YOUTH OLYMPICS SF – Prince Haseena stuns King Kang

Top seed Kang Ji Wook of South Korea didn’t make it to the final of the Youth Olympic Games. He was narrowly defeated by Haseena Sunil Kumar of India 21-19, […]

Top seed Kang Ji Wook of South Korea didn’t make it to the final of the Youth Olympic Games. He was narrowly defeated by Haseena Sunil Kumar of India 21-19, 17-21, 17-21 as the Indian will join Pisit Poodchalat in the final.

By Timothy Chan, Badzine Correspondent, reporting live from Singapore. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

It was expected to be a tough tussle and indeed, the first semi-final of the boys’ singles, between Kang Ji Wook and Haseena Sunil Kumar (photo), ran to a three-game thriller, in front of a packed house in Singapore Indoor Stadium – most of the spectators were school boys and girls which provided the evening with its share of screams. Wednesday’s semi-final was actually a rematch of this year’s World Championships’ semi-final where the Korean had won – sweet revenge for the Indian. The first game was evenly fought and deadlocked at 17-17,18-18 and 19-19 with both players displaying some good powerful and accurate jump smashes. Two net errors by Kumar allowed Kang to take the first game, 21-19, probably leading the South Korean to think he had one foot in the final.

However, Kumar had other ideas in mind and managed to take a four point lead (11-7) at the interval of the second game. With Kang making slightly more net errors, the Indian was able to open up a wide gap at 17-12, only to see Kang reel him in. In Kang’s next attempt to level up, when trailing 17-19, one of his smashes went out, giving his opponent three chances to break even in the overall tie at 20-17. A precise back-hand smash sealed it. It was going to be anybody’s game in the third game, with the score very close at 10-10 before Kang took a tiny advantage at 11-10 before the players switched camps, followed by their respective coaches, who oddly enough were both former All England winners.

With some defensive errors from Kang (photo) who was failing to block Kumar’s smashes, the score stood at 19-17 in favour of the Indian. Maintaining his composure, Kumar once again used the “Taufik weapon” – a powerful backhand smash to wrap it up 21-17.

Kuma later explained his success is due to the emergence of specialized badminton academies in India that are now able to develop local talents. Ranked no. 8 in India, he is the latest in a succession of badminton stars to emerge from the Gopichand Badminton Academy. Sunil joins a long list of well-known graduates from Hyderabad that includes current world women’s no.2 Saina Nehwal. Former world no.1 Prakash Padukone has also founded the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore.

So many academies have opened up in India and there are so many coaches,” said Sunil. “The coaches are all dedicated to badminton, so I think that’s what’s producing the players right now.

Under the guidance of Indian badminton legend Pullela Gopichand, winner of the prestigious All England Open Championships in 2001 and founder of the Gopichand Academy, Sunil was exposed to a higher level of performance, resulting in a bronze at the world junior championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, earlier this year. This is the last tournament in which Kumar will compete as a junior – it couldn’t end up better than an Olympic Gold medal.

For Kang, the disappointment was obvious after such a tight game: “It was a tough match today. I am quite disappointed to have lost. I will train harder in future,” Kang said during the post-match interview. He also revealed that when the score drew level, he was nervous and tried to use the step-by-step approach but unfortunately Sunil got the upper hand of him to taste victory.

No Gold again for Malaysia

After having demolished his neighbourly opponent Huang Chao last night, Loh Wei Sheng (photo) of Malaysia was prepared to go one step further against another neighbour, Poodchalat Pisit of Thailand in the second boys’ singles semi-final. Just like the first semi-final, the first game was evenly contested until 9-9 but 5th seed Pisit managed to lead 11-9 at break-time. Smashing the shuttle out and net errors by Loh were the reasons for the more determined Pisit to score more points to take the first game at 21-13. But Loh made a strong comeback in the second game improving on his smashes to lead at 11-7. At this point, Loh protested to the umpire, claiming that the shuttle had hit the Thai player before going out but it was to no avail and he had to settle for an 11-8 lead. At 17-17, the Malaysian boy asked for medical attention, taking his shoe off. In spite of limping in between points, he managed to take the remaining points to push the match to a decider.

The pain seemed to be growing and in spite of an obvious will to go on, Loh was way behind at 3-11. At break-time, Loh decided to retire from the match and let Pisit move on to the final.

I feel very sad to have lost today. I twisted my ankle at the end of the second game. Actually I was feeling confident during the second game,” Loh said. “I am not sure if I will play Kang tomorrow for the bronze medal. It will depend on the doctor’s advice,” added the Malaysian.

I am really happy to get to the final, and the minimum for me is now a silver medal. Tomorrow is very important for the Thai people, who will be watching. Its fifty-fifty,” Pisit said.

Boys’ singles results:

Kang Ji Wook (KOR) vs Haseena Sunil Kumar (IND) : 21-19, 17-21, 17-21
Pisit Poodchalat (THA) vs Loh Wei Sheng (MAL) : 21-13, 19-21, 11-3 (ret)

To see the LIVE Gallery from BadmintonPhoto at the Youth Olympics, click HERE

If you want to book a room during the event or anytime you are visiting Singapore, feel free to visit the website of our partner hotel the Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel.  A classy and great Hotel only minutes away from the Stadium and a short haul from the city Center. Click HERE

About Timothy Chan