Badminton: S'pore's Loh Kean Yew to train with Axelsen again in Olympic medal push

Loh Kean Yew was on a month's training stint with Viktor Axelsen after the Tokyo Olympics. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The one-month training stint with Denmark's world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen post-Tokyo 2020 has been widely credited as a huge factor in Singaporean Loh Kean Yew's rise to become world champion.

And the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) confirmed on Monday (Dec 20) that this winning formula is set to be repeated in January, as it plots his path towards winning a medal at Paris 2024.

Axelsen had approached Loh to train with him in early 2020, around the time when he had pushed the Dane to three games at the Spain Masters' round of 32. But the plan was put on ice after the one-year postponement of the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, before materialising in August.

SBA technical director Martin Andrew told The Straits Times: "Kean Yew will travel to train with Viktor and others in Dubai prior to the tournaments in India in January, and he may also return to Dubai after those events for another couple of weeks."

Other than further improving on his game play with such high-level sparring at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex, the Englishman hopes Loh can emulate Axelsen's gold standard of consistency in terms of shot-making and tournament performances.

Statistics from the Badminton World Federation show that prior to losing to Loh in the first round of the World Championships, 27-year-old Axelsen won 61 out of 66 matches and clinched seven titles this year.

In comparison, Loh won 23 out of 30 matches and picked up three titles in his most prolific year to date.

Andrew said: "Kean Yew's shot consistency has improved significantly, and we want him to play with less errors while maintaining the risk level.

"He has also managed to be consistent in terms of tournament performances at a high level recently, but it's been quite short term and we have to expect and manage some peaks and troughs with that.

"Viktor has had a great run through 2021, and (Kento) Momota had this previously through 2019 (when he won a record 11 titles). Kean Yew should be aiming to maintain his level as much as possible, but he is now playing at the top tier of world-class tournaments, so the challenge is greater."

Other targets the SBA has set for the 24-year-old include winning medals at next year's SEA Games (May 12-23) and July 28-Aug 8 Commonwealth Games, as well as making a strong push at the Sept 10-25 Asian Games, while continuing to climb the world rankings.

The SBA will also work with the Singapore Sport Institute on biomechanics and match tagging to understand more about his strengths and weaknesses, and enhance psychological support to help Loh cope with the demands of touring at a high level.

SPH Brightcove Video
On Dec 19, Loh Kean Yew stunned the badminton world by becoming the first Singaporean to win the World Championships. He talks to David Lee about his win, his feelings at almost having to withdraw through injury and what comes after winning gold.

World No. 22 Loh is expected to rise to 15th in the new rankings on Tuesday, and Andrew said: "Kean Yew has got to aim to get into the top 10 in the world next year and maintain that position throughout to ensure advantageous seeding at tournaments.

"To do so, he must maintain his physical condition, which he has done well so far. We will also work with him on analysing opponents and developing game plans against them, as well as keeping a focus on his mentality so he can be tough in challenging situations."

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