WORLD UNIVERSITY CHAMPS 2012 R16 – Another Lee walking tall

After a big win for both Lee Dong Keun and for Korea in the mixed team final, the individual event at the 2012 World University Badminton Championships began in Gwangju […]

After a big win for both Lee Dong Keun and for Korea in the mixed team final, the individual event at the 2012 World Badminton Championships began in Gwangju with the home team keen to add to its gold count as China’s best have already left.

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

Korea’s Lee Dong Keun (pictured) knew yesterday that, as always, Korea’s fate in a mixed team match-up with China always comes down to the men’s singles.  Korea was counting on Lee Yong Dae and his partners, who were looking solid in mixed and men’s doubles; however, there were no women in the Korean camp of the calibre of Sun Yu or former world #1 Cheng Shu.

Hence, it was up to Lee to do what Lee Hyun Il had done in the 2003 Sudirman Cup or what Han Ki Hoon had done in the 2006 World Junior Championship.  Lee, who has barely been noticeable on the international stage, with only one International Challenge title to his name, was badly beaten in his first game with 2009 World Junior Champion Tian Houwei before coming back to win 22-20 in the decider.

“I knew that the team final really depended on me but I was up for the challenge,” said Lee on Friday, after a far easier opening win in the individual event, against Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Wai.

“This is my first major victory so this has been really great for my confidence.  Plus, Tian isn’t even playing in the individual competition so I really want to make the most of the opportunity and take the title.

“Pablo Abian of Spain is still a dangerous opponent, though, and I’m taking that match – if it happens – very seriously.  I haven’t played him before but I’ve watched a lot of his matches and I think I’ll be ready for him.”

This is Lee’s last year of eligibility for university events and in the New Year, he will be joining three of Korea’s top singles stars on the Yonex team in Seoul.  One of these team-mates, Park Sung Hwan, continues to be plagued with injuries and it now looks unlikely that he will be able to resume his career while another, Lee Hyun Il, has already called time on his.

That leaves Son Wan Ho – who won the India Open this year but has only played a few domestic matches since the London Olympics – and Lee and his Yonex team-mate Hong Ji Hoon as the new generation of Korean men’s singles.

“I think I’ll be able to concentrate more on international tournaments now that I am finishing university.  I am feeling very positive and I’m ready to try to break into the top tier in men’s singles.”

Pai and Tai – the singles pair

Shenzhen Universiade double silver medallist Pai Hsiao Ma made tracks in both disciplines once again at this year’s World University Badminton Championships.  In fact, she and doubles partner Tai Tzu Ying (pictured left) each won their singles matches easily; however, the doubles match they played together turned out to be more of a challenge as they were stretched to a third game, where they held on to beat Eriko Tamaki / Saya Yamamoto (pictured below) 26-24 after a mere 67 minutes.

“We’ve never played that Japanese pair before,” said Pai after the match.  “We had a lot of trouble because we are both singles players and we seemed to play that match just like we play singles.  We never smashed.

“Actually, I think those two are mostly singles players too but we were playing with more patience.

“This is my last year in the university division so I hope to take home titles.  I’ll do my best, anyways.  I’m finishing my masters now.  It will be a relief to be done school.  We are already so busy with training and tournaments that we could never seem to find time for studying or doing assignments.”

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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 @