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Sports This Week: AirBadminton a new sport brings outdoor fun

At the Pan Am Qualifier of the ANOC World Beach Games 2023 men’s and women’s triples were showcased, with games played on sand.
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A new form of badminton has emerged.

YORKTON - What is AirBadminton?

Badminton as we know it is a popular, fun and inclusive sport with more than 300 million active players globally, encouraging participation and excitement around the game of Badminton. AirBadminton is an ambitious new development project designed by the Badminton World Federation to create opportunities for people of all ages and ability to play badminton on hard, grass and sand surfaces in parks, gardens, streets, playgrounds and beaches around the world.

“It’s a new direction kind of,” offered John Li  who was part of the Canadian men’s team competing at the Pan Am Qualifier of the ANOC World Beach Games 2023.

Li, who hails from Edmonton said AirBadminton is looked at as a way to attract and include “more people in the sport.”

While there have been ‘lawn’ badminton sets available for years – I myself played some 50 years ago in our yard – Airbadminton offers a recently designed shuttlecock better suited to outdoor conditions.

AirShuttle is the new shuttlecock optimized for the outdoor badminton game, AirBadminton, notes

“The development of the AirShuttle has been a five-year project. It all started with a vision to develop a new outdoor shuttlecock with increased resistance to wind, to allow people to have a more positive experience of badminton outdoors.”

The main considerations were that it must be played with the same rackets and have good flight performance, spin response and durability, detailed the site.

The basic criteria of AirShuttle were:

* The shuttlecocks must have similar trajectory, acoustics and play feel to that of a traditional indoor shuttle.

* Similar flight properties with limited influence from humidity variations.

* Minimal impact from side and axial wind.

* Needed to be able to be played in winds up to 12 km/h.

* The shuttlecocks be durable and cost-effective.

During the period 2015-18, over 30 prototypes were developed and subject to rigorous testing.

“A preferred design was confirmed in early 2018 and prototypes were then tested in independent studies by the University of Alicante and the Universiti of Malaya as part of the pilot program, using groups of players from beginner level through to Olympic-level athletes,” explained

Results from this testing were analyzed and patents posted for the key design elements.

In March 2020, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) introduced the shuttlecock, AirShuttle, to the global market.

Li said the approved shuttlecock for AirBadminton is heavier than the familiar feathered ‘bird’ which helps it deal with some wind outdoors. Holes in the plastic bird “allow the wind to go through it” too, he added.

Since the bird is heavier, racquets need to be strung more loosely for AirBadminton, noted Li.

But, even with less tension the bird flies fast.

“I would say the birds are moving quite fast,” said Li, adding the weight might actually increase some shot speeds above those typically seen with the indoor game.

At the Pan Am Qualifier of the ANOC World Beach Games 2023 men’s and women’s triples were showcased, with games played on sand.

Li, however explained there is no reason AirBadminton can’t be played on grass, or other outdoor surfaces, which he said is great as that broadens the opportunity to “attract more people to access the sport.”

For international play the sport looks to connect to the growing range of ‘beach’ sports which include everything from the now well-recognized beach volleyball, to beach versions of rugby and handball.

While singles and doubles are played the triples are something rarely seen outside of some fun at practice, said Li.

Badminton is generally seen “more as an individual sport,” but with three on-court players and a fourth player on the roster, Li said it felt much more like a team sport. That was aided by the rule a player is not allowed back-to-back hits so players really need to work as a unit.

“When you play on the beach it’s a whole different dynamic,” said Li, who admitted he is more of a traditional player, but said being part of the Canadian team “was really fun.”

“. . . It’s another opportunity. I’d be happy to go play some more AirBadminton.”

The potential is certainly there, even the Olympics one day, offered Li.

“I do believe there is that vision for the sport,” he said, adding the caveat that the game is “so new: so it will take a year or two “to see where Airbadminton trends.”

The Pan Am Qualifier sets the stage for the upcoming ANOC World Beach Games which is an international multi-sport event organized by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC). The games are held biennially in odd-numbered years, with a focus on non-Olympic beach and water sports.

It was first held in 2019 in Doha, Qatar.

The second edition of the ANOC World Beach Games will take place in Bali, Indonesia on 5-12 August 2023.

“Following the great success of the inaugural edition of the Games in 2019, many of the same dynamic and exciting sports which thrilled fans in Qatar will return for Bali 2023,” noted “There will also be the addition of some new water and beach sports which will give NOCs and their fans something new to cheer about.”

The sports programme at Bali 2023 comprises: aquathlon, beach handball, beach soccer, beach tennis, beach volleyball 4×4, beach water polo, beach wrestling, individual kata, open water swimming 5km, 3x3 basketball, AirBadminton, surfing, beach sprint rowing, and WingFoil racing.