Talent Is Overrated

On February 16, 2011, in Instructional, by Emmet Gibney

Talent Can Take You Places, But Not That Far...

Talent is something that we look at as mystical and unexplainable.  We look at these special people who somehow excel at different things with seemingly minimal effort.  In this case we’ll obviously be looking at talent and how it relates to badminton.

Over the course of a number of generations of badminton players we seem to pay special attention to those players who appear to demonstrate exceptional “talent”.  They excel at a young age and seem well ahead of their peers.  The current generation of young phenoms that we are paying the most attention to are Viktor Axelsen from Denmark and Ratchanok Intanon from Thailand, the boys world junior champion and girls world junior champion respectively.  Both players are very young and are starting to show promise at a senior level very early and as a result they garner a lot of attention.  This attention is well deserved, however I think that these types of players tend to develop a certain mythology around them and their “talent”.

Back in the late 90′s the hot young player was Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat.  As a 17 year old he made the final of the All England Championships and surprised the world with his rapid ascent to the top of the badminton world.  Hidayat has always had a reputation of being a lazy player and that he does not work as hard as his counterparts as a result of his talent.  I would argue this to be yet another case of mythology.  You can almost be certain that as a younger player Hidayat played far more badminton than his counterparts, and was no doubt obsessed with the game at a young age.  The hours of work he put into the game would probably astound most of us.

In spite of the exceptional “talents” that have played the game of badminton it is rare that we see someone that is so much better than everyone else.  Even Lin Dan is not invincible in spite of the aura he seems to carry around with him wherever he may be playing.  He loses, and he does so regularly.  Even in the years where he was “dominating” he was not unbeaten.  Also, as far as “talent” goes many would argue that a player such as Lin Dan is not as naturally gifted as Taufik Hidayat or even his compatriot Bao Chunlai who’s shot execution is beautiful.  Something that Lin Dan has above most others is his willingness to push himself in spite of reaching the pinnacle of the sport.

What does all of this mean for you?  Chances are you’re not on the cusp of international super stardom, and if you are thanks for reading our website :)  If you’re a local competitive player, or you just play in your club league you can still learn a thing or two here.  The point that I’m trying to make here is that we often look at talent as some innate characteristic that we are either born with or not, and if we weren’t so luck as to win the genetic lottery then our destiny is decided.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The most important thing you need in order to win is grit, otherwise known as determination or hard work.  That includes hard work on a day to day basis for your training, and also from point to point when you are playing.  You have to be willing to make things as hard as you can for your opponent.

I have tried to delude myself in the past into thinking that I was talented and that meant I didn’t need to work as hard as other people did.  Big mistake.  The hard workers are the ones who slowly but surely creep up on you, and before you realize it they’ve passed you.  Good luck catching up to them too, because they aren’t going to let up.  Sure, maybe you can improve faster than them if you put in the effort, but when you’re fighting from behind it’s a very daunting task.

So many players who excelled at a young age tend to fall off as they get older.  As 12 year olds they crushed everyone because of they’re “talent”.  Things got closer as they hit 15 or 16 years old, but they still managed to pull out the wins because of their “talent”.  Then they hit 17, 18 and finally the adult categories where their “talent” stopped being the gift it once was, and instead becomes a curse.  How could talent be a curse you ask?  Because after years and years of people telling you how good you were without you needing to push yourself, suddenly you need to work hard and you don’t know how.  The older you get the more competitive badminton gets and the same can be said of life in general.  The best thing you can do is teach yourself how to work hard.  Alternatively you could just wait to enter the masters, but chances are you haven’t been taking care of your body if you don’t know how to work ;)

I’ll leave you with an old Chinese saying about hard work:

No man who rises before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.

Work hard my friends, and success is only a matter of time.

After a good run at last week’s Indonesia Super Series Taufik Hidayat was upset by Chen Long, a young Chinese upstart. Chen won the match in 3 close games, 21-14, 20-22, 21-19. Following his win over Hidayat, Chen then defeated India’s Arvind Bhat very quickly 21-5, 21-11.

Elsewhere in the draw it seems another Chinese youngster, Zhou Wenlong, was unable to emulate Chen Long’s success as he was easily defeated by Lee Chong Wei 21-18, 21-4. Lee seems to have an ability to absolutely destroy even the best of players on his good days.

Also of note is Lee’s teammate Wong Choong Han who has also made it to the quarter-final stage, but he has yet to truly be tested. He knocked out another Malaysian, Kuan Beng Hong, 21-19, 21-16. Now he plays the Chinese qualifier Gao Huan who will no doubt be tired after playing extra rounds.

In the women’s singles India’s Saina Nehwal fresh off of her win last week dodged a bullet against Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand winning in 3 close games to book her place in the quarter finals against a Chinese qualifier Wang Xin.

Something I have noticed in the women’s singles is now that Zhang Ning has retired it seems as though this event is much more open to other competitors. No doubt this will make the event much more interesting to the fans.

In the men’s doubles there are 5 out of 8 pairs representing Malaysia. Good results for Malaysia, but it probably has more to do with the small numbers of big names in contention here.

Stay Tuned for more updates from the Yonex Sunrise Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold 2009.

Yonex Sunrise Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold 2009 Draws

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