Arriving in France in 2014 just for a few months and a few badminton matches, Xuefei Qi has never left her. To the point of becoming the number 1 hexagonal and landing his ticket to Tokyo. A magnificent sporting success, but also sentimental for her who found in Brittany the man of her life.
Special envoy to Tokyo
Life is always full of the unexpected. For more than a year and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been difficult to establish any life plan with certainty. But for Xuefei Qi, the big upheaval does not date from the first confinement in March 2020, even if this particularly complicated his life from a sporting point of view, but from 2014. At a time when it was still allowed to to walk in the street without mask and to kiss his friends. Another world. Like the one this young Chinese woman, then 22 years old, was about to discover. Born in Nanjing, a city of 8.5 million inhabitants located 300 kilometers from Shanghai, Xuefei Qi was preparing to discover Rostrenen, a small Breton town of 3,000 souls, to play a few badminton matches in Interclubs. In other words, almost a change of planet.
Originally, his French escapade was to last no more than six months. A way to clear the mind and get away from the suffocating training system prevailing in his country. “I was bored in China», She remembers. “There are very few tournaments there during the year. So most of the time, we train over and over again, but without competition. I wanted to play, not just train.But eventually, this simple passage would turn into a crush. At any point of view. In Rostrenen, Xuefei Qi, in addition to the pleasure of playing competitive matches, meets a certain Arthur. The one who, a few years later, would become her husband. For laughter and for the better, the badiste sports a perpetual and communicative smile on her lips, which she likes to embellish with thunderous “Oh my God !His favorite expression.
The example of Hongyan Pi
This coming to France, Xuefei Qi owes it to a certain Hongyan Pi, former world number 2 in badminton and world bronze medalist in 2009 who had known the same fate fifteen years earlier. Namely a departure from the Middle Empire to develop sportingly, she who was considered too small to hope to have a great international career, and a move to France, dictated by a beautiful romantic encounter as well. A comparison not always easy to assume for her on a purely sporting level. “It was Hongyan who pushed me to come to France and afterwards, I think I followed the same route as her», Confides Xuefei Qi. “Except that she has reached a much higher level than me. Often times I felt people wanted me to do as well as her and that put pressure on me. I didn’t want to disappoint them but at the same time, I didn’t see how I could do better than her.“
Currently 41e world, after reaching the 37e rank a few months ago, “Fei Fei“- her nickname – will indeed find it difficult to push the fairy tale to one day integrate the world top 5 like its predecessor. But this is not the most important for the one who obtained French nationality on July 19, 2019. After a long and delicate road, so much the Chinese Badminton Federation, seeing with a dim view his approach, will have done the maximum to put sticks in his wheels and prevent him from playing. Before having to give in to this monster of determination, on and off the courts, that is the 29-year-old badiste now. Including even during the preparation of these Games, which she carried out in part with crutches due to a knee operation to resolve a cartilage problem. It would take more, however, to prevent him from realizing his dream of competing in the Olympics as France’s number 1. And only hexagonal representative in women’s singles.
In China, it is only badminton, badminton and more badminton.
Beyond this sporting success, Xuefei Qi is also savoring his new life, shared between his adopted Brittany and Insep, in the heart of the Bois de Vincennes Ile-de-France. “In China, I trained a lot moreShe admits, without any real regret. “ On average six hours a day, six days a week, with hardly any vacation or break. In France, there are more holidays, it is good to cut back a little and clear the mind. In China, it is only badminton, badminton and more badminton. Obviously, it works, but it’s not very fulfilling on a personal level. At first, I had a hard time getting used to it because for twelve years, I had been used to a certain rhythm, to a training method and there, I had to change almost everything. In addition, French players often start seriously playing badminton late. Me, I started at the age of 8 and I was professional at 13.“And the young woman to add:”The level of badminton in China has nothing to do with that in France. There are so many really good players out there that the coaches don’t care about who is just at a good level. They only take care of the excellent players, that’s all. There, I was in the national team and when I got injured, they quickly forgot about me.“
A lack of consideration from which she no longer suffers here, well surrounded as she is by her new family, that of her husband Arthur, professional physiotherapist and badiste in his spare time. Even if she is still very dissatisfied with her level of French, wrongly since it turns out to be very correct. Nevertheless, after his career, Xuefei Qi imagines himself sharing between France and China, where his parents still reside. “They have always supported and encouraged me. They saw that I enjoyed playing and that I had a good level. There was just one time when they asked me if I wanted to continue and someday become a professional. I remember, I must have been 11 or 12 years old, and I didn’t hesitate for a second when I told them I wanted to continue.»She did not imagine for a second that the realization of this dream would one day pass through France. And perhaps by Paris 2024, even if it is not yet planning to do so: “Paris, it will depend on my level of play, my body, my feeling, a lot of things in fact… If my knees hold, of course I hope to be there.But before that, then, there will be Tokyo. With the ambition, who knows, to do as well as Hongyan Pi in 2008 in Beijing by reaching the quarter-finals?