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Kicking up a shuttlecock storm

August 06, 2017

High flyers

High flyers:  Members of the Hong Kong Shuttlecock Team demonstrate their agility by using two moves, overhead strike and cut-down strike, to slam the shuttlecock over the net.

Shuttlecock ambassador

Shuttlecock ambassador:  Connie Mak was one of the first women on the Hong Kong team and promotes her love for the sport through her work as a physical education teacher.  

Flexing out

Flexing out:  Team member Anthony Cheung must maintain a high level of flexibility as a spiker, raising his leg above the net to kick over the shuttlecock.

Popularity boost

Popularity boost:  The team’s coach Ng Yiu-keung (in blue) hopes shuttlecock can become a mainstream competitive sport worldwide and aspires for it to be included as a medal sport in the Asian Games.

Players of the Hong Kong Shuttlecock Team high-kicked their way to their best ever results in the 9th World Shuttlecock Championships in July.

 

The team nabbed four bronze medals in the men's team event, women's team event, mixed doubles and men's singles.

 

Shuttlecock is a sport with traditional Asian origins. Players use any part of the body, except the arms and hands, to keep a weighted feathered object, known as the shuttlecock, airborne.

 

Hong Kong Shuttlecock Team coach Ng Yiu-keung wants to promote the sport to dispel its image of being a neighbourhood game. 

 

"Many people think playing shuttlecock is just about kicking it around in a circle, but it has actually been developed into a formal competitive sport."

 

Breaking it down

There are 21 points per game.

 

The team that wins two rounds out of three will win the match. In a team match and doubles match, each side must pass the shuttlecock to their opponents within four kicks.

 

Each athlete can kick it up to two times. In a singles match, each athlete has to pass the shuttlecock to the opposing team within two kicks.

 

"If the shuttlecock hits the body, it counts as one time. We use the four kicks to execute an attack. When the shuttlecock is shot down in the opposite court, we win one point," Mr Ng said.

 

There are four basic ways to manoeuvre the shuttlecock, using the inside of the foot, the outside of the foot, the top of the foot and the thigh.

 

Another two moves are used to slam the shuttlecock over the net.

 

"One of them is an overhead strike. The spiker keeps their back to the net and kicks the shuttlecock overhead to the opposite side of the court. Another move is a cut-down strike, using the bottom of the feet to hit the shuttlecock. The spiker needs to raise their leg above the net to kick the shuttlecock. So flexibility is very important."

 

Shuttlecock competitors wear special footwear. The top of the shoe is designed to be flatter, which helps them catch the shuttlecock with their feet and boosts accuracy.

 

Home turf triumph

This year's championships took place in Hong Kong for the first time at Lai Chi Kok Park Sports Centre.

 

Hong Kong Shuttlecock Team member Anthony Cheung said playing on his home turf gave additional motivation for him and his teammates.

 

"When we heard 'Hong Kong, add oil!' it was a shot in the arm for us. I had the chance to play in front of a cheering home crowd."

 

Cheung joined the squad in 2000 and plays his part as a spiker.

 

"The spiker can perform an overhead strike and a cut-down strike. The feeling is amazing. I enjoy it a lot."

 

He started playing shuttlecock during recess in secondary school. He won various competitions before joining the Hong Kong Shuttlecock Team.

 

He finds team matches very exciting.

 

"When it is three players on three players, we can execute our attack and defence more strategically. Intelligence and physical stamina are essential to win a match."

 

Cheung helped Hong Kong win a bronze medal in the men's team event in last month's championships.

 

But the 2010 competition holds a special meaning for Cheung as it was his squad's first medal win in the championships.

 

"I trained hard for 10 years and felt there was a big chance we would win a medal. But my teammate was injured before the match. So I had to help him out and I really pushed myself. In the end, we succeeded. It was a very emotional moment for me."

 

Promoting shuttlecock

Connie Mak helped Hong Kong win a bronze medal in the women's team event in this year's championships.

 

She joined the team in 2004. She was one of the first women on the team and is the squad's setter.

 

"It gives me great satisfaction and is challenging. When the shuttlecock is flying anywhere in the court, I kick it once or twice and let the spiker launch an attack."

 

Mak also promotes her love for the sport through her work as a physical education teacher.

 

"We have added shuttlecock training to each grade's curriculum in my school. Our principal also congratulated me at school assembly after I competed overseas. If students feel you love a sport, they will look up to you as a role model."

 

Both Ng and Mak hope shuttlecock can become a mainstream competitive sport worldwide, and aspire for it to be included as a medal sport in the Asian Games.



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