Axelsen Says Nothing To Prove But Still "hungry"

Viktor Axelsen
22/05/2024 03:57 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 (Bernama) -- World number one and reigning Olympic champion, Viktor Axelsen says he has nothing to prove to anyone after having won all major crowns in badminton, except the Sudirman Cup.

Speaking to reporters after defeating Japan’s Koki Watanabe 21-14, 21-11 in the Malaysia Masters first round at the Axiata Arena here, Axelsen said he is not under any additional pressure to end his five-month title drought since winning the season-ending World Tour Finals in December.

The 30-year-old Dane said he finds a lot of peace in what he has accomplished over the years, winning gold and bronze medals at the Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016 Olympics respectively, two World Championships gold medals (2017, 2022), 2016 Thomas Cup, and three European Championship titles (2016, 2018, 2022), among other achievements on top of 23 World Tour titles.

“Who should I prove everything to? I don’t play for anybody else’s sake, I play for my own sake and my family, and I don’t need to prove anything. I am just as hungry as I was at 15. I can get back and win everything, and that makes me very dangerous.

“I am doing my best every single day. I have had a lot of issues with my body over the last few months, which I am slowly figuring out now. I am feeling physically stronger and stronger, I rely heavily on my physical abilities in many games, and I am coming back now, really excited about playing again,” he said.

After losing to China’s Shi Yu Qi in the season-opening Malaysia Open semi-finals in January, Axelsen was eliminated in the second round of the French Open, quarter-finals of the All England and Thomas Cup, and semi-finals of the European Championships.

He had previously suffered from lower leg and left foot injuries during the Denmark Open in October, 2023.

Commenting on being considered among the red-hot favourites for the Paris 2024 Olympics gold, he said he is aware of the matter, and it is usual in sports.

“Of course, in sports, there’s always talk about favourites, build-up, hype, and everything, which is great, but I don’t take every part of it. I just try to be the best version of myself on and off the court.

“Looking at how much I have won, I am so happy about everything I have accomplished. Everything I win from now is a bonus, and I am still hungry, so for me personally, that’s a great position to be in,” he said.

Since badminton was contested as a medal sport in the Olympics starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games, no other player than China’s legend Chen Long (2008, 2012) has won the gold medal twice in the men’s singles category.

In the second round tomorrow, Axelsen will be challenged by qualifier Panitchaphon Teeraratsul of Thailand, who beat Taiwan’s Chi Yu Jen 21-16, 10-21

Meanwhile, in other men’s singles fixtures, the 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew was eliminated 20-22, 21-9, 19-21 by Taiwan’s Wang Tzu Wei, while the latter’s compatriot Chou Tien Chen beat Rasmus Gemke of Denmark 21-14, 21-17.