Shuttlers on course for historic men's gold medals
Singles star Wong and doubles pair Chayut and Chrisnanta are one match away from historic golds
A cloud of gloom had loomed over the sport of badminton in Singapore in recent times.
The resignation of former chief executive Bobby Lee last year was soon followed by a poor return of a bronze medal at last December's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Critics were quick to condemn the sport's stagnation, pointing out the lack of depth in the national team, as well as poor organisation and communication within the Singapore Badminton Association.
But, in the space of some two hours yesterday, on adjacent courts at Glasgow's Emirates Arena, three men dragged the sport towards the bright lights at the end of the dark tunnel.
Singles star Derek Wong, and the men's doubles pair of Chayut Triyachart and Danny Chrisnanta rewrote the history books when they won their respective semi-finals to become the Republic's first male shuttlers to earn the right to contest for a Commonwealth Games badminton gold medal.
And the trio accomplished the feat in a gallant show of guts and gumption, coming from a set down in both matches to progress.
Wong beat India's RV Gurusaidutt 16-21, 21-19, 21-15, trailing 19-16 in the second set before digging deep to prevail in the end.
The 25-year-old will face India's Kashyap Parupalli in the final at 7pm today.
Wong's victory came while Chayut and Chrisnanta were in the middle of their semi-final against England's Chris Langridge and Peter Mills, seeded second in the tournament.
Like Wong, the doubles pair battled back from one set down to win the match 16-21, 21-16, 21-19.
They will face the Malaysian pair of Tan Wee Kiong and Goh Wei Shem in the final at 8pm today.
"Seeing Derek win (on the adjacent court) really helped a lot," said Chayut, who turned in a stunning performance at the net to inspire the victory.
"I'm feeling awesome, before we left for the Commonwealth Games, I felt we've got a chance for a medal. And now that we've come this far, it's important to keep focused," said Chrisnanta, the other half of the doubles pair.
"We will fight for every point."
Guaranteed of at least two silver medals, and having won a bronze medal in the mixed team event, the Republic's shuttlers have already bettered their haul from the 2010 Delhi Games of one silver and two bronzes.
Wong hopes that his performance will inspire the next generation of shuttlers.
"I'm happy for the sport of badminton in Singapore. This will be the first medals for men's badminton and I hope this will inspire young players to pick up badminton and pursue it as a professional career. This win is also for my dad."
When contacted, his father, local badminton hero and 1983 SEA Games gold medallist Wong Shoon Keat, was positively beaming.
"I don't know what to say, I'm really so happy for him. Derek didn't do so well in the team event, but he played really well in this game," Shoon Keat told The New Paper.
"There's more maturity in his play now... to come back from 19-16 down in the second set, you could see his patience. It's time that people see him as Derek Wong, not just as Wong Shoon Keat's son."
Wong, though, is keen to keep his feet firmly on the ground and not get carried away with his achievement.
"To be frank, the SEA Games is a harder competition. There's Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to contend with and it's really tougher to win a medal than the Commonwealth Games," he said.
Shoon Keat told TNP that he received congratulatory messages from friends across the region, and he is keeping his fingers crossed that his son can pull off one more match-winning performance.
"Making it to the final is a dream come true for any athlete - it's something that money can't buy, something that you'll treasure for the rest of your life," he said.
"I'm really hoping that he can win the gold. But, in the final, it will be more mental than anything else."
Former Singapore No. 1 Ronald Susilo hopes that the success of the shuttlers will herald a new era for local badminton.
He said: "This is good news, and I hope these victories will bring badminton back to its glory days and inspire the young ones to play, be more daring and even train full-time.
"But I hope that even if they win gold, they don't get complacent. They must work even harder for the tougher tournaments that lie ahead."
I hope this will inspire young players to pick up badminton and pursue it as a professional career. This win is also for my dad (badminton hero Wong Shoon Keat).
— Derek Wong