• Sat. Sep 30th, 2023

By excelling in both men’s and mixed doubles, Korean Seo Seung-jae raises endurance and fitness standards in badminton | Badminton News

By excelling in both men’s and mixed doubles, Korean Seo Seung-jae raises endurance and fitness standards in badminton | Badminton News

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‘3 paru-paru’ or ‘3 Lungs’ is the Indonesian nickname for Korean doubles star Seo Seung-jae, who a fortnight ago lit up the Copenhagen World Championships by winning first the mixed doubles and then the men’s doubles title. Rifqi Lazuardi Hargita writing for malangnetwork.com would compile a list of dangerous skills of the double doubles champ whose ability to come up trumps in both finals he contested and who has consistently stayed competitive in both categories has earned him the sobriquet of triple lungs.

Seung-jae would follow up the Worlds with another double run to the China Open weekend, making the men’s doubles semis and the mixed final. Once again, the Korean mixed doubles team would stop the World No. 1s Zheng-Huang of China in the quarters at Changzhou, packing them off to the drawing board after being a game down. “I think they are more stable and faster than before. With two weeks to go before the Asian Games, we need to make adjustments and try our best to have a good performance,” Huang would be quoted in China Daily.

Bookending the Super Finals Sunday in Denmark, Seung-jae alongwith Chae Yu-jeong first defeated the Chinese World No 1s in mixed doubles, Zheng Si-wei and Huang Ya-chong, 21-17, 10-21, 21-18. Then playing the last match of the day, Seung-jae and Kang Min-hyuk defeated Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, the home favourites, 14-21, 21-15, 21-17 in the men’s doubles final – a tremendous come-from-behind win that gave Seung-jae the rare double distinction.

The Koreans Seo-Kang were World No. 6 going into the World Championships, in a stacked men’s paired field and not exactly favourites, while fighting it out in the tougher half with World No. 1s Alfian-Ardianto and defending champions Soh-Aaron. Korea has a rich pedigree in men’s doubles, but it had been nine years since Ko Sung-hyun and Shin Baek-cheol picked the men’s doubles title in 2014.

Badmintonplanet would call it a resurgence of Korean men’s doubles, while adding a fantastic statistic that should make us pay better attention to the Korean pairing. Before 2014 when Ko-Shin won, two other combinations had picked the World title: Ha Tae-kwon and Kim Song-moon in 1999 and Park Joo-bong and Kim Moon-soo in 1991, all four incidentally winning in Copenhagen.

But it was the other landmark that had completed 24 years – Seung-jae would match Kim Dong-moon from 1999 in winning MD and XD in Copenhagen. Korea would also pick its first historic women’s singles title through An Se Young, to finish with three of the five gold medals, a staggering mark. But returning from a tough three-game match only hours later to add the men’s doubles title easily made Seung-jae the MVPs.

“This isn’t just our achievement, it’s an achievement for the whole Korean team,” Seung-jae would tell the media at the airport on his return.

Rich tradition

Twenty years had passed since the legendary mixed pairing of Kim Dong-moon and Ra Kyung-min in 2003 stood atop the top podium for Korea at the World Championships. But Seung-jae, alongwith 28-year-old Chae had helped revive a rich tradition – this was Korea’s sixth mixed doubles gold medal in history, made famous in 1989, by the original pairing of Park Joo-bong and Chung Myung-hee.

Seung-jae would credit his mixed partner Chae with doing all the pre-match analysis, since he had been busy through the week having played eight matches already before the finals. The faceoff against the top-ranked Chinese was a stiff challenge – a Great Wall to climb – since they had lost nine times out of nine played previously. The last loss had been particularly scarring – at the Sudirman Cup – and Chae would pore over the videos, though she conceded she wasn’t optimistic after viewing the replay. She would fear a 10th straight loss against the Chinese juggernaut as her confidence dropped. But she decided to enjoy the match and play comfortably rather than stress over it. She would calm her mind and focus on the skills more.

Seung-jae recalled: “We played a lot of matches, so we knew each other well. I couldn’t analyse much because there was also the men’s doubles tournament, but (Chae) Yoo-jung analysed my share as well, so it was very helpful to catch the opponents.” He would enter the court determined to make history.

Both left-handers, Seung-jae has tremendous versatility and would cover the wide arc from the backcourt left side to the forecourt right. While Chae shouldered a bulk of the offensive burden, Seung-jae would add the finishing touches to the attack, as they came back from dropping the middle game. Leading through the third, the Koreans would amp up the pace, but the Chinese were threatening to close the gap at the finish. Seung-jae though would pounce at the net and send a cross-smash to Zheng’s right hip to secure victory.

Seung-jae’s men’s doubles partner Kang, 24, a year younger than him, had been worried some of the exhaustion would trickle through, but knew that Seung-jae wouldn’t let it show. He would take the lead in offence, though they fell back by a game. With Kang, a right- hander, the southpaw plays on the right side, and together they cover the middle ground. Trailing by a game, they would be 14-15 down in the second as the Danes had their tails up, when the Koreans blitzed with seven straight points. Seung-jae started coming forward more, though he has a relentless attack from the back. At the net, he found some outrageous deceptive angles. They would carry the momentum into the third and the match ended with a crosscourt short flat forehand from Seung-jae. Two out of two for Seung-jae.

“I feel honoured just to be mentioned with the legendary seniors. I think I still have a long way to go. If you keep your head down and work quietly, I think you can overcome it,” he said about his future goals – the Asiad immediately and the Olympics.

Rare feat

While most doubles players can ace two categories early in their careers, the exertion of two events sets in at the top level. It is very rare to find someone who triumphs in both demanding events at the highest level. “It was physically difficult, but with the help of my colleagues and strong mental strength, I overcame it. It would be a lie if I said there was no burden in terms of physical strength,” Seung-jae would say.

Injuries often get compounded by the burden of two matches a day on tournament days, though Seung-jae has raised the bar for what can be achieved by winning the biggest one in a non-Olympic year. “I think we showed a lot of people that we can do it too. There were many times when we were upset because there were many times when the results were not good. With this opportunity, I gained confidence that we can improve a lot. I will not settle for this and will show my progress in the Asian Games, Olympics, and open competitions,” he would declare as quoted by sportvnews.com.

On the circuit, Seung-jae has picked titles at the Korea Open in 2022, and came into the Worlds on the back of the Malaysia Masters and Australia Open titles in 2023. He was also the runner-up at the All England in mixed doubles this year with Chae, when they showed early form and an indication of what was to come later in the year when they would be ranked 5th in the world.

Seung-jae played at the 2014 summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, and then helped Korea win the Sudirman Cup for the fourth time in 2017. Earlier paired with Choi Sol Gyu in men’s doubles, southpaw Seung-jae is known to play well with whoever he is paired with.

MalangNetwork would identify some of his court skills that made him a tough opponent, starting with the “sitting defence”, where Hoki-Kobayashi relentlessly attacked the Koreans, where his defence even while being peppered sitting would fetch the pair points.

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Seung-jae is also known, according to Malang, for his diving saves – mostly to the forecourt where he pounced on the shuttle and negated the net play of Alfian-Ardianto at the Korea Open. Then there are the “trick shots in deflecting his opponent’s fast smashes with a technique of turning his body and producing points,” displaying great anticipation, according to the website that anointed him 3 lungs.

Finally, there is the Jump Smash with wicked left-handed angles, that can reach speeds up to 426 km/hour, Hargita would write.

Koreans, long known to play the classical, technical running style of badminton, are back to dominating doubles, seriously challenging China and Indonesia. Seung-jae is a fantastic modern-day freak of endurance play and a livewire turning out in either men’s or mixed doubles, mostly both. With his gruelling double doubles, he is fast gaining the sort of popularity last enjoyed by Lee Yong-dae, to revive frenzied interest in Korean doubles badminton.

By iwano

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