All England: Olympic Race Adds Edge to Opening Round

It was the first round of the YONEX All England 2024, but to Catherine Choi/Josephine Wu, and their opponents Annie Xu/Kerry Xu, it could well have been a final. With the Olympic qualification window fast closing, and a Pan Am slot at stake between the Canadian and USA pairs, there was plenty riding on the outcome.

At world No.28, the Xu sisters are 15th in the Race to Paris, while Choi and Wu are No.33, just 2,172 points behind them. Another USA pair, Francesca Corbett/Allison Lee, are breathing down their necks at No.34.

Choi and Wu can still qualify for the Olympics.

Wu and Choi came away victorious in three games, and such was the mental effort that they looked absolutely exhausted.

“Mentally and physically it’s a double whammy,” said Wu. “It was a big win today; we knew we had to win otherwise it would have become difficult for us to catch up. We are so glad. We had to give it all. We had to treat it like it’s our last match.”

Part of the challenge on court was to adjust from the slow conditions of the French Open last week to the relatively quicker conditions in Birmingham.

“It was slow last week, and this week it’s faster, which is to our advantage,” said Wu. “We struggle with slow halls. I’m glad we held it in the end, because they were catching up a bit and we were at the slow end so we knew we had to keep pressing back.

Annie and Kerry gave their best.

“Our matches depend on the hall, whichever style works better and whoever can handle it better on that day. They’re a great pair, very solid, so we had to be very clear-minded.”

The vanquished Xu sisters couldn’t hide their disappointment, but were philosophical in defeat.

“It didn’t really feel like a first round; it felt like the semis or finals of the Pan American Championships,” said Annie. “We came in with nerves, because playing a top contender for the Olympic spot is nerve-racking for us. There’s a lot of pressure that goes with it. This one, we went in with the mindset that we really wanted to win, not just for ourselves but for our family and those who supported us.

“It was a physical and mental struggle, with the Olympic qualification coming to a close in a month, the pressure’s been really high. So learning to deal with that, and also trying to not let that affect you, it’s something we are trying to work on. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the outcome we hoped for, but at least we gave it our best.”



“It’s a great start to the week. I absolutely feel like I’m flying in the universe.”Ren Xiang Yu, whose name means ‘flying in the universe’

“It’s been a crazy start, to be honest. I just received my luggage when I started my warm-up. I’ve been without my luggage and it’s been a bit of chaos, but I’m happy I got through this match comfortably. We had to take three flights to get here; it took 13-14 hours to get from Paris to Birmingham.”Anders Antonsen, on his delayed flights and lost luggage

“It was a fantastic match. I played one of my best matches in a long time. The quality was solid, and I made him fight in all the games. It’s no secret I’ve been struggling with injuries, so I’m getting more solid training and stable legs at the moment and I’m getting more comfortable on court right now.”Rasmus Gemke, on losing a close match to Shi Yu Qi

BWF World Tour News

Title Sponsor