The Danish badminton star rose to fame when he grabbed a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and established himself when he won gold at the BWF world championships in 2017, both occasions beating the reigning world champion and two-time Olympic gold winner Lin Dan.
At this point, all was going great for the big Dane as he picked 12 BWF titles and many other medals in events like European championships and ranked world no.1. Along the way set up an exciting rivalry with Kento Momota and the Japanese having the upper hand.
Growing in Odense, Denmark, Viktor was first introduced to badminton by his father at the age of 6 years at the Odense badminton club. Viktor 4 years into the training was named the best player at the club. During his junior career 2006-09, Viktor won national junior tournaments along with junior international events like the junior German tournament. With an impressive performance, Viktor earned his spot on the national team at the age of 16 years.
Professionally, Viktor was in a great swing first of his major accomplishments after winning Boy’s singles title at the World Junior Championships and European championships. He reached his first superseries finals in 2012 at the French Open where he lost to Liew Daren Miew of Malaysia. From 2012-2018 Viktor played 11 super series, 2 Grand Prix gold finals, 2 BWF international series, and 2 World Tour events. He won 4 super series, 1 grand Prix gold, 2 international challenges, and 1 world tour event. He also featured on the Denmark national team and played 3 European championships and represented Denmark at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In 2018, Viktor won his first BWF world tour title by defeating Japan’s Kento Momota at the Malaysia Masters. Between 2018 - 2021, he won a total of 8 world tour titles, including the prestigious All England Championships in 2020 against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen. Axelsen has been featuring regularly at the finals of the All England Championships since 2019. In 2021, he clashed with Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia at the finals of the All England Championships and lost.
Viktor missed a large part of 2019 due to a persistent leg problem, he was scheduled to take part in the Indonesia Open and Japan Open in July that year. Post his leg surgery, he was again forced out of the court due to an asthma issue. In his interview with a leading news agency, Viktor said, “It's hard to say. Of course, this is a really frustrating situation, but I'm keeping my head high, and I will do whatever I can to be back as soon as possible”.
He took to Instagram to inform about his situation.
2020 was a very significant year for the tall Dane as he was coming back to the court post health issues and COVID break that barred him from playing any sort of badminton. He says, “It's hard to say. I want to use this period as an opportunity to practise hard and get back stronger. I'm just trying to focus on things that are under my control, the current situation is something that is out of my hands. I'm just trying to adapt the best way I can and hopefully, this break will benefit me when we return to competitive badminton”.
Post-COVID the world witnessed a different Viktor, a mature, strong, and more serious player. He won 3 out of 5 tournaments leading up to the Olympics and established himself as a hot favorite to win the Olympic Gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
And he did not disappoint.
From the group stages, the Dane did not even drop a game and made everyone clear that he was the man to beat.
Viktor said, ”This is the biggest achievement you can have as a badminton player, and this means the world to me”. Viktor followed the footsteps of former Danish great Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, who had won gold at the Atlanta Games, and Larsen was the last Olympics gold winner from outside Asia. Axelsen beat reigning Olympic gold champion world no.6 Chen Long of China and won back-to-back medals at the quadrennial event.
We spoke to Mr. Arvind Bhat, Bengaluru Raptors Chief Coach, and one of the very few who have worked with Axelsen during his PBL days, “In his young days, Viktor was obsessed about being perfect in everything he does. He had this thinking that he had to be perfect always and would not settle for anything less on court or off it. Early in his career, there were occasions in some matches that he would keep trying to hit a perfect drop shot or a perfect service even if it was not coming on that day in the match. He was so adamant that he did not mind losing matches and was always questioning himself why a certain shot has not come. Many people and coaches told him that it’s ok not be perfect in matches and to play safe etc. but he seemed to be bull headed. He challenged himself to be perfect” he said.
"When you win an Olympic final in straight games like this against Cheng Long, I think you can say that you've been at least really, really close to your best," Axelsen said post his victory. We believe Viktor is in a league of his own and with his level of commitment, there are many other records that he is going to write on his name in the coming days.