Smoking Gan of a coach – Jeremy works his magic again on biggest stage

Arigato!: Malaysian Jeremy Gan (centre) guided Yuta Watanabe (left) and Arisa Higashino to a historic medal.

PETALING JAYA: Former international Jeremy Gan added another feather to his cap in his illustrious coaching career.

Yesterday, his charges Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino defeated Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man-Tse Ying Suet 21-17, 23-21 in the bronze medal playoff to become the first ever Japanese mixed doubles medallists at the Olympics.

Watanabe-Higashino were the second pair guided by Jeremy to the Olympics podium.

In Rio 2016, the 42-year-old also led Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong to a silver-medal feat, 18 months before he left to seek a new challenge with Japan.

Although it wasn’t gold, Jeremy was still proud of Watanabe-Higashino, whom he had started coaching in January 2018.

“I’m so happy that Yuta and Arisa made it. They played absolutely well and deserved it,” said Jeremy.

“As their coach, of course, I feel fulfilled too. It took years of collective efforts from the players and the coaching team for this to happen.”

During his previous 15 years coaching tenure with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), Jeremy was also credited for playing a big part in the rise and success of mixed doubles shuttlers Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.

Asked if it was a different satisfaction compared to five years ago, he replied: “I think it’s the same. As a professional coach, I treat every team or players as equally important.

“It’s my responsibility to help my players to develop and become better.”

Watanabe-Higashino were already an established combination when Jeremy took over but he turned them into title-winning shuttlers.

Under Jeremy’s tutelage, the duo won five titles out of seven finals, which is highlighted by two All-England victories in 2018 and 2021.

They also became the first Japanese pair to win a medal in the mixed doubles at the World Championships after clinching bronze in Basel two years ago.

The Olympics mixed doubles gold was won by China’s second seeds Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping who upset teammates and top seeds Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong 21-17, 17-21, 21-19 in a thrilling 69-minute final.

It was sweet revenge for Yilyu-Dongping as they were previously beaten by Siwei-Yaqiong to the 2018 World Championships title in Nanjing.

Watanabe-Higashino’s bronze was the home side’s only medal in the Olympic Games as Japan suffered a big collapse in all the other events.

Yesterday, the challenge of 2017 world champion Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi also ended in the women’s singles quarter-finals.

Okuhara, who won a bronze at the Rio Olympics, went down 21-13, 13-21, 14-21 to China’s He Bingjiao while Yamaguchi went down fighting 13-21, 20-22 to P.V Sindhu of India.

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