TEARS flowed as South Korea hit where it hurt most by snatching the women’s badminton team gold at China’s own den.
And Kim Ga-eun turned heroine as she justified her position as South Korea’s second women’s singles shuttler by producing a scintillating show to deliver the winning point in their 3-0 whitewash of China at the Hangzhou Asian Games yesterday.
It was South Korea’s first Asian team badminton gold after they last won it 29 years ago at the 1994 edition.
The world No. 18 Ga-eun had the toughest task against world No. 5 He Bingjiao but she pulled off a sensational 23-21, 21-17 in a 70-minute duel at the Binjiang Gymnasium.
It was Ga-eun’s third time triumphing over Bingjiao in their past nine meetings.
Ga-eun had been struggling with confidence and performance issues after experiencing early-round eliminations in 14 out of 19 tournaments that she participated in this year so far.
The victory over Bingjiao could not have come at a more opportune moment and will undoubtedly bolster Ga-eun’s confidence and motivation as she gears up for the individual event starting today.
Before Ga-eun’s victory, badminton queen and world No. 1 An Se-young got the team off to a strong start by defeating world No. 3 Chen Yufei with 21-12, 21-13 while world No. 2 Baek Ha-na-Lee So-hee followed through with a 21-18, 21-14 win over top pair Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan.
South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-kyun called the gold “precious” and said they were already targeting more success at next summer’s Paris Olympics.
“This is thanks to the determination, mindset, mentality and unity of our players,” said Hak-kyun as reported to AFP.
“They are at their peak, but we are still moving forward and our target is beyond Asia and looking at the Olympics.”
China’s coach Xia Xuanze said the home team were tired and would need to quickly pick themselves up, with singles and doubles golds still up for grabs later in the Games.
“Because we are playing at home, in an event that happens only every four years, of course we face a lot of pressure,” said Xuanze.
“But there is also the incentive of playing at home. It was not about pressure, but at key moments we couldn’t grasp the opportunities. Because we didn’t win gold, our athletes’ mindset will be affected for sure.”
Men: India bt South Korea 3-2 (H.S. Prannoy bt Jeon Hyeok-jin 18-21, 21-16, 21-19; Kang Min-hyuk-Seo Seung-jae bt Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty 21-13, 26-24; Lakshya Sen bt Lee Yun-gyu 21-7, 21-9; Kim Won-ho-Na Sung-seung bt M.R. Arjun-Dhruv Kapila 21-16, 21-11; K. Srikanth bt Cho Geon-yeop 12-21, 21-16, 21-14); China bt Japan 3-1 (Kenta Nishimoto bt Shi Yuqi 10-21, 21-16, 21-14; Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang bt Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi 23-21, 25-23; Li Shifeng bt Kanta Tsuneyama 21-16, 21-10; Liu Yuchen-Ou Xuanyi bt Akira Koga-Taichi Saito 15-21, 21-14, 21-17).
Women: Korea bt China 3-0 (An Se-young bt Chen Yufei 21-12, 21-13; Baek Ha-na-Lee So-hee bt Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan 21-18, 21-14; Kim Ga-eun bt He Bingjiao 23-21, 21-17).