic feather shuttle could reduce shuttlecock usage up to 25 per cent, providing a significant environmental and economic edge for badminton.

BWF, on the tests in three tournaments in 2018.

While feathered shuttlecocks offer higher aerodynamic lift, synthetic ones made from plastic or nylon are more durable.

Malaysia's three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei had tried the synthetic shuttlecocks in 2017. The 37-year-old, who retired last year, said then: "It was not consistent then. Sometimes, it felt like the traditional shuttle but at times, it was not. I wasn't comfortable.

"But I'm open to the idea of using the synthetic ones if it's constantly experimented with and tested thoroughly.

"The players should not feel the difference that much."

The BWF worked with Japanese equipment and apparel manufacturer Yonex, and said that it is now up to various tournament hosts to decide whether to use the new product. But it expects that it would take a number of years before synthetic shuttles are widely adopted.


Game changers in other sports

FOOTBALL

The video assistant referee (VAR) was written into the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board in 2018, after trials in the Australian, German and Italian leagues.

Typically, a team of officials review video replays of relevant incidents to decide on the legitimacy of goals, penalties and red cards, as well as to ensure there is no mistaken identity in terms of bookings.

While the intention of the implementation was for "clear and obvious errors" and "serious missed incidents" to be corrected, there have been quite a few controversies, especially with offside calls when the VAR was introduced in the English Premier League this ongoing season.

TABLE TENNIS

In a bid to make the sport more appealing to spectators, the size of table tennis balls was increased from 38mm to 40mm in 2000. This results in less spin and bounce, and supposedly longer rallies.

In 2014, the material of the ball was changed from celluloid to plastic and its size also increased slightly. The quality of the new balls was poor at first and attracted much flak, although it gradually improved.

Last year, the International Table Tennis Federation approved coloured rubbers on the bats (other than the traditional red and black) to boost the visual outlook of the sport, while there is also a proposal to use yellow balls after Tokyo 2020.

CRICKET

In 2017, the International Cricket Council instructed that when a batsman opts to wear a helmet, it must be compliant with the new British Standard.

These helmets have a narrower gap between the peak and grille, and are not adjustable on each side, reducing the chances of a ball bursting through the opening.

The changes were made in the wake of the death of Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes, who was hit on the side of his head by a bouncer.

FORMULA ONE

Making its F1 debut in 2009, the Kinetic Energy Recovery System recovers kinetic energy from the heat created by braking and converts it into power that can be used to boost acceleration.

Two years later, the Drag Reduction System was introduced in F1 to further promote overtaking.

An adjustable rear wing helps to increase top speed by reducing aerodynamic drag.

David Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2020, with the headline 'Synthetic shuttles to come into play'. Print Edition | Subscribe