ASIAN JUNIORS 2012 Team Final – Japan wins first team title

Asia has a new champion! The 2012 Badminton Asia Youth Under 19 Mixed Team Championships saw Japan add its name to the honour roll as they became only the fifth […]

Asia has a new champion! The 2012 Badminton Asia Youth Under 19 Mixed Team Championships saw Japan add its name to the honour roll as they became only the fifth nation to win a team title since the inaugural event, and the fourth since the advent of the mixed team event.

Story and photos: Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Gimcheon

It isn’t as if Japan wasn’t threatening to become the Asian Mixed Team Champions.   Way back in 2007, they had beaten then defending champions Korea and have been encroaching on China and Korea each year in their annual Tri-nation Games.

But today in Gimcheon, Japan’s juniors finally got it right.  Everything came together as they trounced defending mixed team champions China in three straight matches to snare the gold.  Key to the Japanese victory was the ability of Akira Koga / Akane Yamaguchi (pictured below) to put behind them their defeat in the group round robin tie with China and grab the first point from Pei Tianyi / Huang Yaqiong.

“It wasn’t that we came into today’s match with a particular strategy,” said Akira Koga after receiving his gold medal, “the difference was that today we played with heart.

“Today we were able to minimize our mistakes and we did our best to keep the shuttle going down.  By having the first point, we hoped this would provide a lot of encouragement to the team.

“We are so happy that we won our nation’s first title today and we hope that this will be the start of a real winning tradition for Japan,” added Koga, his words translated by none other than Badminton Asia Confederation President Katsuto Momii

Even with the mixed doubles in hand, the tie was far from over, but fortunately for Japan, they had some strong contenders in both the boys’ singles and doubles.  First up was Kento Momota.  His opponent, Xue Song (pictured above left; Kento Momota right), lost in last year’s individual event to the eventual champion but he’s been virtually unheard-of since.

Still, Xue took the first game and came back from 15-20 down in the second to earn his own match point, before a line call he protested desperately bequeathed the second game to Momota.  In the third game, Momota used his power only sparingly against the high-flying, diving Xue.  Kento preferred instead to control the net and also his own errors and he marched methodically to victory in the decider.

Last up was the men’s doubles and here Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured below) seemed to win on consistency and sheer spirit, Kaneko in particular doubling over to exhult in nearly every point won.

Despite Japan’s prowess going into today’s final, few would have predicted a shutout for the new champions.  Hence, it was a great surprise that the two headliners, 2011 Asian Junior Champion Sun Yu of China and current #3 in the World Junior rankings Nozomi Okuhara (pictured above, right, with Sun Yu), were not to appear on court.

In fact, they just happened to appear together on the podium.  Nozomi joked upon climbing to the top level, that she and many of her team-mates still were not at eye-level with their Chinese opponents one step down.

“Last year at the Asian Juniors, I lost to Sun Yu,” Nozomi said after the match.  “She is very strong so I thought ‘I must win!’ but I was very excited about playing her today.  It wasn’t that I was feeling pressure.”

Asked whether she felt more regret that she wasn’t given the chance to play or gladness that Japan won in three straight, Okuhara laughed, “Uh, half and half.”

As with some of the earlier rounds, there were both veterans and retirees on hand to watch their successors come into their own.  Former top international Chen Yu was seen coaching Xue Song (pictured above) throughout the week.  Also, the organizers drew heavily on the help from the local Gimcheon pro team, including Asian Games gold medallist and 2007 World Junior Boys’ Doubles Champion Shin Baek Cheol (pictured below), who was calling lines in the match won by two youngsters who may just earn his former title later this year.

But first things first, the individual event of the Asian Juniors kicked off early in the afternoon following the mixed team final.  Stay tuned with Badzine as we bring you live photos and reports from the later rounds.

2012 Badminton Asia Youth Under 19 Mixed Team Championship – Final result

JAPAN 3, CHINA 0
XD: Akira Koga /Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) bt Pei Tianyi / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) 21-16, 17-21, 21-19
BS: Kento Momota (JPN) bt Xue Song (CHN) 17-21, 23-21, 21-14
BD: Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko  (JPN) bt Pei Tianyi / Zhang Ningyi (CHN) 21-18, 21-15
GS: Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) vs. Sun Yu (CHN) (not played)
GD: Chisato Hoshi / Ayako Sakuramoto (JPN) vs. Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan (CHN) (not played)

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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