Sho Sasaki: Ready for the world

We first got curious when he defeated Lin Dan in the 2nd round of the 2011 Indonesian Open earlier this June.  We grew even more curious when he next sent […]

We first got curious when he defeated Lin Dan in the 2nd round of the 2011 Indonesian Open earlier this June.  We grew even more curious when he next sent 2010 World Champion Chen Jin packing after their face-to-face encounter in the 3rd round of the same event.  Japan’s Sho Sasaki spurted his 2010 year-end World Number 25th ranking 16 notch up to reach 9th in a span of 9 months.

By Emzi Regala, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto and Emzi Regala

Of course, before all of of this, he’d already virtually earned himself the distinction of ‘Dark Horse’, having earlier beaten Chen Jin twice, in addition to taking home the Australian Open crown – his first of two Grand Prix Gold titles so far this year – and he has kept on giving the world’s top rankers a good run for their money.


Sho Sasaki © Emzi Regala

Born in the countryside of Hokkaido, in northern Japan, Sho started playing badminton when he was in 1st Grade simply because all the other kids played badminton.

I tried skiing as well but I switched back because I made more friends in badminton and the rest, as they say, is history,” said the soft-spoken Japanese.

Sho says that his daily routine starts with office work in the morning and then proceeds with badminton practices in the afternoon. He also shares his de-stress strategy: after every tournament, he will go on a drinking spree for 2-3 days with his badminton buddies in Toyama prefecture, and then come out rejuvenated once again, ready to pour his heart into the sport he loves.

2012 will be Sho’s third attempt for a slot in the Olympics.  Instead of being disheartened at failing the first two times, Sho decided to make two drastic changes. In June 2009, he started to engage in mental training.

Once a month for about 1.5 hours, I meet up with the trainer one-on-one in a private room.  We discuss my thoughts and feelings.  This session is held after the national team training camp, which usually happens after I come back from a tournament,explains Sho.

In January 2010 Sho also decided to replace his physical trainer.  “My training used to focus on strengthening and muscle build-up.  Now, it is about getting familiar with how the body can be utilized in the most efficient way to minimize fatigue and achieve maximum quality movement. We also talk about my prior tournaments– areas where I’ve done well and where I need to improve on,” he adds, commenting further that the combined physical and mental trainings are the key factors in his improvement.

Sho was happy that he finally defeated his idol Lin Dan but admits that one of his most satisfying games is his defeat at the hands of his idol in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Championships.  It provided a renewed motivation to train harder and perform better the next time around.

Of course one of my dreams is to finally make the Olympics.  But my immediate goal is to work hard and defeat the top-ranking player.  A medal will come after that. If we talk about statistics, I would like to be in the World’s Top 3.”

About Emzi Regala