ASIAN CHAMPS 2014 Finals – Sung snaps Korea’s title drought

Sung Ji Hyun ended Korea’s 2014 title drought while Lin Dan, the Luo twins and Shin and Yoo extended streaks for their teams in three disciplines. Story and photos by […]

Sung Ji Hyun ended Korea’s 2014 title drought while Lin Dan, the Luo twins and Shin and Yoo extended streaks for their teams in three disciplines.

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

Lin Dan and Luo Ying / Luo Yu extended Chinese streaks in men’s singles and women’s doubles at the to six and nine straight, respectively.  But Sung Ji Hyun broke China’s seven-year lock on women’s singles with a victory over Wang Shixian.  This was Korea’s first senior international title of 2014 but it was not the only one on the day.

Gimcheon Indoor Gymnasium was well below capacity but it was amply populated with both Korean and Chinese cheering sections.  After the dry run cheering for the mixed pair from Hong Kong, the Chinese supporters really got their chance to celebrate when Luo Ying and Luo Yu shut down Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na in two, close games, full of frighteningly long rallies with some very hard hitting and of course incredible fitness on both sides.

Lin Dan and Sung Ji Hyun both seem determined to maintain the suspense about who would win their matches.  Lin looked to be having trouble with Sho Sasaki in their first game before dominating the next two and becoming Badminton Asia Champion for the third time.  Sho, who was the only player in action on Sunday without a cheering section, may have got some needed experience as both he and Lin Dan could be in a position to play 3rd singles in the upcoming Thomas Cup Finals.

In the women’s singles final, Sung Ji Hyun blew a 16-7 lead in the first game before finally edging Wang 21-19.  Another early lead in the second was extended when Sung’s string broke loud enough for the entire hall to hear and Wang Shixian continually pushed the shuttle to the back of the court, only to watch Sung maintain control and finally win the point.

Sung again held a commanding lead at 15-8 in the second game, but this time, she did not allow the world #2 to catch her as she held on to win in two straight.   Sung Ji Hyun is thus the first Korean in 10 years to win the Asian women’s singles title.

“It feels good to win my first Asian title, and to win this title for Korea after so long,” said Sung Ji Hyun afterward.   “It feels especially good to win because it is in Korea.

“I realize that not so many of the top Chinese players participated but still, I feel like this is good preparation and it gives me some confidence going into the Asian Games.

“I got so nervous when she caught me near the end of the first game so after I won that one, at the beginning of the second, I thought I had to play smarter and make sure it didn’t happen again.  Rather than going for it and trying to play aggressively and finish the rallies quickly, I concentrated on just keeping the rallies going.

“On the one when my string went, normally in that situation, the rally would be over very quickly so I think I just got lucky.  Each time I hit the shuttle, it was at a place that still had some tension and then I got lucky at the end when Wang Shixian misjudged and let it drop in.

“I think Wang Shixian is always under pressure if she has to play me in Korea, where I of course feel very comfortable playing.”

Shin Baek Cheol also felt very comfortable playing in Gimcheon, where he plays for the city badminton team.  Unlike his partner Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured below), who settled for two silvers when the Badminton Asia Championships were held in the city he plays for in 2009, Shin was able to leave with one title today.

Of course, five years ago, Yoo had to play reigning Olympic champions in both finals.  Shin and Yoo’s opponents were not quite at that level but nor were China’s Li Junhui Liu Yuchen easy pickings, either.  The towering 2013 World Junior Champions matched the Koreans drive for drive and pummelled down smashes from impossibly steep angles.  Shin and Yoo held their nerve, though, and took the Asian men’s doubles title for Korea for a third straight year.

While most of the players will be heading home to train for the Thomas and Uber Cups, the Koreans head a couple of hours to the north where the biggest domestic event of the year begins tomorrow in Andong.  The Chinese Taipei team had similar plans but expect all of them to be ready and focussed when the prestigious team events kick off in Delhi in mid-May.

Final results
XD: Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah (HKG) [3] beat Shin Baek Choel / Jang Ye Na (KOR) [4]  13-21, 21-15, 21-15
WD: Luo Ying / Luo Yu (CHN) beat Kim Ha Na / Jung Kyung Eun (KOR) [2]  21-18, 21-18
MS: Lin Dan (CHN) beat Sho Sasaki (JPN)  14-21, 21-9, 21-15
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [4] beat Wang Shixian (CHN) [1]  21-19, 21-15
MD: Shin Baek Cheol / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) beat Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN)  22-20, 21-17

Click here for complete results

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 @