Badminton: Yeo Jia Min eyes SEA Games medal in the Philippines after world championships breakthrough

Yeo Jia Min's performance at the championships in Basel, Switzerland, has shown she is able to compete with the elite.
Yeo Jia Min's performance at the championships in Basel, Switzerland, has shown she is able to compete with the elite.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Her fairy-tale run at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships may have ended with a loss on Friday (Aug 23) but Yeo Jia Min has served notice of her burgeoning talent and is already eyeing the next step in her development.

Winning a medal at the year-end SEA Games in the Philippines is the minimum she expects of herself, the Singapore shuttler told The Straits Times on Saturday.

She said: "I'm always thinking (of ways) I can improve myself.

"Badminton requires so many things (to come together) but, recently, I have worked on my footwork and mental strength.

"I gained some experience through training and competing overseas, and I also watch and try to learn from other good players.

"My goal at the SEA Games is to win at least a medal."

The last Singaporean female shuttler to finish on the podium at the biennial Games was Fu Mingtian, who won the singles gold at the 2011 edition in Indonesia.

Yeo's performance at the championships in Basel, Switzerland, has shown she is able to compete with the elite.

She stunned world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in the second round on Tuesday and, while she lost 21-17, 21-11 to 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the last eight, Yeo mostly held her own against the world No. 6 Thai.

 
 

The 20-year-old Yeo, born in Singapore to Malaysian parents who are permanent residents, was the youngest of all quarter-finalists and also the only unseeded player. She is the first local woman to reach the last eight of the competition.

She said: "My movement was slower than Ratchanok's and my shot quality was not high enough to pressure her... I tried to push myself but I was still slower.

"It's my first time playing in the quarter-final of a big competition. It's a good experience."

Beyond her aspirations for the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games, there is also qualification for next year's Tokyo Olympics to work towards.

Yeo, who reached a career high of world No. 29 in June, will improve on her No. 32 ranking when the latest standings are released on Tuesday.

She will book her ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics if she is within the top 38 in BWF’s Olympic rankings by April 28 next year.

Unlike the world rankings, which take into account points from the top 10 competitions in the last 52 weeks, the Olympic rankings take in points from only a player’s 10 best tournaments in the qualifying period.

"I try not to think about the ranking but I always try to find out how to improve myself because it's important when playing against (strong) opponents that I improve my game to match (their level)," said the former junior world No. 1, who has won three BWF titles.

"People will expect me to play better after this but I just try to focus on what I can do and not to put pressure on myself.

"I really enjoy (fighting) on court and I treasure every chance I get to play.

A two-month professional stint with Danish club Ab Aarhus has aided her improvement, and Yeo believes national singles head coach Mulyo Handoyo's training programme has also benefited her.

She said: "I have many areas I need to work on.

"But this competition gives me confidence to keep believing in myself. I've learnt more about myself and how I need to better maintain my physical condition.

"To become a champion I have to be consistent everyday, and not just for a few days."

Mulyo noted Yeo's game has seen an overall improvement. Referring to her and teammate Loh Kean Yew, who reached the last 16, he said: "They should continue to train and build a strong foundation for them to compete in the Olympic qualification period, and to have consistent performances."