NEW DELHI: Japan can join the Thomas Cup elite winner’s circle – comprising Indonesia, China and Malaysia – if they win the final on Sunday.
The achievement will also look impressive on Park Joo-bong’s coaching resume.
Having won all the major individual honours as a player for South Korea, the legendary doubles ace is hoping to steer the Japanese badminton team to a major honour on Sunday.
“Japan have never won the Thomas Cup before and it will be a major boost for badminton back home,” said Joo-bong.
“If Japan can win, it will encourage more youngsters to pick up badminton.
“It will also be a new success story for me.
“As a player, I did not achieve it with South Korea ... although I almost did it as a coach with Malaysia in 2002.
“This is my second chance. Hopefully, my dream will come true,” added Joo-bong, who won the men’s doubles gold with Kim Moon-soo when badminton made its Olympic debut in 1992 in Barcelona.
He is also a five-time world champion – three of them in mixed doubles from 1985 to 1991.
Joo-bong, viewed by many as the best doubles player to grace the sport, was in the coaching set-up when Malaysia last made their Thomas Cup final in Guangzhou in 2002.
Having been the head coach for Japan since 2005, he believes there is no better chance for them to lift the coveted Cup than on Sunday.
Japan stunned five-time consecutive winners China 3-0 on Friday to reach the final for the first time in Thomas Cup history.
“The players are confident after beating China for the first time in a team event yesterday,” said Joo-bong.
“Many are saying that Malaysia have a weaker team this time ... I don’t think that’s the case now.
“Malaysia are more confident now after beating strong teams like Denmark, South Korea and Indonesia.
“But Japan have nothing to lose. It will be hard for Kenichi Tago to win the first singles but we have chances in the other matches. Whoever can handle the pressure better will have the edge tomorrow.”