Rocky road ahead for Jonatan as he chases grand double

PETALING JAYA: Indonesian shuttler Jonatan Christie will head to the Tokyo Olympics with a shot at becoming the third men’s singles shuttler to complete a grand Olympic Games and Asian Games double.

Compatriot Taufik Hidayat was the first to accomplish it when he won gold at the 2002 Busan Asiad and 2004 Athens Olympics, followed by Lin Dan who achieved it twice (2008 Beijing-2010 Guangzhou and 2012 London-2014 Incheon).

But it would take something special for the 23-year-old Jonatan, who won the Asian Games gold in Jakarta three years ago, to do so as he faces a challenging route to the final.

In the top half with him are world No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and China’s Shi Yuqi. In Group G, he has been pitted against Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew and Syrian refugee athlete Aram Mahmou.

Jonatan has every reason to be wary of world No. 42 Kean Yew’s threat although he did win all their three previous meetings.

In their last meeting just six months ago during the first round of the Thailand Open 1, Penang-born Kean Yew, who is now playing for Singapore, stretched Jonatan to a one-hour battle before losing 21-13, 10-21, 16-21.

Kean Yew stated in Singapore’s The Straits Times: “I would say it’s a good draw. I last played him (Jonatan) at the Thailand Open in January so at least it’s someone that I played recently, and I can gauge his standards better compared to those whom I have not met before or for a long time.”

In 2019, Kean Yew made heads turn when he downed two-time Olympics champion Lin Dan to bag his maiden World Tour title at the Thailand Masters.

In February last year, he stunned Chou Tien-chen during the Asia Team Championships.

Kean Yew will be aiming to surpass compatriot Ronald Susilo’s quarter-final feat in Athens 2004, which remains Singapore’s best achievement in badminton at the Olympics.

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