‘Inspiring + brilliant’ – that’s how South Korean badminton can sum up its achievements at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games.
The badminton team, which vowed to overcome the shame of the ‘no-medal’ five years ago, not only restored its reputation as a powerhouse in one fell swoop, but also made a splash with the inspirational comeback of Ahn Se-young (21-Samsung Life).
Kim Hak-gyun, 52, the national team’s head coach, had been predicting like a soothsayer since April. “I expect at least two gold medals, including Ahn Se-young. Keep an eye on Baek Hana. They will make things happen. There could be a surprise in the men’s doubles,” he said.
After the trauma of the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, there were more skeptics. But Kim’s prediction was spot-on. Korea returned home with two golds (women’s singles, women’s team), two silvers (men’s and women’s doubles), and three bronzes (men’s team, women’s mixed doubles), its best result since the 2002 Busan Asian Games, when it won four golds, two silvers, and three bronzes, erasing the painful memories of five years earlier.
If there’s one thing South Korean badminton has done right at the Asian Games, it’s a comeback double for Ahn Se-young. Ahn went undefeated in the team event, helping South Korea win its first women’s team title at the Asian Games in 29 years. Fresh off her team victory, Ahn was unstoppable in the women’s singles event. She met Chinese rival Chen Yufei in the final on Sunday and battled through an injury to win the game 2-1 to claim the double. It was the first women’s singles title in 29 years since Hwang Su-hyun won the 1994 Hiroshima Games, and the first in 21 years since Busan in 2002.
The highlight was a heartbreaking injury fight in the final. Ahn injured her right knee while making a diving reception during Game 1. After receiving first aid and continuing to play with a limp, Ahn barely held on to game one, dropped game two, and then bounced back to her feet after falling on her sore leg in game three. Looking at her painful expression, it wouldn’t have been strange if she had quit right away, but she persevered and wore her opponent down.
Her mother, Lee Hyun-hee (48), who was cheering her on from the stands, was so disgusted that she shouted, “Stop it! You can withdraw!” But Ahn Se-young didn’t give up and won two titles, becoming the recipient of the “Two-Honor Award” presented by the Korea Sports Federation. This inspiring story became a national topic.
Along with the emotion of the fight, her scorecard was also perfect. The medalist list of this year’s Games shows that Korea has restored its reputation to the point where it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s strongest country, China. They virtually wiped out Japan, a rising powerhouse that has repeatedly dented Korea’s reputation.
At the Jakarta-Palembang Games five years ago, Japan won a gold medal in the women’s team event, as well as one silver (women’s doubles) and four bronze medals (men’s team, men’s and women’s pairs, and women’s doubles), pushing South Korea out of the top three behind China and Indonesia. However, they were unable to take home any ‘gold’ at the tournament with one silver (mixed doubles) and five bronze medals (men’s and women’s team, men’s and women’s brigade, women’s doubles). 무지개토토
South Korea moved into second place overall behind China, which won four gold medals (men’s team, men’s singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles), three silver medals (women’s team, men’s and women’s singles), and two bronze medals (mixed doubles, women’s singles).
In particular, Baek Hana (23-MG New Village Bank), a member of the “young blood” along with Ahn Se-young, reached the final along with Lee So-hee (29-Incheon International Airport), a presidential candidate, and Kim Won-ho (24-Samsung Life Insurance), who had been the No. 2 player in the men’s doubles, won a surprise silver medal, brightening Korea’s prospects for generational change.