Shuttler Kean Yew stuns Vietnamese opponent ranked 111 positions higher
Home crowd lifts Singaporean teen to upset win over Vietnam's world No. 28 in men's singles
He pumped both fists into the air and roared in jubilation as he collapsed on court in ecstasy.
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew had won only a SEA Games men's singles Round-of-16 match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday but, for the 17-year-old, that victory was almost as good as winning the gold medal.
The world No. 139-ranked men's singles player beat Vietnam veteran Nguyen Tien Minh, ranked 28th in the world, 21-16, 15-21, 21-17 in 57 minutes, with the pumped-up Singaporean celebrating each point with aplomb.
Adrenalin was still clearly coursing through the 1.75m-tall shuttler's veins when he met the media after his upset win.
Kean Yew said: "I am super, super happy. I don't think there are enough 'supers' to describe how happy I am... every time I play, I always come close but lose... this time (I won) partly because I was playing on home ground and felt very pumped up with everyone cheering for me.
"I just kept telling myself that whether I win or lose, I just have to keep fighting all the way, point by point."
The Republic Polytechnic student led 11-8 at the halfway mark of the rubber set, but kept his nerve even though Nguyen, 32, kept looking for a way back into the match.
The Vietnamese declined comment after the match, but Kean Yew said: "There wasn't a lot of pressure on me as I was the underdog.
"I was quite confident when I knew I had to play him because I knew that I can handle his style.
"In the rubber set, I told myself not to let him catch up. When experienced players take one or two points, they will take over the match very quickly, also because young players like me tend to lose focus in this scenario.
"This time, I told myself not to lose focus and to go for every single shot."
Lauding the teenager, Singapore Badminton Association secretary general Michael Foo said: "Loh Kean Yew is one of our athletes who has come through our National Intermediate Squad and it's great to see the fruits of labour pay off!"
The giant-slaying Singaporean will face Cambodia's Chanmara Tep in the quarter-finals today.
Singapore's top male shuttler Derek Wong is also through to the last eight today, after beating Cambodia's Cheng Phor Rom 21-10, 21-7 yesterday.
The world No. 52 will face defending champion Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk today.
"I knew my opponent today wasn't too strong so I took the chance to try out a variety of shots. I will take it one shot at a time in my match tomorrow," said the 26-year-old.
While Tanongsak is higher ranked than Wong at 22nd in the world, and has a 4-0 record against the Singaporean in the international circuit, the 24-year-old Thai lost 21-18, 21-19 to Wong in the men's team semi-finals on Thursday, although Thailand eventually won the tie 3-2.
Tanongsak said that the loss was a one-off and he will be back to his best against Wong today.
He said in limited English: "I didn't play to my form back then, maybe because of the pressure of the team event.
"I will just prepare for my match tomorrow and I think I can do better this time."
While most in the crowd, which was about 7,000-strong yesterday at the Indoor Stadium, are likely to back Wong today, Tanongsak said that he will not crack under pressure.
Asked how he would cope with the pressure from the stands, the Thai said: "Okay, nothing... I will just try to focus on my own performance and my own game."
M'sian mixed doubles pair knock out higher-ranked Singaporean duo
STAYING FOCUSED: Chan Peng Soon (facing camera) is poised to return a service from Singapore's Vanessa Neo. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES/SINGSOC
Malaysia's mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying were ranked as high as third in the world before Goh, 26, decided to undergo surgery to fix her right knee.
Entering the SEA Games, the Malaysian duo were ranked 49th in the world.
Yesterday, they came up against Singapore's 18th-ranked mixed doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo in a Round-of-16 match.
They may be ranked lower than their Singaporean opponents, but it mattered little as Chan and Goh emerged 21-18, 21-16 victors at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The win ensured that the Malaysians stay unbeaten against the Singaporean duo. Their previous meeting on the international circuit was a 21-13, 14-21, 27-25 win in the Malaysian Open in 2012.
Yesterday's win, though, was more clear cut for Chan and Goh.
Goh said: "We know their game very well, I think we prepared very well too. The crowd was quite good too, although the air conditioning here (in the Indoor Stadium) is quite strong.
"You can see the shuttle going one side, then the other, in mid air."
Chrisnanta and Neo were left to rue missing their chance of progressing to the last eight.
Said Neo, who turns 28 next Friday: "Wasted, there was a chance to beat our opponents, but we didn't capitalise on our chances.
"We were chasing the points rather than leading our opponents during the match but, credit to them, they played very well too."
Later yesterday, Chrisnanta and men's doubles partner Chayut Triyachart won their Round-of-16 match against Laos' Aniloud Keophithoun and Phakornkham Fongmalayseng 21-12, 21-15, but the rest of the Singapore's doubles pairs bowed out.
Women's doubles duo Neo and Shinta Mulia Sari lost 21-11, 21-15 to Indonesia's Anggia Shitta Awanda and Ni Ketut Mahadewi, while Terry Hee and Hendra Wijaya were defeated by Ronel Estanislao and Philip Joper Escueta of the Philippines 21-18, 21-15.
Only Chrisnanta and Triyachart, and Hee and Tan Wei Han, who received a bye into the mixed doubles quarter-finals, are in action for Singapore today.
National doubles coach Chua Yong Joo said: "I would say today's performance is a bit disappointing. Terry and Hendra were leading in the first game, but got too relaxed.
"But (women's doubles pair) Wei Han and Elaine Chua fought really well against the higher-ranked Malaysian pair Amelia Alicia Anscelly and Soong Fie Cho.
"They were even leading at one point in the first game, but were too inexperienced and lost."
Men's singles Round of 16
- Derek Wong (Sin) bt Cheng Phor Rom (Cam) 21-10, 21-7
- Loh Kean Yew (Sin) bt Nguyen Tien Minh (Vie) 21-16, 15-21, 21-17
- Boonsak Ponsana (Tha) bt Firman Abdul Kholik (Ina) 21-14, 21-13
- Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Tha) bt Meksavang Phommaly (Lao) 21-11, 21-7
- Chong Wei Feng (Mas) bt Pham Cao Cuong (Vie) 21-14, 21-11
Women's singles Round of 16
- Liang Xiaoyu (Sin) bt Yee Le Le (Mya) 21-4, 21-5
- Grace Chua (Sin) lost to Lindawen Fanetri (Ina) 21-11, 21-19
- Tee Jing Yi (Mas) bt Lin Khaing Zar (Mya) 21-8, 21-6
Men's doubles Round of 16
- Chayut Triyachart/Danny Bawa Chrisnanta (Sin) bt Aniloud l Keophithoun/Phakornkham Fongmalayseng (Lao) 21-12, 21-15
- Terry Hee/Hendra Wijaya (Sin) lost to Ronel Estanislao/Philip Joper Escueta (Phi) 21-18, 21-15
- Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi (Ina) bt Mak Hee Chun/Teo Kok Siang (Mas) 21-17, 21-17
Women's doubles Round of 16
- Shinta Mulia Sari/Vanessa Neo (Sin)lost to Anggia Shitta Awanda/Ni Ketut Mahadewi (Ina) 21-11, 21-15
- Tan Wei Han/Elaine Chua (Sin) lost to Amelia Alicia Anscelly/Soong Fie Cho (Mas) 22-20, 21-14
Mixed doubles Round of 16
- Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Vanessa Neo (Sin) lost to Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (Mas) 21-18, 21-16
- Sudket Prapakamol/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Tha) bt Oo Chan Win/Yee Le Le (Mya) 21-8, 21-6
- Nipitphon Puangpuapech/Puttita Supajirakul (Tha) bt Duong Bao Duc/Thai Thi Hong Gam (Vie) 17-21, 21-13, 22-20