How USA's Beiwen Zhang fought all discrimination to smash her way to the Tokyo Olympics
Zhang has witnessed an eventful journey en route the quadrennial event; with a lack of coaching support, funds and even citizenship!
Beiwen Zhang's journey in the world of badminton has been nothing short of a grueling rally; involving rigorous drives and follow throughs. However, the 30-year old has always picked her way up, and smashed her obstacles to rise above the ranks. Bereft of funds, coaches, infrastructure, and any other support, Zhang has been extremely persistent and self-motivated to achieve the current status in her career. A current rank of World No. 14, and an Olympic berth are the fruits of her humungous efforts against all odds, odds which were not only limited to the sporting ecosystem, but much further.
Zhang's was born in 1990 in China, where she lived till the age of 13. She moved to Singapore at the onset of teenage, and represented the nation for almost a decade. Her major milestones during this period included a bronze apiece in the 2007 World Junior Championships and 2009 Southeast Asian Games. The World No. 14 had an alleged fall out with the then-singles coach of Singapore, Luan Ching in 2011, post which she moved to Las Vegas in the US. Zhang was asked to return by the Singapore Badminton Association, however, she decided against it, and kickstarted her stint in the USA.
Things did not come easy for the shuttler, as she suffered from the lack of popularity of the sport in the USA. She made continuous efforts to arrange for her training, but could not find the requisite arrangements in the country, which forced her to head back to Singapore for her training. In addition to this, there was a stark lack of funds for the sport in the country. Zhang points it out that while Swimming has 34 Olympic medals, Badminton has only 5, which makes the sport lesser lucrative for investment.
(Image Source: The Hindu)
However, Zhang did not allow the situation to get the better of her, as she rose above the ranks, winning four international challenge tournaments in 2013. She continued her purple patch, winning the 2014 U.S. Open Grand Prix, the 2014 Brazil Open Grand Prix and the 2014 Dutch Open Grand Prix. While Badminton World Federation (BWF) did not require the players to have citizenship of the country they represented in tournaments, the case was BieBeiwen Zhangreverse with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Ineligibility for a US passport led Zhang to miss the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Zhang did not lose hope and continued up scaling her game, and her efforts bore fruit in the form of a victory in the Indian Open, wherein she edged past defending champion and Olympic silver medalist PV Sindhu in a hard fought victory. She did not let the lack of coaching support become an obstacle, as she commenced analyzing her own strengths and weaknesses. In the process, Zhang started training younger athletes for the sport. The 30-year old has come a long way, in a journey which has been extremely eventful, and has given the likes of Li Xuerui, Saina Nehwal and Nozomi Okuhara a run for their money.
The shuttler still trains in Singapore, majorly out of her own funds, with Yonex and some sponsors in Hong Kong being her only financial constants. All the efforts of Zhang are currently synergized at a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics, as she intends to make a difference and ring in a positive attitude towards the sport in the USA.