Badminton

Chen Long, returning Li Xuerui lead strong Chinese Thomas and Uber Cup squads

The Chinese women are hoping for a fourth Uber Cup win on the spin.

Team China is hoping for a clean sweep of this year’s Thomas and Uber cups in Bangkok, sending in men’s badminton big guns Chen Long, Shi Yuqui and Lin Dan as their women shuttlers aim for a fourth win on the spin.

The prestigious biennial event, which starts Sunday, brings together 16 top teams from five continents for a week of intense competition for the men’s Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup which is contested by the women.

China, the world’s highest ranked team, arrive with a point to prove on the men’s side after ignominiously tumbling out in the quarters on home soil two years ago.

Olympic champion Chen Long, is joined by this year’s All England champion Shi Yuqui – and the man he conquered in the final, the evergreen Lin Dan.

Flanked by a strong doubles side, China should cruise through a group with France, Australia and an under-strength India, who have left out a number of their stars to keep them fresh for the Asian Games.

“China’s men are strong this year... everyone will be praying to avoid them,” said Rajes Paul a journalist and badminton expert at The Star newspaper in Malaysia.

Japan will likely provide the main challenge with “bad boy” Kento Momota – banned from the Rio Olympics for illegal gambling – back in their ranks, she added.

Last month Momota stunned the hot favourite Chen Long to be crowned badminton’s Asian champion, breezing past Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei in straight sets on his way to the final.

Reigning Thomas Cup champions Denmark, who in 2016 made history by becoming the first non-Asian team to take the silver-gilt trophy, have their own ace in the pack - world number one Viktor Axelsen.

But they must compete without doubles star Carsten Mogensen, who has been ruled out with sickness.

Denmark’s group includes Russia, Algeria and Malaysia for whom veteran Lee Chong Wei is making his final Thomas Cup tilt.

Japan main threat

China’s bid to retain the Uber Cup has been boosted by the return from long-term injury of former world number one and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui.

Holders China have relinquished the Uber Cup once in the last 10 tournaments – in 2010 to South Korea – and the young team carry high expectations to Bangkok.

But Xuerui’s return may not be enough to help fend off the expected challenge from five-time winners Japan, who are led in the singles by world number two Akane Yamaguchi, number eight Nozomi Okuhara and who also boost two strong doubles pairs.

“It will be close. Maybe it could be the end of the era of China (dominance)?” Paul added.

The home challenge will be spearheaded by Ratchanok Intanon – the current world number four better known to Thais as Nong May – and have a solid team that should emerge comfortably from a group including India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Germany.

“We hope the women’s team can make into the semi-finals,” Grithtin Kridtanukoon, a coach on the Thai team told AFP.

The Uber cup final is scheduled for Saturday 26, with the men battling it out the next day.

The competition is proceeded by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) annual general meeting where proposals to change the scoring system to shorten games and win new fans will be discussed.

Also on the agenda is the question of match fixing.

Two Malaysian players were handed career-ending bans and fines by the BWF this month for match-fixing.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.