BADMINTON

Badminton Name Commonwealth Games team to Delhi

Thursday 22 July 2010, 9:38AM
By Oceania Badminton
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An eight-strong badminton team has been named to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The four men and four women from the length and breadth of New Zealand are a new generation of athletes set to follow in the footsteps of top Kiwi badminton players Sara Runesten-Petersen and Dan Shirley.
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general and Commonwealth Games team selector Barry Maister is delighted to welcome the athletes to the team. “They’re a young group of players and will face some tough competition in Delhi,” he said. “Many still have five to seven years ahead of them before they hit their peak and Delhi will provide invaluable international experience. Sara and Dan are great examples of what New Zealanders can achieve in this sport.”

Team manager Roger Southby says the team has worked very hard to qualify. “As amateur athletes the players have had a grueling preparation schedule mixing training, elite international competition and full-time work and study.”

One of the youngest in the team, 20-year old Oliver Leydon-Davis, mixes twice daily trainings with full-time study for a Bachelor of Business Management at Waikato University and a part-time job as a warehouse assistant. “It’s pretty full on and I’m tired by the end of the week, he said. “Some weeks are worse than others, but it’s worth it.”

Leydon-Davis says his strongest discipline is the men’s doubles which he competes in along side Henry Tam (22) and hopes that Delhi will be an important stepping stone in his career. “The Commonwealth Games is something I’d wanted to do for a long time and it’s good to finally achieve it. I’ve definitely got my eyes on the Olympics and going to Delhi is a step along the way.”

Henry Tam also pairs with Donna Haliday (29) in the mixed doubles to form the team’s top ranked partnership at 25 in the world.

Haliday, who trialled for the 2006 team to Melbourne but missed a spot, is thrilled to have been named. “It’s a dream come true and you could say I’m a late bloomer,” she said today. “I was inspired to play badminton as a child in Ohakune when a top player visited my school,” she said. “Since then, I knew I wanted to make the Commonwealth Games team.”

For Haliday, who works full-time with Badminton Auckland, says her challenge will be ensuring a favourable draw in Delhi. “We’ve got a busy schedule ahead training and competing in Asia and Tahiti before the games. Our objective is to stay within a fifth to eighth seeding to get a good draw. We’re currently sixth and our challenge is to stay there. We’ve got a tough competition ahead of us.

“India, Malaysia, England and Singapore lead the world in badminton. While China won’t be at the games, many of the other top nations will be.”

Haliday, who was one of ten athletes to receive a Cadbury Chocolate Grant of $20,000, is delighted with the support of New Zealanders she is receiving. “I’m so proud to represent New Zealand and I’ll do my best for my country.”

The New Zealand badminton players will compete in both team and individual events. Final combinations are yet to be confirmed.

Runesten-Peters and Shirley are New Zealand’s most successful badminton athletes winning one silver and three bronze Commonwealth Games medals each between Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006.

New Zealand has been competing at the Commonwealth Games since Kingston, Jamaica in 1966 and has won a total of eleven medals in the sport.

The New Zealand badminton team is:

Men:

James Eunson – Southland, 20

Oliver Leyden-Davis - Waikato, 20

Henry Tam – Auckland, 22

Joe Wu – Waikato, 24

Women:

Danielle Barry - Waitakere, 21

Michelle Chan - Auckland, 23

Donna Haliday - Auckland, 29

Anna Rankin - Southland, 20