Today we’re going to talk about a juicy topic not necessarily helping you get good at badminton, but something you may not have known before. Did you know that China’s National Badminton Team does not allow couples to play mixed doubles professionally together?
The rule was created relatively recently after one incident.
Before we get into the actual incident, first we need to look at some reasons why going after your love interest at work can be problematic.
A lot of professional workplaces either forbid or discourage love relationships between employees. One of the primary reasons this rule is actually implemented is because businesses could end up with severely abusive and manipulative relationships. Many fear that a person of a high positioning in the company could go after someone of a lower position and blackmail them with notions such as firing them should they do anything that the person of the higher positioning disagrees with.
On a less serious note, it’s also because of the professionality of the workplace. Surely you don’t want people making out or having sex in business rest areas and cubicles. It can get extremely distracting for the other workers and not to mention the general unproductivity the business will have.
However, a lot of businesses are okay with relationships as long as it doesn’t interfere with the operations. And this was true for the Chinese national badminton team until that incident.
Have you ever heard of the mixed doubles pair, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yun Lei? These two players have been considered as one of the most successful mixed doubles pair having won all the major titles including multiple World Championships, numerous Asian Games, and the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
These two players actually started a relationship in 2010, but just before the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, Zhao Yun Lei actually announced that they were no longer together. That was also the year where they only won a bronze medal and shortly after, Zhao Yun Lei retired as a player.
Although this could have been the players naturally weakening because of age, the Chinese badminton team actually forbid relationships in mixed doubles.
How Relationships Affect The Players
A lot of sources actually suggest that because the two players broke up before the Olympics, their performance was significantly worse than expected. In that year, mixed doubles competition from other regions did not get much stronger, in fact, Zhao Yun Lei and Zhang Nan actually won the Asian Games that year. Thus, many people deduct that their poor performance was because of the relationship.
Chinese badminton is quite severe. Even though the pair still won a bronze medal, China aims for all gold medals especially in a sport like badminton. And because of their numbers and overwhelming competitiveness of all the players, poor performances mean that players on the national team will be switched off without notice.
But going back to relationships, two crucial factors lead to poor performances. One is how the media and surrounding people look at them, and the other is what the players are thinking about.
One of the reasons, celebrity relationships don’t last long is because all the eyes are on them. This puts the couple in under quite a bit of stress because every little action they make is being watched. Just look at some of the Kardashians. Sure, some of them might want to be in the spotlight, but I bet you there are certain times when they don’t.
I’ve seen the news all too many times about Kylie Jenner trying to hide her baby by wearing certain clothes or doing specific actions. When the media covers this stuff, someone is definitely forgetting about people’s privacy.
While Zhang Nan and Zhao Yun Lei aren’t American celebrities that are out there flashing their lifestyles and their talents, they are professional badminton players who win a lot. That means there are definitely fans of this pair and people who research and follow these players everywhere. And that also means people will talk about their relationship and post it in different places.
The truth is that professional players often read these posts and such belief or not, and it puts them under stress. There is usually a mixture of both negative and positive comments, but negative ones certainly hit the hardest. It makes the players think that they’re doing something wrong or they need to do something to make the audience happy.
Having a relationship also makes it hard for the players when they’re training or even when they’re in a game. Professional players are already built with a mindset to focus on the game, but because their significant partner is so close to them, it’s hard not to think about their relationship.
Another thing is from personal experience that I think others may perhaps also have. When I play mixed doubles with my girlfriend, I actually feel like both of us play worse. It has to do with an expectations thing. She expects that I have a high expectation of her to perform well and I think she thinks that too. I also do have my own high expectations of her and her of me as well. This caused tremendous stress and anxiety for both of us that we just automatically played worse.
If you read my Badminton Tips and Tricks #4, I actually tell a story about the roots of what makes me play good and what makes me play atrociously.
This problem may or may not have affected Zhao Yun Lei and Zhang Nan. Of course, I wouldn’t know because I haven’t actually interviewed them and neither did they say anything. Let me know what you think in the comments down below!
What Players Can Do
One thing to note is that the Chinese National Team doesn’t forbid relationships completely; just no mixed doubles ones. If you do happen to get into a relationship with your mixed doubles partner, they’ll probably just change your partnering up.
Relationships can and definitely do happen on the Chinese National Team. Although most of these relationships aren’t necessarily active players getting together, former national players to get along with active ones.
One of the examples is Lin Dan and Xie Xing Fang. These two players actually got together when both were still playing and winning World Championships, but Xie Xing Fang did retire earlier than Lin Dan. The two married September 23, 2012, and have had two sons since then.
Many other players are also in relationships but usually with someone lesser known or outside of the team.
Generally, relationships between players will hold them back, but if the players find someone to support them outside, it can be really beneficial to them.
The Chinese National Badminton Team is quite intense. They want to be void of all distractions which is why they do things like pay for their players’ living expenses and homes and sponsoring them with equipment. So when a new distraction is introduced in the form of love, the Chinese definitely wanted to take it down.
In the end, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yun Lei did move on. Both players married other people who were also badminton players and Zhang Nan continues to play pretty successfully, and Zhao Yun Lei moved on as a coach.
If you have any questions, comments, or experiences you want to share, I definitely want to hear from you! As always, go out, play some badminton, and have a great day!