All new World Junior Champions coming for 2013!

Past winners Nozomi Okuhara and Ratchanok Intanon will skip the premier U-19 event, guaranteeing that five new champions will be crowned in Bangkok next month. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto […]

Past winners Nozomi Okuhara and Ratchanok Intanon will skip the premier U-19 event, guaranteeing that five new champions will be crowned in Bangkok next month.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto and Don Hearn

For the first time since 2009, there will be no repeat champions at the BWF World Championships. Ratchanok Intanon and Nozomi Okuhara (pictured), the only two past champions still qualified in the under-19 category, are both giving this year’s event, to be held in Bangkok

Also missing will be another major contender for the girls’ singles crown, Malaysia Grand Prix Gold champion and World Championship semi-finalist P. V. Sindhu of India.  Ratchanok, who has already won the title 3 times, has made it clear that her next goal is to qualify for the US$500,000 Superseries Finals in December.

Both Ratchanok and Sindhu are well down in the Superseries standings but are still well within reach of the top eight with 4 events left in the season.  Both are entered in all the Superseries events on either side of the World Juniors.

Nozomi Okuhara, meanwhile, has been out of commission since suffering an injury in the Malaysia Open in January.  She will still be on the sidelines for Bangkok but, surprisingly, she is slated to play the Korea Grand Prix Gold the following week, as well as the China Open the week after that.

Still loads of talent

The girls’ singles event still boasts the most exciting field for this year’s World Juniors, however, and Japan and Thailand will still have arguably the strong presence.  In addition to the three absentees, the only three other juniors who have already won a Grand Prix title or above are on these two teams.

First and foremost has to be 2012 runner-up and Japan Open champion Akane Yamaguchi.  The only seeded players Yamaguchi had to beat in Japan along the way to becoming the youngest ever Superseries champion were two other teenagers but yesterday, she fell to former world #1 Wang Shixian only after an hour and twenty minutes.

Japan’s other threat comes from Asian Junior Champion Aya Ohori (pictured above with Yamaguchi).  Ohori had her own moment of success on the senior stage when she won the Russia Open Grand Prix last month.

The home homes will rest on the shoulders of Busanan Ongbamrungphan (pictured).  This weekend at the Yonex Dutch Open, she has reached her third Grand Prix final since she won the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold in 2012 but this time won a title for the first time since that auspicious victory in Johor Bahru.  Busanan is currently #1 in the junior rankings and is the highest in the general world rankings among the juniors who will be present in Bangkok next week.

China cannot be counted out either.  Qin Jinjing and He Bingjiao were semi-finalists at the Asian Juniors and both have been busy besides.  Qin won both the Asian Youth Olympic Festival in January and the Asian Youth Games gold in August while He came off a win over Jiang Yanjiao at the China National Games to win the Malaysia Youth International title.

Korea has a couple of hats in the ring as well.  Kim Hyo Min, who finished runner-up to He in Malaysia, has beaten Qin twice this year and also scored a victory over defending champion Yip Pui Yin in the East Asian Games team competition last week.  Lee Min Ji did beat world #29 Chan Tsz Ka last week but she has struggled against the top juniors this year.

If they make the trip to Bangkok, the best of Europe and the Americas, Stefani Stoeva of Bulgaria and Christin Tsai of Canada, respectively, could also improve on their round-of-16 finishes from last year.

About the boys

The other disciplines should also be very interesting.  While the Koreans Choi Sol Kyu and Jeon Hyuk Jin and Malaysians Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi have looked the strongest in junior events in the last year, both Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei and Sittikom Thammasin (pictured above) of Thailand each reached the semi-finals of their respective home Grand Prix Gold events.

In the doubles events, China looks set to take a medal haul for the first time in several years.  In the girls’ doubles, not only did Huang Dongping (pictured) and Jia Yifan and Chen Qingchen / He Jiaxin corral the Asian Junior Championship final for China but they have been active in both Grand Prix events and tournaments within China against the world’s best pairs.

Asian Junior Champions Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen have been getting similar Grand Prix experience, reaching the final of the New Zealand Open.  Huang Kaixiang / Zheng Siwei, the Asian Junior runners-up have been gaining experience as well.  Zhang Ningyi still has another year of junior eligibility but has played only senior events this year.

The Koreans have a lot of depth in doubles again this year but they have not quite had the success in junior events or the experience in senior events to be considered genuine threats to the Chinese in boys’ or girls’ doubles.  Choi Sol Kyu and Chae Yoo Jung (pictured below), the two-time Asian Junior Champions in mixed, chalked up a win over former Japan Open champions Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing last week in Tianjin and were also schooled by world #2 Xu/Chen so they have to be considered favourites in Bangkok.

World Junior Championship boys’ doubles runner-up Takuto Inoue of Japan is back but without his partner from last year in Chiba.  He is also untested as he was injured for much of this season.  Indonesia and Malaysia can be expected to mount a challenge in boys’ and mixed doubles, as can Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin, quarter-finalist last year in boys’ doubles and looking strong with new partner Tien Tzu Chieh.

No non-Asian pair has won a World Junior title in the nearly twenty years since Peter Gade won in boys’ doubles and the last time Europe had a finalist was in 2007.  That trend is unlikely to reverse itself as of the three European quarter-finalists from last year, only Stefani Stoeva is back, whereas so many of the Asians are returning for another shot at gold.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has yet to release the full list of participating players and the draws for the individual event will be performed only after the Suhandinata Cup mixed team competition is completed.  The draws for the Suhandinata Cup are available for download from the BWF website here.

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 @