Ko and Shin get ready for Denmark at home

Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol win gold at the National Sports Festival in Incheon just weeks before they begin their international campaign at the Yonex Denmark Open Superseries […]

Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol win gold at the Sports Festival in Incheon just weeks before they begin their international campaign at the Yonex Denmark Open Superseries Premier.

Story and photos: Don Hearn, live in Incheon

Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured above) may be making their international debut at this month’s Denmark Open but at home, they finally capped off their first national championship in a now two-year partnership with a win over two-time champions Lee Yong Dae / Cho Gun Woo.

Ko/Shin started to play together domestically in early 2012, when Shin Baek Cheol first joined Ko in playing for the Kimcheon City Hall team.  Ko’s long-time partner Kwon Yi Goo had just begun his military service at the time and Shin was a welcome edition to Kimcheon, already one of Korea’s top pro teams.

However, the win in Incheon was their first national title.  In their first team event, in early 2012, Kimcheon was eliminated when Ko/Shin were unable to shut down Kim Sa Rang in a scratch pairing with the mighty Jung Jae Sung and they again lost to Jung/Kim in an individual final last fall.

Their first matchup this past weekend was actually against Kim Sa Rang, an Incheon native, and none other than Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured below), who was on loan to Incheon from the military team. The ‘home’ team started strong against Yoo’s two former partners but we edged out 23-21 in a thrilling third game.

“We actually have a fair bit of experience playing together since we are on the same team,” said Ko Sung Hyun, “but when we lost to Kim and Jung it was early in the partnership so we just had to learn from it.  It did feel good to beat Kim and Yoo to start off the tournament, though.

“Because we’ve changed partners and Baek Cheol and I will be playing together in international tournaments, we really wanted to play hard and to win here in Incheon first.”

Ko and Shin didn’t stop there, though.  They went on to beat three more players who had upset them in the past.  The final was a three-game win over Lee Yong Dae, playing with Cho Gun Woo (pictured below), who is no longer on the national team but who is Lee’s regular partner for domestic events, including for the pair’s wins in 2 of 3 past National Sports Festival finals.

Cho and Lee’s road to the final was anything but easy.  They barely scraped through their first match against Kim Sang Soo – the 2008 champion who had beaten the pair twice in Lee’s his first post-Olympic appearance that year – and his parnter Kang Myeong Won (pictured above).

Then it was Kim Ki Jung and Beijing bronze medallist Hwang Ji Man (pictured below) who came back from the brink to win 22-20 in their second game to force a decider that barely went Cho/Lee’s way 27-25.

Women’s doubles saw all but two of the top national team players in scratch partnerships.  Kim Ha Na / Shin Seung Chan (pictured above), the only pairing of two current national team members, won gold for Busan against Jung Kyung Eun / Kim Seul Bi (pictured below) of KGC for Daegu.  The toughest match for the world top ten players, though, was in the second round against current world #13 Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won of South Jeolla Province.

Lee Min Ji (pictured above left) and Kim Hyo Min were both in action in the high school doubles event, a week before representing Korean at the East Asian Games but neither took the title.  Although playing together they were semi-finalists at last year’s World Juniors, without a singles opportunity or a strong partner, each had to wait for later chances.

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