(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Where are they now: Petr Koukal
Date: 9/6/2020 9:22 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Czech men’s singles star had an inspirational playing career, but his unique badminton journey did not end there. Where is he now? 

Petr Koukal was born 14 December 1985 in Hořovice, in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. He started playing badminton as an eight-year-old at a club owned by his father, and then made his international debut at 15. Koukal grew into a talented tall and patient men’s singles player, breaking into the national team at 18, however, this same year saw him win the Czech national championships in the mixed doubles with Markéta Koudelková. 

Koukal continued competing in singles and mixed doubles, winning the Lithuanian International in 2004 with Martina Benešová, but it was singles on which most of his career was built upon. Koukal reached ten finals in singles, winning the Iceland International in 2007, his home tournament the Czech International in 2009 and the Slovak Open in 2011. He reached a career-high rank of 38 in the world in 2010. 

In that same year, at the peak of his career, Koukal was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Remarkably, Koukal battled through this tough period of his life and continued to train towards the 2012 London Olympics. The Czech Olympic Committee, inspired by his determination, announced the selection of Koukal as the Czech team flag bearer.

‘Bye Bye Cancer’ were the words written on his Facebook, announcing that the three months of treatment and chemotherapy had gotten rid of the cancer. 

New Chapter
Petr Koukal was always an active player off-court, being an Ambassador for Solibad – Badminton without Borders and had already started promoting the work of the foundation aimed at alerting young men that testicular cancer could happen to anyone. 

In 2016, Petr Koukal was awarded as the second recipient of the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award for his commitment and help to men with testicular cancer through his foundation.

Earlier this year, Koukal was elected President of the Czech Badminton Federation. Speaking to MBS News, Koukal spoke about how he is able to adapt his day to day life now having spent so much of it on a badminton court. 

- I approach it as a manager, I try to be very proactive, I listen and deal with others. I still always like to find time for active badminton. Sometimes when I go to meetings with people in the area, for example, we combine it with youth training, I like such meetings the most…but I’ve done enough sports in my life.

Koukal aims to bring a lot of energy and focus to Czech badminton within three important pillars. The professionalisation of the association’s work at all levels, strong and sophisticated marketing and support for the training of players, coaches focusing on winning a European medal. More specifically, Koukal identified the following key challenges he will be addressing in his tenure as President. 

- We lack a national sports centre where the best players can prepare together at the level required by European badminton. Then we are bothered by the lack of quality coaches. We are significantly slowed down by the competitive club environment, where everyone plays for themselves and not the whole.

These are common challenges faced by many of our Member Associations. Becoming President during COVID-19 must have been an odd experience, but on the other hand, it gives everyone more time to reflect and plan for the future. It will be interesting to follow Koukal, who had inspired many through his playing career, now embarking on a new mission to influence big changes for Czech badminton. 

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