TF South badminton prepares to cheer on Olympian Beiwen Zhang

432
Badminton
From left to right: Kailey Klausner, Bre Lopez, U.S. Olympian Beiwen Zhang, Azul Rodriguez, and Alondra Rodriguez. (Photo provided)

Four TFS players watched and talked with top U.S. badminton player in May

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (July 20, 2021) – As the world anticipates the the start of the Olympic games in Tokyo, many local viewers will watch world-renowned badminton player Beiwen Zhang for the first time.

For four TF South badminton players, it won’t be the first time.

On multiple occasions in May, TF South athletes Kailey Klausner, Bre Lopez, Azul Rodriguez, and Alondra Rodriguez watched the future Olympian train at Pioneer Badminton Club in Bolingbrook.

TF South badminton coach Bob Tengstrand set up the opportunity, using his connections at the Pioneer club to learn of Zhang’s presence there. The four athletes and Tengstrand went to the club a handful of times at the end of May to watch Zhang train, and got the chance to meet the world-renowned star.

“The girls were just in awe of her,” Tengstrand said. “I think they have a deeper appreciation of the sport now. You know, if you see one of the top players in the world playing, you get a different feeling for her.”

World-renowned

According to the Badminton World Federation, Zhang is currently ranked 14th in the world in women’s singles badminton. She is the only American athlete ranked in the top 25 in singles or doubles for either gender. She will compete in Tokyo starting on Sunday, July 25 where she will match up against the best in the world for a chance to earn a medal.

“She’s probably [the United States’] first really bona fide badminton player that’s going to maybe medal,” said Tengstrand, who spoke with Zhang multiple times. “She thought she has a chance to medal, maybe not gold, but she thought she had a good shot at a medal.”

Between time at TF North and TF South, Tengstrand has coached badminton for nearly four decades. He hopes that Zhang’s success will start to bring more attention to the sport.

“In the United States, it’s kind of a weird thing because it’s not as popular as in other countries. In other countries, it’s a number-one sport. In Denmark, it is the top sport,” he said. “[Zhang] said when she’s in Denmark, she’ll be swamped by people for autographs.”

The TF South players all received autographs from the U.S. star as well.

Since badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992, it is one of only a handful of events that the United States has never medaled in. Zhang hopes to change that, and the TF South badminton team plans to cheer her on.

TF South support

“We think we’ll have a viewing party. When she plays, we’re going to get all the girls together and kind of have a pizza party and watch her on the big screen TV,” Tengstrand said.

“It was a great experience,” he continued, speaking of his and his four players’ interactions with Zhang. “And now we’re hoping to top it off with, ‘Hey we know her,’ and see her play on TV. You take more interest in rooting for her now because we met her. We’re excited to see her play, and the girls will probably never forget it.”

Zhang’s first match is scheduled for Sunday, July 25 at 6 p.m. Tokyo time, which is 4 a.m. U.S. Central Daylight time.

TF South is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue, Lansing, IL.

Related