Loh, Yeo lead gold coast charge

Singles duo part of youngest badminton team for C'wealth Games, with average age of 22.1

Four years ago in Glasgow, Scotland, Derek Wong became the first Singaporean men's badminton singles finalist at a Commonwealth Games and bagged a silver medal.

That breakthrough inspired Loh Kean Yew to dream of playing at the quadrennial Games, which will feature some of the world's best badminton nations like Malaysia, India and England, and champions such as Lee Chong Wei.

Yesterday, the 21-year-old national serviceman got his wish as he was named by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) in a team of 10 heading to the Gold Coast, Australia, for the April 4-15 Games.

The squad are the youngest ever for the Games, with an average age of 22.1 compared to 23.6 in 2014 and 22.3 in 2010.

"I have been dreaming about it since four years ago," said the 2015 SEA Games bronze medallist in Hanoi, where he is playing in the Vietnam International Challenge.

"There are lots of top players, but I hope I'll be able to achieve at least a medal. "Nothing is impossible."

Loh, along with 19-year-old Yeo Jia Min who is also making her debut, were recently identified by new national chief singles coach Mulyo Handoyo as having the potential to excel at the world stage.

The other team members are:

•Ryan Ng (men's singles)

•Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Terry Hee (men's doubles and mixed doubles)

•Jason Wong and Tan Wei Han (mixed doubles)

•Grace Chua (women's singles)

•Crystal Wong and Ong Ren-Ne (women's doubles and mixed doubles).

Yeo said she "can't wait" to challenge the top women, who include India's world No. 3 P.V. Sindhu and Canada's Michelle Li, the defending singles champion.

"I hope to win a medal and hope to see some breakthroughs for myself as well as the team," said Yeo, the former world No. 1 junior.

Singapore's shuttlers have won medals at every edition of the Games since 2002, with two silvers from Wong in the men's singles and Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart in the men's doubles and a bronze in the mixed team event in 2014.

SBA president Tan Kian Chew wants to keep the medal streak going despite the team's inexperience.

He said: "They are young and committed to giving their best at the Games, and hopefully (they can) come home with a medal or two."

Meanwhile, broadcaster Mediacorp announced yesterday that it will show more than 550 hours of Games action on its platforms, including Toggle and oktoSports.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Loh, Yeo lead gold coast charge'. Print Edition | Subscribe