July 8, 2022
When it comes to Masters badminton, England are a leading light on the international stage.
Masters competition allows senior players who still know their way around the court to compete at the highest level of competition.
And a recent win in the International Nations Cup tournament was a further vindication of a strong domestic set-up in England.
That includes a standard circuit with a dozen tournaments every year, with age groups ranging from over-35s to over-70s.
Peter Emptage, the England Masters Team Manager, believes the quality of play on the circuit has never been higher.
“In terms of our organisation for Masters badminton,” he said. “We are world-leading.”
“We’ve got a superbly run domestic tournament circuit that leads to us being able to put out very strong teams.
“Our domestic circuit is better than any other in the world and we regularly get more medals that any other countries. This is over a long period as well.
“Within the English team at major competitions, we always travel with one of the biggest contingents.
“More recently other nations are starting to catch us up, but we have been ahead of the curve in the senior game for a long time.
“The competition is good and we’ve got to make sure we stay ahead of the game.”
The current team certainly seems to be doing just that.
England managed to win a thrilling final in the Perfly Nations Cup 2022 by the barest of margins against Denmark – the match decided on countback for the number of games won after a 3-3 draw.
The weekend showed just how high the level of play in the Masters game can be. The age levels may vary but the level of skill required doesn’t drop.
Emptage explains that is perhaps not surprising, considering the amount of depth he and the selectors can choose from.
“Anyone who wants to be considered to play on the international stage can do and then we select the best team we can,” he explained.
“The decisions are tough and the competition is fierce.
“But everyone who takes part on the international stage always enjoys it, that pride of representing their country.”
Some of the sport’s former top stars are regulars on the circuit, including former All England champion Nick Ponting, Olympic bronze medallist Jo Goode and Peter’s wife and former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Julie Bradbury.
But it isn’t only the chance to play against some of the best players from days gone by that should encourage people to get involved.
As the benefits of exercise as we get older become even more obvious, the importance of senior sport cannot be underestimated.
Emptage feels this is why the Masters game will only go from strength to strength.
“I think the competition is worth promoting for this reason really,” he added.
“As people live longer and maintaining an active lifestyle is more mainstream, having a competition designed for a variety of age groups and older players, is more important than ever.
“The BWF [Badminton World Federation] are helping and driving as many people as possible to stay in the sport as they get older.
“So the events are well backed and delivered on an enormous scale.”
The numbers support this. Usually, around 400 players participate in the international All England Masters Championships, whilst at the English National Championship finals, (the pinnacle of the domestic season), there are between 300-350 shuttlers.
So, will the success continue with the senior game growing further?
Emptage believes so.
“When you play at this age you travel with so many, you enjoy the off the court as well,” he said.
“I’ve always loved the sport – but I have an even greater appreciation for it now.
“Playing Masters you travel around the world to places you would never go to normally. You meet badminton players from around the world and see the culture.
“When you’re younger and playing, you can feel pressure, trying to make something of yourself in the game. But at this stage, you can really enjoy it.”
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