KOREAN NATIONAL SPORTS FEST 2012 – What’s a gold medal, between partners?

Yoo Yeon Seong confirmed his status as Mr. Versatility in Korean men’s doubles.  Yoo has won international competitions with 3 different men’s doubles partners and on Sunday, just before embarking […]

Yoo Yeon Seong (right) returns a shot en route to a Sport Festival gold with Jung Jung Young

Yoo Yeon Seong confirmed his status as Mr. Versatility in Korean men’s doubles.  Yoo has won international competitions with 3 different men’s doubles partners and on Sunday, just before embarking on a journey with a new partner, took a National Sports Festival gold medal for Gyeonggi Province in a renewed scratch partnership with Jung Jung Young.

Story and photos: Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Daegu

Yoo emerged unscathed after all other national team members had been eliminated from the list.  Dangjin’s Kim Sang Soo got the better of Lee Yong Dae and Cho Gun Woo just as he had done in the last Olympic year.  He and Kim Byeong Wan, beaten in the finals by Cho and Lee last year, made good this time around, after already having beaten in-form Kim Sa Rang in the second round.  Yoo and Jung emerged the victors in the end, though, beating the two Kims 23-21, 21-13 in the final.

The other in-form man of last month, Kim Ki Jung, had a jittery start.  He and Kim Dae Eun (pictured below) had to save a couple of match points in their first match, against Jun Bong Chan / Han To Sung, but managed to march the rest of the way to the title in the university division.

One of the most interesting matches came early on Saturday with a first-round showdown between two pairs of sitting national team members.  In fact, it was Lee Yong Dae and his ‘other’ 3 partners.  Not Jung Jae Sung, but rather three other players, all of whom have won major international titles with the young star.  As if to highlight the internecine nature of the match, all four players strode on court wearing identical orange shirts.

Cho Gun Woo has not had the television exposure of his three counterparts but it was his backcourt power that Lee Yong Dae (pictured below) could rely on all through his teens while he developed one of the most lethal frontcourt games in international badminton.  Cho was also the first to get the Daegu schoolgirls hooting as he bared his muscled torso for the T-shirt colour change between games.

Cho and Lee finally took the match 18-21, 21-13, 21-13, leaving Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured above) to wait for the relief at least one of them will feel to be playing with, not against Lee in the near future.

Korea’s four Asian Junior Champions did not fare so well in the individual competition.  Shin Seung Chan (pictured above with Kang Ji Young), her regular partner Lee So Hee, and then mixed doubles champion Chae Yoo Jung all fell in quick succession to the eventual winners in the high school girls’ doubles division.

Chae’s mixed partner Choi Sol Gyu was a semi-final victim of his national junior team-mate Jung Jae Wook (pictured below), who still hopes to nab his own junior international title before leaving the age group at the end of the year.

The high school girls’ division was won by Kim Hye Rin / Lee Sun Min (pictured above).  Yet to make their own noise internationally, they are nonetheless motivated by a need to withold the name of Korea’s most famous high school badminton programme.  Their coach, too, is one of the best-known names as Barcelona gold medallist Hwang Hye Young is at the helm of the Changwon Sungji Girls’ High School team.

Other Olympic medallists were to be seen striding the sidelines in Daegu.  Amongst them was two-time silver medallist Lee Dong Soo, who coached his charges Lee Hong Je / Kang Ji Wook (pictured below) in an unsuccessful bid for a title.

The team supporters featured some famous names as well.  The Samsung bench, cheering for their women’s team, who were representing Busan, featured retired London bronze medallist Jung Jae Sung and Beijing gold and silver medallist Lee Hyo Jung, neither of whom had any playing duties this week.

Partners Kim Ha Na (pictured above) and Jung Kyung Eun were both in the stands cheering for their respective teams but of the women’s doubles players currently active on the national team, only Eom Hye Won was an individual medallist in Daegu.  Her regular partner Jang Ye Na (pictured below, playing with Yoon Yeo Sook) came up short in the first round and Choi Hye In and Kim Min Seo, who was called back to the national team with the removal of the four women involved in the Olympic controversy, both came up short against eventual winners Hwang Yu Mi and Kim Min Kyung.

Jung and Kim, as well as Kim Min Jung and Ha Jung Eun, all began to see action in the team event, which kicked off Monday morning.

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