Sports

Badminton ace won’t rest on his laurels; Canada Cup through Sunday at Richmond Olympic Oval

Sweden’s No. 1 men’s singles badminton player isn’t comfortable resting on his laurels.

With only 371 days until the opening of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England, just about everything Henri Hurskainen does is centred around securing a spot on the Swedish team. That includes a carefully-orchestrated schedule that this week sees him playing in the 2011 Yonex Canada Open, on through Sunday, at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

“We had planned to play in the Singapore Open (in June), but felt with my world ranking (46th) it was probably better to play in the U.S. and Canadian opens, giving me a better chance to go further in the competition and get more qualifying points for the Olympics,” he said.

Hurskainen, 25, won his first two matches at the U.S. Open last week in Orange County, Calif. over Canada’s Sergiy Shatenko (29-9, 21-8) and England’s Rajiv Ouseph (21-18, 14-21, 21-13) before bowing to the world’s 45th-ranked player in Taiwan’s Hsuan Yi Hsueh (22-20, 21-17). Ranked ninth in the Canada Open, Hurskainen needed only 23 minutes to eliminate Austria’s David Obernosterer (21-7, 21-11) in first-round play Wednesday, and anticipated a possible showdown with Marc Zwiebler of Germany  (the world’s No. 16-ranked player) later in the tournament.

Hurskainen, who with his blue eyes, red hair and beard bears a striking resemblance to Vancouver Canucks twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, spends upwards of six hours a day honing his skills. But he said there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I’m particularly working on getting a lot faster and explosive,” he said. “Men’s singles play is getting more and more (noted for) that kind of play. You have to (keep up) because everyone is so good now.”

Most of the tournament’s other top players also breezed to victories in the opening round, including No. 1 seed and world No. 4 Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia who defeated Anthony Dumartheray of Switzerland (21-16, 21-13).

Among the Canadians, Stephan Wojcikiewicz of Ottawa (Canada’s highest-ranked player at No. 63) edged out Mahmoud Elsayaad of Egypt (12-21, 21-17, 21-18) and Michele Li of Toronto (ranked No. 40 in the world) fought through a tough opening round match in women’s singles play against Peru’s Christina Aicardi (21-12, 21-14).

“I just have to get my best level out,” said Li. “When I do that it is difficult for opponents to handle my attack.”

The Olympic qualifying event features 250 players from 40 countries. Ticket and tournament information is at canadaopen.ca.

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