Singapore's Loh Kean Yew eyes different outcome against Asian champ
S'pore shuttler eyes different ending against Asian Games champ, his next opponent
One moment, he was cheekily pointing out how this reporter's mask was upside down.
But the next moment, Singaporean shuttler Loh Kean Yew was dead serious when talking about his Tokyo 2020 ambition as he plots his way into the last 16 of the men's singles.
Yesterday, the Olympic debutant beat refugee athlete Aram Mahmoud 21-15, 21-12 in 32 minutes at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in his first Group G match.
The world No. 42 will play the seventh-ranked Jonatan Christie tomorrow to decide who progresses to the knockout rounds. The Indonesian had beaten Mahmoud 21-8, 21-14 on Saturday.
Ahead of the Games, Loh had stated his desire to win an Olympic medal despite being an underdog.
And Christie will present a tough challenge.
The 23-year-old is the Asian Games champion and is also highly motivated to do well at the coronavirus-delayed Olympics, in memory of his brother who died of the disease.
He also has a 3-0 head-to-head record against Loh, who did claim one game in each of those defeats.
But the 24-year-old said: "With this being the Olympics, and with his status, I think the pressure on him is greater.
"I lost to him a few times already. Nobody wants to lose to the same guy all the time, so I'll try to make it a different ending this time."
Loh rated his performance against Mahmoud as a "six to seven out of 10", as he overcame early jitters and missed open shots.
The Syrian was able to take leads early on in both games but, once Loh found his rhythm, he was able to pull Mahmoud around the court with relative ease and find openings for the kill.
"Everyone who is at the Olympics must be of a certain standard. I don't take any opponent lightly, I'll do my homework and play my best and it was the same for this match," said Loh, who arrived in Tokyo last Tuesday following a training camp in Kochi.
He added: "Luckily I have had six days to settle in, be done with the distractions and enjoy what the Olympic Village has to offer before getting into competition mode before my flag-bearing duties at the opening ceremony.
"Of course, I felt nervous and tense, but I'm happy that I overcame that and played more calmly in the second game.
"I'm going to take that to my next match. I'll be more ready because I'm now more familiar with the environment."
Elsewhere in the competition, most of the top seeds pulled through.
However, Malaysia's mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying - silver medallists at Rio 2016 - were knocked out in the group stage after losing all three matches.
Chan, who overcame Bell's Palsy in 2019, posted on Instagram: "It was not the ideal result or performance, and for this I apologise. We win and lose as a team and we will keep fighting."