SPORTS

Host S. Korea shut out of gold at int'l badminton competition

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 30, 2018 - 19:16
  • Updated : Sept 30, 2018 - 19:16

Host South Korea failed to grab a gold medal at an international badminton competition that concluded Sunday.

South Korea settled for three bronze medals at the Victor Korea Open, part of the Badminton World Federation World Tour.

No South Korean player or team reached the finals at SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium in Seoul.

(Yonhap)
South Korea's three bronze medalists were: Sung Ji-hyun in the women's singles, Choi Sol-gyu an Seo Seung-jae in the men's doubles, and Seo and Chae Yoo-jung in the mixed doubles.

The drought was the latest chapter in a string of recent struggles for South Korea, a team in transition following international retirements of mainstays over the past two years.

South Korea didn't win any badminton medal at the Asian Games last month in Indonesia, its first medal shutout in 40 years. It also failed to produce any champion at last year's Korea Open.

Japan, once an afterthought, now on the rise under the tutelage of Korean-born coach Park Joo-bong, picked up three gold medals -- in the women's singles, men's doubles and women's doubles.

In the women's doubles, Japan swept up gold, silver and two bronze medals -- awarded to the losing teams of the semifinals.

In the all-Japan gold medal match, Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi defeated Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota 2-0 (21-11, 21-18).

It was also an all-Japan affair in the men's doubles final, where Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe beat Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi 2-1 (9-21, 21-15, 21-10).

Nozomi Okuhara won the women's singles title over Zhang Beiwen of the United States 2-1 (21-10, 17-21, 21-16).

Though they didn't win a medal here, South Korean men's doubles team of Lee Yong-dae and Kim Ki-jung drew perhaps the biggest support from the local fans.

Lee, who won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles and 2012 Olympic bronze in men's doubles, made his first Korea Open appearance since 2016. After that tournament, Lee announced his retirement from the national team. Lee wanted to leave the national team's rigid training structure and set his own schedules while competing for his semi-pro club.

Players are allowed to enter international badminton events as individuals, without having their national flags on their uniforms. Neither Lee nor Kim wore the South Korean flag on their chests.

But the Badminton Korea Association decided that veterans like Lee would be blocking the path for developing youngsters if they were allowed to still compete internationally. And it instituted a rule preventing male players under 31 and female players under 29 that didn't belong on the national team from entering international events.

That left Lee and others to continue their playing careers at domestic tournaments. But some players took the BKA to court over the age regulation, and the court ruled in their favor in May.

Lee and Kim said if they continue to enter international events, they could help the development of younger players competing for the country. Choi and Seo, the men's doubles players still just 22 and 21 years old, said they were inspired by the veterans' presence at the Korea Open. (Yonhap)