(Photo: Badminton Photo)

Legends: Juliane Schenk

11/24/2020 9:51 AM |  BadmintonEurope.com |  Alan Raftery
Growing up within an active sporting family in Krefeld, a port on the Rhine River in western Germany, it was inevitable that the young Juliane Schenk would be involved in sport. It was badminton that resonated with her the most, idolising stars such as Denmark’s Camilla Martin and Indonesia’s Susi Susanti, both winning almost everything in the game. Commenting on Martin, Schenk said.

-She was the only one from the Europeans who was really chasing the Chinese and challenging them, and that was quite amazing for me.  I really liked to watch her play.

Spurred on by the achievements of these women, Schenk excelled in her age groups all the way towards the 2001 European Junior Championships in Spała, Poland. After settling for a silver medal in the women’s doubles with Carina Mette against the home favourites, a Polish-Belarusian combination of Kamila Augustyn and Nadia Kostiuczyk. Kostiuczyk would become better known by her married name of Nadia Zięba under the Polish flag, having an accomplished mixed doubles career with Robert Mateusiak. 

Schenk however did gain revenge by winning the women’s singles final against Poland’s Kamila Augustyn and also won gold in the team event for Germany. 

Keep on moving up
Already in 2002, the young Schenk won her first senior title. It was in the women’s doubles with Mette at the Dutch International in an extremely tightly fought final. The score against Danes Tine Høy and Karina Sørensen was 7–4, 7–8, 2–7, 8–7, 7–5. Switching partners to Nicole Grether, they went onto win 10 titles together. One notable final was the 2006 Dutch International where they comfortably defeated a certain Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Lena Frier Kristiansen, and of course, the home win at the Bitburger Open where after a terrific run they took the title through a walkover in the final against Japanese pair Ikue Tatani and Aya Wakisaka. 

The pair also secured two European Championship medals, a bronze in 2004 and a silver in 2006, where they came up short against England’s Donna Kellogg and Gail Emms Den Bosch, Netherlands. 

It was only in 2005 that we saw Schenk get going in singles, defeating her compatriot, Petra Overzier, in the final of the Norwegian International. For each year of the next eight, Schenk either won or reached the final of a tournament. Also, every year, the level kept on getting higher. Very quickly she became known for her fighting spirit and combative style. Her body language on court always demonstrated focus and that she means business.  It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that Schenk was in the army as a sports soldier, spending a few weeks in a row attending army camps in between her badminton training. 

Schenk, in 2009, like in doubles, won the Bitburger Open. She repeated this feat in 2012 against Yao Jie of the Netherlands in a thrilling final, finishing 25–23 in the decider. Despite reaching three finals at the German Open, it was one tournament that eluded her. The Chinese trio of Wang Xin, Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan all taking turns to deny her this title. 

Schenk managed to join the small club of Superseries winners by taking the Singapore Open in 2012, defeating Taiwanese player, Cheng Shao-chieh. Schenk was in six other major finals, including the Superseries Finals. A standout iconic match was when Schenk was so close to writing history by becoming the first German to win the Indonesian Open. A medal that her idols Susanti and Martin both won. But the Olympic champion, Li Xuerui held on and won the final 16–21, 21–18, 17–21. 

An epic rivalry
A testament to Schenk’s consistency at the top is her bringing home European Championship medals in all championships between 2004 and 2012. In singles, she secured two bronze medals in 2006 and 2008, and then silver in 2010 and 2012. These latter two finals against Denmark’s Tine Baun will live long in the memory, as they were fantastic spectacles. Manchester 2010 ended 19–21, 21–14, 18–21, and then in almost an identical score, Karlskrona 2012 ended 19–21, 21–16, 19–21. Despite the heartbreak of not getting that European gold, Schenk was certainly part of something special. 

In 2011, Schenk secured a bronze medal at the World Championships in London. This was an outstanding achievement and matched her compatriots Xu Huaiwen and Petra Overzier who did it before her. In the summer of 2012, Schenk hoped to capitalise on her good form shown at the Wembley Arena and reached the last 16 of the London Olympics. However, she then lost out to Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon. 

Schenk, who was ranked at career-high of number two hung up her racket in 2014. As well as being in the army and training full-time, Schenk was able to get a degree in Sports Management. This, along with how she played, is a symbol to fans that persistence and hard work pays off in the long run. At first, you do not succeed, try, try and try again. 

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