SINGAPORE – National badminton player Loh Kean Yew captured the biggest title of his career after his opponent in the US$320,000 (S$432,000) Hylo Open men’s singles final on Sunday (Nov 8), Malaysia’s world No. 8 Lee Zii Jia, retired.
The 24-year-old Singaporean was leading 19-21, 21-13, 17-12 at the Saarlandhalle in Saarbrucken, Germany when Lee, the All England champion, conceded the match after suffering a back injury.
Loh has been making waves in recent weeks, conjuring up a string of upsets on his current European stint.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. Two titles since July
In the four European tournaments he has taken part in since the Olympics in July, he has captured two titles, including Sunday’s win at the Hylo Open.
The first was at the US$15,000 (S$20,250) Oct 13-17 Dutch Open, where he upset India’s world No. 21 Lakshya Sen, the top seed and defending champion, 21-12, 21-16 in the final.
But Sunday’s win is a far greater achievement, his first triumph at the Badminton World Federation World Tour Super 500 level, the fourth tier on the sport’s professional circuit.
2. Most memorable moment came in 2019
Loh’s most memorable achievement came in 2019 when, as an unheralded qualifier, he sensationally defeated Chinese great Lin Dan to claim the US$150,000 Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters in Bangkok.
The Chinese, who retired in 2020 at the age of 37, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport. He is a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion.
3. He was born in Malaysia
Loh was born on June 26, 1997, in Penang, Malaysia, and is the youngest of four sons. His parents are still living in Penang.
4. Older brother also plays badminton
His older brother Kean Hean, who also represents Singapore on the badminton circuit and is a doubles specialist, had arrived in Singapore in 2009, enrolling at Montfort Secondary School.
5. Kean Yew arrived in S’pore in 2010
Kean Yew arrived a year later at age 13 after receiving a scholarship from the Singapore Sports School. He was not thrilled about the transition initially.
“When the time came for me to move here, I was angry because my friends were all in Malaysia. But my mother already bought the ticket to send me here, so what to do?,” he told The Straits Times.
“So slowly, I started to make friends and adapt to life here.”
6. Badminton as a profession
He quit his studies at Republic Polytechnic to pursue a professional career in badminton.
7. Honoured to wear the Singapore flag
He and Kean Hean later became Singapore citizens, with Kean Yew saying: “I have had no regrets. After spending so many years training and developing in Singapore, I made many new friends and was ready to be a Singapore citizen, serve national service and represent this country.
“I am honoured to wear the Singapore flag on my chest.”
But NS was not without its challenges and he noted that “sometimes my ‘feel’ will be gone'”. Kean Hean later revealed that Kean Yew would rush to extra night training sessions after booking out from the army camp to train when he could.
8. Five SEA Games medals
He owns five SEA Games medals. One individual silver from the 2019 edition, where he lost the final to Malaysia’s Lee, and four bronzes: individual (2015), team (2015, 2017, 2019).
9. Hard work is non-negotiable
In Loh’s book, hard work is non-negotiable. He trains six days or 30 hours a week, with double sessions on four days which include court, gym sessions and runs. During competitions, he also devotes time analysing opponents, trying to find weaknesses to exploit.
He explained: “There are players in the top 10 who don’t have much talent but are there because they have discipline, grit and consistency; there are other more talented players who are not there for various reasons. There are too many good players out there regardless of their rankings and I cannot be complacent.”
10. Social media followers
He has over 70,000 followers on Instagram and over 5,600 followers on Facebook.
A post shared by Loh Kean Yew OLY (@lohkeanyew)
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