KOREA SUMMER CHAMPS – Lee Hyun Il far from slowing down

Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il showed the few local fans on hand in Hwasun Saturday that after three retirements, he’s still got what it takes to score a win from […]

Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il showed the few local fans on hand in Hwasun Saturday that after three retirements, he’s still got what it takes to score a win from the best.  Lee, who turned 30 this spring, took back the Summer Championship title which, surprisingly, he last won ten years ago, before his first of five titles.

Photos by Don Hearn, live from Hwasun.

While the rain drizzled outside onto the grateful rice patties outside the Hwasun Hanium Gymnasium, the players inside made their own contribution to the moisture and heat that characterizes Korea’s Summer Championships.  Park Sung Hwan went down on the slippery floor during the second game and needed medical attention on his knee.

Lee Hyun Il (above) had already begun his comeback from one game down, however, and the two biggest names in Korean men’s singles were still at it midway through the last round of middle school division matches that would mark the end of the day.  Park had a 19-18 lead late in the third game but Lee made a final push to close out the match 19-21, 24-22, 21-19.

Park was the second player from the southern island of Cheju to come up just short in a final final as Kim Min Jung, playing with Kang Myeong Won (above) went down 18-21, 17-21 to Han Sang Hoon / Jung Kyung Eun (below).  Jung was the youngest doubles player on Korea’s successful Uber Cup team and has played with four different women’s doubles partners this year and in next week’s Singapore Open, she will be playing with Ha Jung Eun, who was her partner for one of her two Uber Cup victories.

“I never even dreamed we would win the Uber Cup,” said Jung “and I’m surprised that it was in mixed doubles that I would win here.  I have concentrated more on women’s doubles so far.”

Jung has won two international challenges and reached two Super Series semi-finals with high school team-mate Yoo Hyun Young but had an unsuccessful European outing with Kim Min Jung.  “Hyun Young and I play a more active, physical game but with Min Jung or Jung Eun, I can play with a more relaxed style because they are controlling the game.”

Kyung Eun is hoping to do well in her new partnership with Ha Jung Eun next week in Singapore and, like every player in Asia, is looking forward to a good result in Guangzhou in the fall.

Kang Ji Wook and Kil Hyun Cheol
(above) did manage to take one more title for Cheju, adding to Tuesday’s high school team final the two had been instrumental in winning.  Kang said that he hasn’t won a national title in singles since middle school and that, despite his international success this year in singles, he expects to be concentrating on doubles in the future, apart from team competitions.

“It was very tiring,” Kang said of playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the World Juniors.  “In my sixth match on quarter-finals day, I was tired so I made many mistakes.  I felt badly for my partner.  After our Asian Junior title in doubles, we had high expectations of winning the Worlds.

“Viktor Axelsen is so tall so he makes contact with the shuttle so high but on top of that, he is very fast so it’s so hard to play against him,” Kang said.  With Axelsen ineligible for the Singapore Youth Olympics, World Junior runner-up Kang will be the man to beat.

“I think so too.  I think I have a good chance and I really want to win the Youth Olympic title,” Kang grins.

A few locals were on hand to cheer the remaining home contenders and the cheering worked for both Gu Mu Nyeong (above) in the singles and Kim Dong Hun / Ko A Ra (below) in the mixed doubles, both of the high school division.  With Kang intent on a doubles career, it seems Korea’s routine of losing promising singles players to doubles is bound to continue.  Still, it was Gu who had triumphed over Kang in the semi-finals and he enjoyed victory over Gwangmyeong’s Kim Min Ki by almost identical scores but for Gu, his only international result so far has been in doubles.

High school mixed doubles champion Kim Dong Hun comes from the same hometown as Lee Yong Dae and has a name only one letter different from Kim Dong Moon.  He has not been on the national junior team yet but he has one more year to make a name for himself on that stage.

Choi Hye In (above) has five German Junior titles to her name and was mixed doubles runner-up in the World Junior Championships where, like partner Kang Ji Wook, she was in all three disciplines and played five matches on quarter-finals day.  Choi is also headed to Singapore in August but with her doubles prowess, it seems unlikely she will be joining the ranks of Bae Youn Joo and Sung Ji Hyun on the singles squad when she graduates from juniors next year.

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