Dubai is a special place for me, says Olympic champion Axelsen
Denmark's Viktor Axelsen trained in Dubai for the Tokyo Olympic Games
When the world of his childhood friends was filled with toy cars and candies, Viktor Axelsen dreamt of winning an Olympic gold medal for his country.
The 27-year-old Dane fulfilled that dream with an emphatic win over China’s Chen Long, the 2016 Rio Olympics champion, in the men’s singles badminton final of the Tokyo Games.
Just a couple of weeks after his Tokyo triumph, Axelsen was back in Dubai, the city in which the seeds of his Olympics glory were planted.
Axelsen had trained at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex in Dubai for two years with the sole aim of wearing a gold medal around his neck in Tokyo.
On Monday, he offered his gratitude to Dubai for giving the wings to his Olympic dreams.
“I am here to celebrate my Olympic gold medal,” said Axelsen while visiting the Dubai Sports Council headquarters on Monday.
“I want to thank Dubai Sports Council and Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex and everyone for their full support. Every time I have been here, the support has been amazing, and I have really enjoyed it. I have been able to focus on my training and enjoy my life here.”
The first non-Asian man and the first Dane since 1996 to win the Olympic gold, Axelsen says Dubai holds a special place in his heart.
“You know when I first played here in 2015 (Super Series), I reached the final and then in 2016 and 2017 at the Hamdan Sports Complex, I won the Super Series final twice. So it’s a very special place for me,” he said.
“I am really thankful and very happy to be here again. My experience of training here has been amazing.”
Only the fifth man to have won both the Olympic and World Championships titles, Axelsen says the Tokyo gold feels a bit surreal.
“This was a big dream of mine. When I first started dreaming about winning the Olympics, I was only seven years old. So it feels a bit surreal now and I am really enjoying it,” said Axelsen who clinched the Tokyo gold without dropping a single set in the tournament.
The Odense-born player is not ready to rest on his laurels, though.
“The goal obviously will be to reach my full potential. I still think I have some room for improvement,” he said.
“If you are happy with what you have, that’s not good for your development as a player. I want to remain motivated and want to keep improving my game. I will see how it goes. I am healthy, I am enjoying my life. That’s a good foundation for future success.”
Finally, Axelsen smiled when asked if Denmark’s dream run to the Euro 2020 semifinal inspired him. The Danish national team became every neutral’s favourite with their resolute spirit after Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in the first match had sent shivers down the spine.
Axelsen said seeing his national football team bounce back from the heartbreaking scenes in the opening game motivated him.
“I think it’s really amazing that we are such a small country, and still we are able to produce lots of good athletes,” he said.
“The European championships, you know, was an emotional experience on many levels. So it gave me a lot of motivation to perform well and win that gold at the Olympics.”
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