UPDATE (28/05/21): Following the latest lockdown in Melbourne announced by the Victorian lockdown on 28 May 2021, the YONEX City of Melbourne tournament mentioned below is now postponed. The new dates are to be confirmed.
Friday 14 May 2021 marks ten weeks to go until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Following their successful run of tournament in 2019 and into 2020, Australia’s Gronya Somerville and Setyana Mapasa are in a comfortable position as they await confirmation of their qualification for the women’s doubles draw at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The four-time Continental Champions won the 2019 YONEX Canada Open, finalists at the South Australia International, won the YONEX-SUNRISE Nepal Int’l Challenge, 2019 YONEX/K&D Graphics International Challenge and the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020 – all adding to their Olympic ranking point tally – before the global pandemic took hold and brought a sudden halt to life as we knew it.
Despite managing to compete in the Asian Leg of the HSBC BWF World Tour in January, the logistics surrounding travel and quarantine interfered with their training schedules and other commitments. Realising their likelihood to qualify, the pair did not enter any of the remaining tournaments (all of which have been either cancelled or postponed anyway) as they instead turn their attention to Olympic preparation – with only 10 weeks to go.
A unique factor in their partnership is the 900 kilometres which separates them – Gronya lives in Melbourne, while Setyana lives in Sydney. Unlike most of the top 30 world ranked pairs, they have not trained full time together. However, the remaining ten weeks is made up of a hectic calendar, travelling as a pair to train and compete in domestic tournaments in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Currently, they join several other members of the Australian national squad at the Australian Institute of Sport for a weeklong training camp. Meanwhile, one of the more significant updates to their increased training efforts is their inclusion into the men’s doubles draw at the YONEX City of Melbourne Open tournament at the end of May.
Following the pandemic and the lacking ability to compete in regular high level international competition, Badminton Australia requested Badminton Victoria to allow Gronya and Setyana to compete in the Open Men’s Doubles event to provide them with an opportunity for a higher-level competition, while also competing in the women’s doubles draw.
They will go into the event unseeded, pitted against some of Australia’s top men’s doubles pairs. This is not the first time something like this has been done either. The coach that led Australia’s women’s team to the VICTOR Oceania Women’s Team Championship glory last year, Lenny Permana, also competed in the men’s singles event at a similar tournament when she prepared for her Olympic debut in 2004.
“Given the special set of circumstances that Gronya and Setyana are facing, and to assist two amazing players to be as prepared as possible for the Olympic Games, Badminton Victoria has approved the request for them to play in the Men’s Doubles Open event at the Yonex Elite Series on 29/30 May” says Badminton Victoria Executive General Manager, Tjitte (TJ) Weistra.
Meanwhile, we caught up with Gronya to see how she is feeling ten weeks out from the Tokyo 2020 Games:
How does it feel to be reunited with your partner after such a long period off training?
“It feels great. After competing in Thailand Open for the first time in a year in January we haven’t had much training together since so being back on court has been really important to getting our dynamics back and working on things together”
How do these ten weeks of ‘Olympic training’ differ to normal training?
“We have multiple training camps planned, we are wanting to maximise our training time together and being interstate to each other it means a decent amount of travel between us. The camps will involve more coaches involved, sparring players there purely to help feed us, opponent analysis, sports psychology, s&c work to get us in the best shape and of course recovery!”
Are you both intending to compete in the two remaining Oly-qualifying tournaments (Malaysia Open/Singapore Open)
“No we didn’t intend to compete in them. Thankfully we are in a good position to qualify and therefore don’t really need to chase points right now. After our experience with Thailand Open and being pretty much in hotel quarantine for 5 weeks straight we don’t want to experience that again right before the Olympics as we would only have 5 weeks to prepare between coming out of hotel quarantine in Australia and then leaving for the Olympics. Instead, we want to get as much high quality training done together in Australia where there is less risk of COVID19 and more controllables”
When will you know that your qualification spot for Tokyo 2020 is 100% guaranteed?
“It won’t be official until after the final qualification tournament, which was scheduled for June. Invitations are then sent out. But from our calculations we are in a good position and confident we are going so will prepare as if we are”
The Gronya/Setyana partnership is unique in the sense that you both live in separate states and don’t train full-time as a pair, unlike other top WD pairs have. What do you think makes your partnership so special to remain at that high level?
“It definitely isn’t ideal that we are apart but it’s the situation we are in. Typically in a normal year we are travelling and competing so much that we get a lot of time together training and sparring on tour, but in 2020 we couldn’t have guessed that we wouldn’t be on court together for 8 months. I think the time apart we focus on our own personal development and then when we come together we really put that into play and then focus on our dynamic as a pair. We can’t wait to be back on tour again though!”
Have any of your coaches who competed in a previous Olympics shared any wise words of advice with you?
“Given we haven’t had our first camp yet we haven’t had too many wisdom chats. But given we have played a Commonwealth Games we understand that it will be like that but x100! I think the discussions going forward will be with our coach Stuart who will be there with us and a sports psychologist about the pressure that we might face when we step back out on court to compete after so long and it being an Olympics, the dynamics of the village being in a COVID era, how to approach a tournament where it is pool format and you need to bounce back from losses ASAP and be ready to perform again and the psychology of our training leading up to it. Stuart it quite a chill guy so I think he will help us not get too serious and remember to enjoy the process.”
What else are you looking forward to over the next 10 weeks?
“I’m most looking forward to the training camps and getting more time on court with Setyana, sparring players and our coaches, being back in a fun team environment and i just can’t wait to be able to step on court in Tokyo, it seems like the day will never come.”