KOREA – No Rest for Weary after European Tour

Jung Jae Sung was among several Korean players who was back in action not two weeks after returning home from the Swiss and All England Opens.  Jung and new recruit […]

Jung Jae Sung was among several Korean players who was back in action not two weeks after returning home from the Swiss and All England Opens.  Jung and new recruit Han Sang Hoon teamed up to aid the military team in its title defense at the annual Spring Championships team competition.

Story and photos:  Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent, live in Gumi, Korea

Two-time Swiss Open champion Lee Yong Dae struggled to carry his Samsung team into the knockout stage.  After his loss here to Lee Hyun Il and Hwang Ji Man of the Gangnam Ward team, Lee was not fielded for the remainder of the tournament.

Lee Hyun Il was one of many former greats still thrilling the modest weekend crowds in Gumi.  Lee Jae Jin, Shon Seung Mo, and Ha Tae Kwon all gave their all but were not to be seen beyond the round robin stage.

With the return of the former Korean Open champion to his native Seoul, the task of bolstering the competitive Kimcheon City Hall team has fallen to recent university graduates Ko Sung Hyun and his former doubles partner Kwon Yi Goo.  But a mere twelve days after his Swiss Open victory, Ko found himself playing singles and both he and the Kimcheon team were undefeated going into the playoff stage.

Team Head Coach Kim Joong Soo spoke to Badzine about Korea’s Thomas and Uber Cup preparations.  He laughed off suggestions that East Asian Games champion Choi Ho Jin might be called up to again trouble Lin Dan, saying that Choi’s lack of ranking points make that impossible.  Kim confirmed that Korea’s main target for 2010 was Asian Games gold but that the Thomas Cup still seemed within their reach so they will certainly go to Kuala Lumpur looking for the title.

Kim pointed out that Lee Yong Dae‘s participation in the Thomas Cup finals was not yet a 100% certainty, but said, “Lee Yong Dae has been participating in a special recovery program at [the National Training Centre].  After this national tournament, he will have some time off from competition and his fitness can be monitored before the Thomas Cup.”

Swiss Open runner-up Shin Baek Cheol (pictured) may well get the nod for Korea in doubles, to be paired with either Lee or with Jung Jae Sung.

“Shin Baek Cheol’s doubles game has improved so much that he is almost at the same level as Jung and Lee,” explains Coach Kim.  “Whether we pair Shin/Jung, Shin/Lee or Lee/Jung, we end up with a similarly powerful doubles combination.  Then we have Ko/Yoo for second doubles.”

Shin, incidentally, led his team, Korea National Sport University, to its first ever Spring title after countless finals appearances.  This, along with the women’s team’s 3rd straight title, marked a satisfying start for new KNSU coach Lee Dong Soo (pictured here with star player Kim Moon Hi) who, like Lee Hyun Il, also returned to his native Seoul after several years in Kimcheon.  In addition to Lee, KNSU also picked up the three top high school players in the country in Sung Ji Hyun, Eom Hye Won, and Choi Young Woo.

Lee Dong Soo also resigned from coaching duties on the national team to work as a teaching assistant and to do graduate studies at KNSU.  Chung Myung Hee and Ha Tae Kwon also recently left the national team coaching staff to focus on their pro team responsibilities.

Meanwhile Sung Han Kook (pictured here congratulating daughter Ji Hyun on her team’s win) will, along with former Olympic champion Kim Moon Soo, be adding a good deal of experience to the Korean coaching staff when he returns.

Despite the recent promise shown by Sung Ji Hyun and her women’s singles teammates, Kim Joong Soo considers Korea a long-shot for Uber Cup glory.  “China’s doubles pairs are just too strong.  But their singles players have looked vulnerable lately so we will be attempting to capitalize on that should we meet China in the final.  We will likely need to use Lee Hyo Jung in the Uber Cup but we intend to keep the doubles pairs of Ha Jung Eun / Lee Kyung Won and Kim Min Jung / Jung Kyung Eun together for the rest of the year and for the Asian Games.”

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net