Deep Inside A Rio Slum, Samba Keeps Badminton Alive

Like snowflakes falling off a inky blue sky. It’s what the shuttlecocks look like against the ink blue backdrop of the high wall, when sent into a high serve in unison to the slow-stop beats of the samba sound. Imagine 50 badminton players lilting their lithe bodies to the zils of the tambourine, launching the feathered birds into high arc in sync and stopping as statues at the next percussive pause. The end product is a man of 19 years from the heart of Rio’s slums, beginning to believe that one day he can beat badminton’s Metronome of a hulk – Chen Long.

Badminton was too mechanical, it had gotten far too robotic and formulaic, its execution and pattern, tenor and tone way too automated for someone from Brazil to heed to it. But Sebastião Coelho de Oliveira, a physical education teacher from Chacrinha, a favela fringing on Rio de Janeiro, thought he could break down the movements involved in badminton, just like he could deconstruct the city’s passionate dance, the samba and put it together to form jogo bonito without a ball in Brazil, just as the country had won the right to host the Olympics.

A Brazilian man, who’d returned from Italy brought back the slender stemmed racquet for Sebastião and taught him rudimentary shuttle. He also mentioned in passing that pros used skipping ropes to get better at the sport. Sebastião who began coaching kids from the neighbourhood shanties started observing drop-outs as soon as the monotonous skipping was insisted upon. He had to jazz up badminton coaching, and he knew nothing could salvage it better than the Samba. On the eve of the Rio Games, his son Ygor Coelho de Oliveira has qualified as Brazil’s Olympic entry – and not by using the host-nation card. He ranks in the 60s, is a Pan Am champ and reckons the samba-styled training – trainees practice everything from net-taps to backhand smashes to tunes of the samba – will go a long way in genuinely launching a legit counter to what’s become the assembly style of playing from Asia.

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Like snowflakes falling off a inky blue sky. It’s what the shuttlecocks look like against the ink blue backdrop of the high wall, when sent into a high serve in unison to the slow-stop beats of the samba sound. Imagine 50 badminton players lilting their lithe bodies to the zils of the tambourine, launching the feathered birds into high arc in sync and stopping as statues at the next percussive pause. The end product is a man of 19 years from the heart of Rio’s slums, beginning to believe that one day he can beat badminton’s Metronome of a hulk – Chen Long. Badminton was too mechanical, it had gotten far too robotic and formulaic, its execution and pattern, tenor and tone way too automated for someone from Brazil to heed to it. But Sebastião Coelho de Oliveira, a physical education teacher from Chacrinha, a favela fringing on Rio de Janeiro, thought he could break down the movements involved in badminton, just like he could deconstruct the city’s passionate dance, the samba and put it together to form jogo bonito without a ball in Brazil, just as the country had won the right to host the Olympics. A Brazilian man, who’d returned from Italy brought back the slender stemmed racquet for Sebastião and taught him rudimentary shuttle. He also mentioned in passing that pros used skipping ropes to get better at the sport. Sebastião who began coaching kids from the neighbourhood shanties started observing drop-outs as soon as the monotonous skipping was insisted upon. He had to jazz up badminton coaching, and he knew nothing could salvage it better than the Samba. On the eve of the Rio Games, his son Ygor Coelho de Oliveira has qualified as Brazil’s Olympic entry – and not by using the host-nation card. He ranks in the 60s, is a Pan Am champ and reckons the samba-styled training – trainees practice everything from net-taps to backhand smashes to tunes of the samba – will go a long way in genuinely launching a legit counter to what’s become the assembly style of playing from Asia. Read full article.