Badminton: Singapore's shuttlers avoid big guns at Tokyo 2020 group stage

National shuttlers Loh Kean Yew (left) and Yeo Jia Min were handed favourable draws in the men's and women's singles.
National shuttlers Loh Kean Yew (left) and Yeo Jia Min were handed favourable draws in the men's and women's singles.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - National shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min's quest for success at the Olympic Games received a boost on Thursday (July 9) after they were handed favourable draws in the men's and women's singles.

The draw for the badminton competition at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza was released by Badminton World Federation on Thursday.

World No. 42 Loh will play in Group G against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie (7th) and refugee athlete Aram Mahmoud (172nd), a Syrian who plays under the Dutch flag.

While Loh has not beaten Asian Games champion Christie in three previous encounters, he did pinch a game in each of those defeats. This will be his first meeting with Mahmoud.

His group draw also means that he will avoid big guns like Japanese world No. 1 and hot favourite Kento Momota, China's Rio 2016 men's singles champion Chen Long and Denmark's bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen.

Loh, 24, said: "I would say it's a good draw. I last played him at the Thailand Open in January so at least it's someone that I played recently, and I can gauge his standards better compared to those whom I have not met before or for a long time.

"In any case, every game at the Olympics is important. I will go into the tournament giving it my best and fight all the way."

In the women's singles, world No. 30 Yeo is in Group K with South Korean Kim Ga-eun (18th) and Mexican Haramara Gaitan (92nd). Likewise, she has dodged the world's top 10 including Chinese Taipei's world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying and China's world No. 2 Chen Yufei.

The 22-year-old holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against Kim and will play Gaitan for the first time at Tokyo 2020.

In the singles events, players are divided into 14 groups of three to four players for round-robin matches and the top-ranked player will advance to the knockout round.

A total of 87 male and 86 female players representing 50 national Olympic committees will feature at these Olympics, with Rio 2016 men's singles champion Chen Long of China the only defending champion across five categories.

The July 24-Aug 2 badminton competition will be held at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.