The Curse of Olympics GOLD – Why can some players rise to the challenge whereas others choke?

Badminton fans shocked to see Kento Momota and Gideon/Sukamuljo crashing out of Olympics.

The Curse of Olympics GOLD – Why can some players rise to the challenge whereas others choke?

In every sport, there are moments for every player that define their career. In badminton, the biggest high for any player is when he/she wins Gold at the Olympic Games.

Fans have witnessed many thrilling matches and have evidenced some prolific players who have defined the game. Yet why do some badminton champions rise to the challenge whereas others choke? It is due to the pressure to perform for the country, a mental state than the physical ability, says ex-Indian International Arvind Bhat.

THE CHOKING is a term that has been exuded only in the last two decades in everyday speech. According to a sports journal that was written by Wang, J., Morris, T. and Marchant, D., 2004 - Journal of Sport Behaviour, described ‘Choking’ as “worse performance than you would not expect given his/her skills and experience”.

In the ongoing Tokyo Olympic Games, both the world no.1 in men’s singles and men’s doubles crashed out. The Japanese world no.1 had a record-breaking 2019 where he won 11 BWF titles and won 67 matches out of 73 played. Tipped as the favorite to win the gold, he went down in straight games against an unseeded South Korean, Heo Kwang-hee, 15-21, 19-21.

Similarly, the Indonesian men’s doubles duo of Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo & Marcus Fernaldi Gideon are arguably the finest pair in the history of the sport ranked 1 since September 2017. Also, bid to win the gold lost to Malaysian shuttlers Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh in straight games 21-14, 21-17. A match that was concluded in just over 30 minutes. What is the cause?

In both instances, they have won all the major titles that the badminton world has to offer but still failed to go all the way. Even the Malaysian legend, Lee Chong Wei, had been to the Olympic games finals 3 times and returned as the 2nd best with the silver medal.

The reason being the Olympics, unlike any other event which happens every four years, and the pressure to perform for the country is overwhelming. Studies suggest that the notion of physiological arousal increasing during a prestigious event and results in increased pressure. Athletes start to undertake parts outside conscious awareness. Under pressure, anxiety creeps in, pushing them to focus harder in an attempt to perform better. Any athlete who can control his or her emotions controls the situation better and will always go the extra mile. That is why every sport has one such athlete who everyone considers the Greatest Of All Time – the GOAT.

In badminton that has to be China’s Lin Dan who has won a total of 66 titles along with 2 Olympics gold medals. It will be a long time for a player to even come close to his achievements.