Badminton: Singapore tipped to end singles duck at SEA Games

Loh Kean Yew, 22, and Yeo Jia Min, 20, back in Singapore after their fine run at the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. Yeo even had an upset win over world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi en route to the last eight. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Loh Kean Yew, 22, and Yeo Jia Min, 20, back in Singapore after their fine run at the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. Yeo even had an upset win over world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi en route to the last eight. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Shuttlers set to make SEA Games impact with better mentality, decision-making

With just three podium finishes in the last five SEA Games' singles competition, Singapore is looking to two burgeoning talents - Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min - to turn the sport's fortunes around.

National singles head coach Mulyo Handoyo is aiming for medals in both singles events at the Nov 30-Dec 11 Games in the Philippines to end a four-year drought.

He said: "Both of them have improved a lot in terms of their mentality and they dare to make decisions. Their standard has also improved."

Loh, 22, won a singles bronze on his Games debut four years ago. But the women have not won an individual medal since Fu Mingtian clinched the women's singles gold in Indonesia in 2011.

The Republic's hopes have been boosted by the duo's promising performances at last week's BWF World Championships, where Yeo reached the quarter-finals and Loh made the top 16.

World No. 32 Yeo, the first Singaporean woman to make it to the top eight, stunned world No. 1 Japanese Akane Yamaguchi in the second round. The 20-year-old then defeated Vietnam's Vu Thi Trang, but her fairy-tale run ended after a loss to former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.

Loh had triumphed over Indian 10th seed Sameer Verma in the first round and beat world No. 54 Thomas Rouxel of France before losing to No. 2 Chou Tien-chen of Chinese Taipei in the round of 16.

WHY THEY'LL SUCCEED

Both of them have improved a lot in terms of their mentality and they dare to make decisions. Their standard has also improved.

MULYO HANDOYO, Singapore badminton singles head coach, on the progress of Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min.

Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) president Lawrence Leow said: "This is encouraging, it shows that anything is possible.

"They were able to exceed expectations and I believe this puts players in a good position for the upcoming SEA Games.

"We have to show consistency and show that we can match the others. We are in the region where the top nations in badminton are, so SEA Games is not anything short of the World Championships."

At the last SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, Singapore won two bronzes in the men and women's team. With more medals at the multi-sport meet being targeted, the SBA is beefing up the players' preparations by bringing in sparring partners from the region.

One of them is Indonesia's world No. 16 Tommy Sugiarto, the 2014 World Championships bronze medallist who will be in Singapore this week for a week-long stint.

The SBA is looking to recruit four to six sparring partners, who are, or have been, ranked in the top 20, for a centralised training stint from Oct 14 to Nov 23.

Yeo and Loh had spent three and four months respectively training and competing in Denmark's club leagues. They credited the stint for their improvement.

Loh welcomed the move to test his skills against other top players in the region.

He said: "This time, they're bringing in sparring partners and it's good because it still feels like home, so I can do whatever routine I've been doing.

"It will help the other players, bring us together and we can rise to that level together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore tipped to end singles duck'. Print Edition | Subscribe