Yeo eyes Sea Games medal

But shuttler, 20, admits she has much to work on after world championships breakthrough

Her fairy-tale run at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships may have ended with a loss on Friday 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 Sunday Times yesterday.

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 women's shuttler to finish on the podium at the biennial Games was Fu Mingtian, who won the singles gold at the 2011 edition in Indonesia.

Her progress to the last eight of the World Championships, where she was the youngest quarter-finalist and only unseeded player, has given Singapore's Yeo Jia Min the confidence to keep believing in herself when facing the elite players. The former junior
Her progress to the last eight of the World Championships, where she was the youngest quarter-finalist and only unseeded player, has given Singapore's Yeo Jia Min the confidence to keep believing in herself when facing the elite players. The former junior world No. 1 has three career BWF titles. PHOTO: BADMINTONPHOTO

The Singapore Sports School graduate's performance at the world meet in Basel 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.

ALL FIGURED OUT

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.

YEO JIA MIN, Singapore shuttler, on how to challenge the world's elite.

The 20-year-old Yeo, born in Singapore to Malaysian parents who are permanent residents, was the youngest quarter-finalist and also the only unseeded player. She is the first Singaporean 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 was my first time playing in the quarter-finals of a big competition. It was 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 world No. 29 in June, will improve on her No. 32 ranking when the standings are refreshed 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 listing is calculated using a player's 10 best tournaments in the qualifying period.

"I try not to think about the rankings but... 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 will 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 badminton club 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 all-round game has improved. Referring also to Loh Kean Yew, who reached the last 16, he said: "They should continue to train and build a strong foundation to compete in the Olympic qualification period, and to have consistent performances."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 25, 2019, with the headline 'Yeo eyes Sea Games medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe