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Culture

From China to Athens for Germany

Germany loves badminton, but not quite as much as China. Chinese athletes dominate the sport, but fortunately for Germany, one of them, Huaiwen Xu, will be playing for her adopted country in Athens.

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Huaiwen Xu was born in China, but will compete in Athens for Germany

Soft-spoken Huaiwen Xu has a gentle way of expressing herself, but you sense a power and reserve in her that is sure to help her score points at the Olympics. Born and raised in China, she came to Germany four years ago following a string of disappointments in her homeland.

The 25-year-old Xu comes from a family of athletes. Her parents were professional volleyball and basketball players, so she was familiar with ball sports from an early age. She switched over to the shuttlecock when she was about ten, and has kept her grip on the badminton racket ever since.

She decided to play badminton professionally when she was 13, and by age 21, had come in third place three different times in the Chinese national championships. But she never made the cut for the big league.

“There are good and really good Chinese players, we were competing for just one or two spots...no chance for international play,” she said.

Too short?

Speedminton Spieler

Badmiton is a fast-moving game

Chinese coaches told her she was too short. They were looking for long-limbed players. For the 160-centimeter-tall Xu, it was a reality shock. So, she began looking elsewhere for a chance to use her talents and play internationally. She applied by e-mail to German badminton clubs. Four years ago, she came to the Friedrichshafen club in Southern Germany.

“I played for that club for three seasons and then met the German national coach. He said my level of play is good and character is okay,” she said.

Once Xu became a German citizen last year, there was no stopping her from playing on the German team at the Olympics. But she admits that it wasn’t easy at first playing with the other German nationals.

“They didn’t really like me at first, but then the coach talked to them,” Xu explained.

She said the biggest challenge at the Olympic Games will come from the Chinese players, whom are incredibly dedicated to their sport. But win or lose, Xu wants to stay involved in badminton after the Olympics by becoming a coach.

She probably won’t have any problems finding eager players train. Not only will her talent and friendly determination lure them. They’ll also be familiar with her image since becoming the face of the Bitburger Open badminton tournament.