Tokyo, Sep 12 (IANS) Sports equipment manufacturer Yonex founder Minoru Yoneyama was conferred the Badminton World Federation’s highest honour – the President’s Medal – for his “truly exceptional contribution” to the sport here on Saturday.
The elderly Yoneyama was presented with the medal by BWF president Poul-Erik Høyer before the start of the Japan Open semi-finals. Recipients of this honour, awarded to distinguished individuals or organisations who have made exceptional contributions to badminton, are nominated exclusively by the BWF president.
Yoneyama, whose family was in the woodwork industry, began his company after World War II, manufacturing wooden rackets. The company was at the forefront of technological changes in the sport, transitioning from wood to aluminium and then carbon fibre. Yonex was also successful in producing quality equipment for other sports also.
Among the early brand ambassadors for Yonex was the legendary Indonesian Rudy Hartono. Yonex’s support for players, events and organisations around the world helped the sport grow, even in areas where badminton was not previously well developed.
In his citation, parts of which were read out at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on his behalf, Høyer paid glowing tributes to Yoneyama.
“It is my great pleasure today as BWF president to honour a person who has made a truly exceptional contribution to the sport of badminton. The President’s Medal is a BWF award, presented by the president, to honour distinguished individuals or organisations who have made an exceptional contribution to badminton,” said Hoyer.
“Today, it is an opportunity to recognise the exceptional contribution that Mr. Minoru Yoneyama has made to our sport over the last 55 years. In 1946, he founded his first company after leaving the Japanese military. Specialising in wood products, the company went on to produce badminton rackets in 1957.
“In 1958, he started Yoneyama Company Limited. The company changed its name to Yonex Co. Ltd. in 1982, in line with its evolution as the company undertaking the production of tennis rackets, golf clubs and other sporting accessories. Once Minoru started to successfully produce his own brand of badminton rackets, he set out to sell his products around the world.”
Yonex has acted as the sole supplier and stringer for badminton since it first appeared at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a demonstration sport. It will continue to do so in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Following the ceremony, Yoneyama thanked Hoyer for the honour and presented him with a golf kit as a token of appreciation.