KOREA GP 2014 SF – Hometown girl sends visitors away

Jeollabuk-do native Shin Seung Chan sent home the last international challengers in mixed and women’s doubles from the Victor Korea Grand Prix. Story and photos by Don Hearn, live in […]

Jeollabuk-do native Shin Seung Chan sent home the last international challengers in mixed and women’s doubles from the Victor Korea Grand Prix.

Story and photos by Don Hearn, live in Jeonju

Two-time World Junior Champion Shin Seung Chan was born in a little town not far from here and spent most of her school days and formative badminton years in this city of Jeonju.  But last autumn, when Jeonju hosted an international badminton tournament for the first time ever, Shin’s outing was over almost as soon as it began.  Playing with the former Olympic gold medallist didn’t stop her from being eliminated in the first round and her women’s doubles partner was unable to compete at all.

She more than made up for it this year, however, as she beat the last overseas challenges first in mixed and then later in women’s doubles to book her place in two finals.  Shin and partner Lee So Hee (pictured below) finished off semi-finals day on Saturday by beating Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo and Ng Hui Lin in straight games.

“I think the way that this gymnasium is designed, it doesn’t slow the shuttles down and that suits our attacking style,” said Shin Seung Chan after her second victory.  “And So Hee and I are working well together.  Whenever I am at the front, I can count on her at the back and we rotate well so it’s a very good partnership.

“I may be playing in two finals but I intend to just make the guy do all the running in the mixed final so I can give it my all in the women’s doubles,” Shin laughed.  “So far, I haven’t run into any problems with stamina.

“I’m satisfied to have reached the final in two events.  I definitely want to win the women’s doubles title in particular.  So far, I’ve only been runner-up in Grand Prix events.

“Of course it was disappointing to have to drop out of the event here last year but there’s nothing I can do.  When my partner’s injured, I just have to deal with it.

“This year, I’m in two finals but I think it’s because my partners played well and the pairings worked really well.”

Shin and Choi Sol Kyu had earlier shut down Chinese Taipei’s Tseng Min Hao / Lai Chia Wen to ensure the second of 3 all-Korean doubles finals, after Lee Yong Dae and the other hometown boy Yoo Yeon Seong saw off Japan’s Saeki and Taohata in just half an hour.

Seung Chan was not the only Shin to book spots in two finals.  Shin Baek Cheol did the same, as did his mixed doubles partner Jang Ye Na.  Their mixed semi-final against Yoo Yeon Seong and Eom Hye Won was an interesting contest as every player on court had been a partner to every other player on court within the last two years.

Head Coaches head home, too

In fact, the only teams involved in finals in the Korea Grand Prix just happen to both be coached by Jeonju natives.  In addition to local boy Lee Deuk Choon’s Korean National Team, the head of the Japanese programme is Park Joo Bong, who was two years behind Lee in elementary school.

Japan may have lost two semi-finals to Korean athletes on Saturday but a day earlier, they had made sure they got a lock on the women’s singles title, dominating all four berths in the semi-finals.

While 2012 World Junior Champion Nozomi Okuhara (pictured) followed the same path to the final that she did in New Zealand early this year, she was not to meet her opponent from that final in Auckland.  Instead, 2008 World Junior runner-up Sayaka Sato (pictured below) came back from a game down to beat compatriot Kana Ito in the longest match of the day.

This is her second final in a row but she has not been in a final at the Grand Prix level since her devastating injury at the London Olympics.

Asked whether she felt like she could get back to the level that saw her reach a Superseries final, Sato said: “My injury happened on the biggest stage, at the Olympics, so I would really like to make a comeback and do better at the Olympics in particular.”

Kazumasa Sakai failed to keep alive the hope of a Japanese sweep of the singles titles.  Korea’s Lee Dong Keun trounced Sakai to clinch the other singles title for Korea, as former world #1 Lee Hyun Il will face a compatriot for the 3rd straight day.  The final, however, will be a showdown between the present and former defending champions.

“It has been two years since my last Grand Prix title,” said Lee Dong Keun after the match.  “Since then, I have been playing a lot more Superseries and other high-level tournaments.

“I came away from the Asian Games with a lot more confidence.  I’ve managed to calm my nerves since then so I think that has been an improvement.”

On the prospect of playing Lee Hyun Il in the final, Lee Dong Keun (pictured) said, “Hyun Il is the face of Korean men’s singles and I grew up wanting to be like him.  Now that we are playing each other in a major event, as the representative of Korea’s current national team, I’d really like to win it for the pride of the team.

“I’ve played Hyun Il two or three times in domestic tournaments.  I haven’t beaten him yet but I have pushed him to 3 games.  Tomorrow, I want to make the best of it, to avoid any regrets.”

Speaking of regrets, Lee started off 2014 by earning match point against the eventual World Champion Chen Long.  “I think about that match a lot and I’ve really worked on my concentration so as not to let those games slip away.  I’m still more proud of having been able to push him like that, rather than being gutted about losing.”

Finals line-up
MD: Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) [1] vs. Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR) [2]
WD: Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [1] vs. Jang Ye Na / Yoo Hae Won (KOR) [5]
WS: Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [6] vs. Sayaka Sato (JPN) [7]
MS: Lee Dong Keun (KOR) [1] vs. Lee Hyun Il (KOR) [5]
XD: Shin Baek Cheol / Jang Ye Na (KOR) [5] vs. Choi Sol Kyu / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [6]

Click here for complete semi-final 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 @ badzine.net