Many Olympians and Olympic medalists will tell you that the most difficult part of the Olympic journey is qualifying for the Games. This is certainly the case in the sport of badminton.
The Olympic qualifying period for the 2004 Athens Games lasted one calendar year, beginning May 1, 2003 and continuing through April 30, 2004 . Participation in the Olympic Games is solely determined by an athlete's international ranking at the end of this Olympic qualifying period.
Despite nagging injuries during the early stages of the Olympic qualifying season, the Orange, Calif.-based men's doubles team of Kevin Han (1996, 2000 U.S. Olympian) and Howard Bach have successfully navigated the road to Athens, and have now focused their training to achieve peak performance during the Olympic competition in August.
Han and Bach will be looking to make history at the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad this summer. The United States has never won an Olympic medal in the sport of badminton, and though they will be facing an uphill climb, Han and Bach hope to record the best Olympic performance ever for USA Badminton. This has been the duo's goal since joining forces as a doubles team in 2001.
Han and Bach, both very capable singles players, decided to put their individual careers on hold following the 2000 season in order to concentrate on becoming a better doubles team. Both likely could have made the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team as singles players had they pursued that option. Han has competed in two Olympic Games as a singles player, but has never advance beyond the opening round. Prior to beginning the 2001 season, Han and Bach weighed their options and decided that they had a better chance of winning a medal for the USA as a doubles team than either would have individually.
When an athlete makes a transition from an event or discipline to which he is accustomed to a new one there is a period of adjustment and growing pains. The duo went through a stage of learning how to play well together as a doubles team and how to capitalize on each other's strengths and minimize each other's weaknesses. The two have proven very capable at adapting to each other's style of play and have developed into a very solid doubles team.
The tandem of Han and Bach has proved fruitful for the U.S. in the 2003-2004 season. The duo won the gold medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo , Dominican Republic last August. They followed that with a silver medal from the 2003 Brazil International, a gold medal at the 2003 Dave Freeman Classic and a silver medal at the Guatemala Open. In 2004 their performance at the Thomas Cup Pan American Zone Championships was a large factor in the U.S. winning that event, propelling the U.S. team to the Thomas Cup Finals, May 7-14 in Jakarta , Indonesia . The duo wrapped up the 2004 Olympic qualifying period in fine fashion, winning the Peru Open in April.
With the crucial Olympic qualifying period behind them, Han and Bach have turned their focus squarely on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens . They will train and compete this summer with one goal in mind, producing the best-ever finish for USA Badminton in Olympic competition.