Local badminton star goes to worlds

Jacob Scheuler. (Supplied)

Former Ocean Grove Badminton Club player Jacob Scheuler has been selected to represent Australia at the badminton men’s world championships in China next month. He spoke to Matt Hewson about his journey so far as a young professional sportsman.

Badminton player Jacob Scheuler has had a big two years.

In 2022 Jacob was selected for the Australian team for the Thomas Cup, the badminton men’s world championship, although due to COVID-19 the team did not compete in the tournament that May.

A month later, he won the Australian National Championships men’s title in Bendigo, which also led to the realisation of one of his long-held dreams.

The national title earned him a spot in the Australian squad for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later that year, which Jacob said was “big”.

“It was a goal for me for a long time, at least four years,” he said.

“The biggest thing that hit me was the people greeting you at the airport, wishing you good luck. The support you get is just enormous.

“And then playing top level players as well, it was a chance to play India, players from those high-level countries. Playing against those players is a huge honour.”

Currently the 167th ranked men’s player in the world, Jacob has more recently competed at the Oceania Badminton Championships, hosted by Badminton Geelong in February this year, anchoring the singles for a dominant Australian team.

He said the experience of playing a major tournament in his own backyard had both pros and cons.

“It’s great to have the family and Geelong support,” Jacob said.

“But the downside is I put extra pressure on myself, because I want to live up to people’s expectations and repay the support I’ve received over the years.

“I was generally happy with my performance at Oceania, although I was disappointed not to make the final,” Jacob said.

“But it’s been a solid workout, and the wins in the men’s and women’s teams events was great.”

Australia has clinched the Oceania spot at the upcoming Thomas Cup, the biennial men’s world championship event in Chengdu, China this April-May, and Jacob has been announced as part of the team.

It will be the fourth Thomas Cup Jacob has been selected for, although due to the pandemic he has only competed in the 2018 edition of the event.

However, even given his success over the past couple of years, Jacob said his selection was not guaranteed due to reasons off the court.

“Last year there was a selection (for the Sudirman Cup mixed team event); I didn’t make it, and I was like, there was nothing more I could have done,” he said.

“I’ve been on the outer with the coaching panel… and they decided not to pick me. The disappointment of that hit me really hard, because that one, I was confident. I was like, yep, I’ve done it, I had some great results, I know I’m in.

“It really shattered me, the way it was handled and the way things were said. I can’t control those sort of things so I just focus on what I can control. If I make it then that’s amazing for me, and if I don’t then I understand. They (the coaching panel) are trying to change and make a fresh new start, but that’s what happened. ”

Despite the bumps along the road, Jacob said he was excited to once again face off against the best players in the world.

“This is a class of badminton players that we don’t usually get to play against,” Jacob said.

“These are the players we watch almost weekly, follow and see what they’re doing and try to copy them.

“So to then play against them is just a huge opportunity.

“After 15 years I’m still constantly learning and realising there’s always something new; change this, try that.”

Born in Geelong, Jacob attended Grovedale West Primary School and then Oberon High School for four years before attending Maribyrnong Sports Academy (MSA) on a scholarship.

Having begun playing badminton at age 11 with Ocean Grove, he soon discovered he wanted to pursue the sport seriously, and transferring to MSA was the next step he had to take.

“It’s a sports school, so they do both training and school; the training sessions are from 6.45 in the morning to 8.30, then you go to school as normal,” he said.

“At the time they had an assistant national coach, they had some Olympic players who had retired, that sort of calibre of coaches, which made it really appealing.”

One of the things Jacob has always loved about badminton is that there are multiple ways to excel at the sport, depending on the individual’s natural talents.

“Everyone has their own advantages and disadvantages,” he said.

“It doesn’t really matter if you’re physically weaker; I was always a weaker kid, but I was always quite fit, so I had to play that to my advantage.

“Some people are stronger, some are technically so good they make it look so easy. And some people just play really smart; there’s always a different thinking element. It really can be like chess.

“And the speed of the sport is probably its greatest asset, just how quick it can be. No one realises how fast it is until you really watch it live.”

Jacob is now based in Maribyrnong, where he coaches at MSA and trains five to six days a week.

He said he couldn’t thank his parents Sharon and Rolf and the wider Geelong and Ocean Grove community enough for their support along his journey.

“You don’t get to where you are without them, anything I asked, if they could help me when I was a kid, they were always there to say yes,” he said.

“They basically gave everything I could have, the best chance I could have asked for.

“They’ve been in my corner and even today I’ll call them up, ask them for advice. They’re always there.”