KOREA OPEN 2014 Qualifiers – A learning experience for World Junior Champion

World Junior Champion Heo Kwang Hee had to be content with a learning experience as he fell again at home to former world #3 Simon Santoso. By Don Hearn, Badzine […]

World Junior Champion Heo Kwang Hee had to be content with a learning experience as he fell again at home to former world #3 Simon Santoso.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Heo Kwang Hee (pictured) made only a very brief appearance at his first tournament as a senior shuttler.  The newly crowned World Junior Champion will turn 19 later this year but was unable to make the most of his only appearance in January, coming up just short of the main draw at the 2014 Victor .

Heo was the dark horse winner of the World Junior Championships in November, making that the very first singles title of his career.  In the final, he beat Chinese Taipei Open Grand Prix Gold semi-finalist Wang Tzu Wei.

“I really feel like I’m here to learn,” said Heo, after winning his first match, against compatriot Kim Hui Tae.  “Of course, I still want to win and I really want to make it to the main draw.

“I watched Simon’s match today and I have played him before, at the Korea Grand Prix Gold in Jeonju.  I lost that time but I really want to do better this time.

“Simon runs very well and he has a very defensive style but I think that if I can keep on the attack, I can keep getting the points.

“I would say that my smashing is the strong point of my game.  I play more of an attacking style than a defensive one – but I have injured my neck so I don’t know whether I’ll be effective today.”

Prior to the World Juniors, Heo had been overshadowed, in both domestic and international junior events, by his team-mates Choi Sol Kyu and Jeon Hyuk Jin.  In 2013, Choi had beaten Jeon in the final of the Malaysia Junior International, while Jeon had won the German Junior title before finishing as the runner-up at the Asian Junior Championships in July.

“I knew I had a chance to win it all in Bangkok.  I felt it before we got on the plane to Thailand,” echoing a belief that the Korean junior coaching staff clearly shared even before he chalked up that first title.

His Korea Open campaign was not to prove so fruitful, however, as Indonesian veteran Simon Santoso (pictured) stayed a step ahead of the youngster to finish him off in two games for the second time in two months.  It is thus Simon who advances to the main draw to take on China’s Chen Long, the most recent World Junior Champion to really make it to the pinnacle of the men’s singles game.

As so many winners and finalists from the now-annual World Juniors have really had to be patient in their wait for senior success, Heo realizes that he has his work cut out for him to advance in the men’s singles discipline.

“I definitely want to be one of the junior champions who succeed.  I have to work hard and not rest and I have to keep learning.  I’ve already been training with the national team for about a year and I have learned a lot from Son Wan Ho in particular.  For this year, my goal is really to make it into the top 100 in the world.”

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