Singapore badminton player Loh Kean Yew just beat China’s Lin Dan to win the Thailand Masters – here’s why it’s such a big deal

Singaporean shuttler Loh Kean Yew beat Chinese Lin Dan on Jan 13 to claim the Thailand Masters title.
Video screengrabs from YouTube channel

Singapore badminton player Loh Kean Yew is the new local hero after he beat out Chinese badminton player Lin Dan to win the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters in Bangkok on Sunday (Jan 13).

Not only is he coming home with a US$150,000 (S$204,000) prize, the 21-year-old has also made history as the first Singaporean to claim a Badminton World Federation World Tour crown.

Loh beat Lin 21-19, 21-18 in a 46-minute match that left the audience sitting on the edge of their seats with their mouths agape.

Initially, the Penang-born athlete trailed in both sets. But with sheer determination and unrelenting patience, things took a turn and he eventually overtook his opponent.

Loh, who moved to Singapore when he was 13, scored the last point when he leaped up into the air and sent a smash down the line that Lin failed to retrieve. He let out a cry of pure ecstasy before collapsing to the ground in relief.

This is also the first time Loh has reached the final of a Level 5 (Super 300) tournament on the BWF World Tour. According to ST, the Thailand Masters is rated a Level 5 tournament, four levels below the world tour’s top-tiered US$1.5 million season finale.

Legendary opponent

To add to the prestige of winning an international competition, Loh’s competitor Lin Dan is  touted as a Chinese badminton legend and ranks 13th best in the world. Meanwhile, underdog Loh is more than a hundred places behind Lin at number 125.

According to The Straits Times (ST), while Loh entered the competition with just four lower-tier titles to his name, Lin had 65 titles – including two Olympic golds and five world titles.

Two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan (right) seen here with world no. 4 Chen Long in Singapore.
The Straits Times

So of course it wasn’t an easy win for Loh.

According to ST, Loh told the on-court interviewer: “He is very experienced and he caught a lot of my shots and it wasn’t easy to stay patient against him.

“I tried to use my youth to my advantage, to try and outrun him, but of course, I am also very tired,” ST quoted Loh as saying.

When he won, Loh said it was “really an honour” to have been able to fulfill his dream of playing against Lin.

“Chinese Slayer”

After defeating five Chinese players at the Thailand Masters, Loh has been given the nickname “Chinese Slayer” by badminton fans online, reported The New Paper.

But he’s not a big fan of his new nickname.

Loh told ST: “It’s unnecessary pressure, and not so nice. Just call me by my name lah, aiyoh.”

His victories over the Chinese players has even garnered him praise from Chinese badminton, reported ST. Not only did they praise his technique and temperament, they are swooning over his charming, boyish looks.

Done Singapore proud

Loh’s success has turned him into an overnight sensation in Singapore’s sport scene, with many Singaporeans congratulating him for his win on social media.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said on Facebook: “Kean Yew – a fantastic achievement and thank you for inspiring all of us to dream big!”

Team Singapore also took to Facebook to congratulate Loh.

“Our Singapore flag is flying high as we stand together with you in this victory,” it wrote.

ST quoted the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) president Lawrence Leow as saying: “This achievement is especially remarkable as he just returned to the national team last October after serving his national service.

“His win is a great encouragement for everyone on the national team. He has done well for Singapore and we are very proud of him. Kean Yew is one of our players who will be closely watched by others in the international scene.”

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