Two players at opposite ends of the junior spectrum today wrote their names into badminton history as the first Men’s and Women’s Singles World Junior champions from their countries while China swept the doubles categories.
Goh Jin Wei – at just age 15 – lifted the Women’s Singles championship in her third outing at this annual tournament; the first Malaysian to win that title. About an hour later, Lu Chia Hung, joined her in the record books at the YONEX BWF World Junior Championships, taking the Men’s Singles gold medal in this his last campaign at junior level. The 18-year-old’s success was also a landmark for Chinese Taipei which had never before tasted glory in the junior badminton showpiece.
Meanwhile, China’s Chen Qingchen – a team captain who has led from the front – earned her fourth and fifth World Junior crowns, winning the Mixed Doubles title for the third straight year and repeating as Women’s Doubles champion as the two-week championships came to a close in Lima, Peru.
She teamed up with Zheng Siwei to deny their team-mates, He Jiting and Du Yue (21-19 21-8), in the Mixed showdown. The accomplished 18-year-old later returned with Jia Yifan to oust another Chinese pair, 21-18 13-21 21-11, in Women’s Doubles. Once again, Du Yue was unfortunate to be on the losing end, with Li Yinhui as her partner.
“I’m very happy but I’m still young I cannot be too proud. I need to keep working hard and improving. That’s what’s most important for me – to improve with my partner, Jia Yifan. This is only the beginning for us,” declared the five-time champion.
Zheng also had the magic tough in the finals, claiming his second gold in Men’s Doubles as he and He Jiting efficiently thwarted the ambitions of Denmark’s Joel Eipe and Frederik Søgaard Mortensen in straight games. The Chinese top seeds prevailed 21-14 21-16 to secure triple gold for their nation in the doubles events.
“I’m very happy. Before I came here I felt a lot of pressure being the No. 1 seed in both events, so winning both titles today has relieved that pressure on me,” stated Zheng.
“It’s normal for China to win tournaments and gold medals but the path to gold is never easy and there have been some tough matches here at the World Juniors, so it makes it extra special that we have done well.”
Team manager Lu Sida lauded his players’ efforts while lamenting the shut-out in singles in which China did not win any medals.
“The team championship (Suhandinata Cup) was the most important thing. Once we achieved that we could think about the individual competition. It’s a pity we didn’t reach the semi-finals in the Men’s and Women’s Singles but overall I’m very happy with these boys and girls,” he said.
The afternoon’s spotlight, however, fell on the singles where Goh defeated fellow Malaysian, Lee Ying Ying – with whom she warmed up moments before – to hoist the coveted trophy. It was a nervous showing by both players, with the winner just about holding her emotions together to get the job done as Lee struggled to find any rhythm. Again tight net play and some good attacking moves saw the talented Goh through to the first global landmark of her youthful career: 21-15 21-16.
“I am overjoyed and excited. I really never expected this gold medal. I would have been satisfied in reaching the quarter-finals but, when I got to the quarters, I got a bit greedy – I wanted a medal,” admitted the bright-eyed champion.
“Then when I got to the semis, I was a bit more greedy. I wanted to be in the final and now I have the gold.”
Acknowledging she and 18-year-old Lee were both nervous, the astute athlete surmised that she controlled her emotions better on court. Not one to sit back and relax, Goh said she will now train even harder to stay on top, knowing she will be a target for other competitors. She is also keen to test herself at a higher level.
“I still have weaknesses to improve and I hope to defend this title next year but I also want to move on to senior tournaments and get more experience,” said the new queen of junior badminton.
In Men’s Singles, Lu could not have wanted a better conclusion to his junior exploits as he walked away with a gold medal dangling from his neck. Yet again the Chinese Taipei player proved to have the staying power in a match of cat-and-mouse exchanges. He and Siril Verma – another star in the making at age 16 – duelled closely in the opening game, with the Indian pulling away to grab the advantage. At that stage, Chinese Taipei fans looked concerned but the manner in which they had seen Lu calmly work his way into the ascendancy, from perilous positions, gave them hope.
That conviction was not misplaced as Lu came out firing in the second game, speeding to a 12-3 lead. Clearly caught off-guard, Verma who was previously light-footed and bouncing around the court was suddenly slow and heavy in his movement. It didn’t get any better for the youngster seeking to become India’s first Men’s Singles World Junior champion; thus matching Saina Nehwal’s accomplishment in Women’s Singles in 2008.
Increasingly confident and composed, Lu was victorious, 17-21 21-10 21-7, to give Chinese Taipei their finest hour on the junior stage.
“This was very important for me and for my country and I hope we can have other champions in the future. I am so happy – and tired. It was hard but I really wanted this so I kept fighting,” said Lu, cheered on by scores of his compatriots living in Lima.
“I was rushing too much in the first game so in the second I slowed down, not to give him anything fast to hit. Then I was able to control the match.”
Gracious in defeat, Verma hailed Lu as a worthy winner, noting his rival’s fitness was the superior difference.
“He was too fit and had lots of stamina. He is senior to me and I can learn a lot from this loss. I must work on my fitness.
“I’m a little sad I lost out on gold, maybe next year,” said the runner-up, still smiling.
Tournament link: Yonex BWF World Junior Championships 2015 – EYE LEVEL Cups