Nothing could stop her.
World No. 1 Ahn Se-young (21, Samsung Life) won the women’s singles badminton gold medal on Sunday after defeating her “nemesis” Chen Yufei (China, No. 3 in the world) 2-1 in the final of the Hangzhou Asian Games. She won her second title of the Games after the women’s team event. Ahn dominated Chen Yufei in both finals of the tournament.
After being ranked No. 1 in July and winning the World Championships in Copenhagen in August, Ahn swept the Asian Games, which is considered the equivalent of the Olympics in badminton because of the dominance of Chinese and Japanese players. She was coronated as the “badminton empress.
What made the win even more emotional was that Ahn played through an injury to her right knee in the first set.
With tape wrapped around her right leg to the point where she could barely see the bare skin, she showed her determination. The injury forced Ahn to drop the second set. There was even a limp. “My knee made a ‘pop’ sound and I felt like something was out of place,” Ahn said. “It hurt a lot, but I could still walk, so I kept playing,” she said.
Her mother, Lee Hyun-hee, 48, who had flown all the way from Hangzhou to cheer her on, cried, “Stop it, it’s okay to withdraw,” but she didn’t give up. “I thought it was my first and last chance. I thought this time will never come again,” she said.
In the third set, she minimized her activity, sending shuttlecock after shuttlecock into the corner, exhausting Chen Yufei. Later, she played the game so intelligently that Chen Yufei had muscle spasms.
The Asian Games badminton women’s singles gold medal is the first in 29 years since Hwang Soo-hyun (51) at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games. If we broaden the scope to all singles and doubles events, it is 13 years since Shin Baek-chul and Lee Hyo-jung won the mixed doubles title at Guangzhou 2010.
After a ‘no-medal’ performance at Jakarta-Palembang 2018, Korean badminton collected two gold, two silver and three bronze medals, including two gold medals in the women’s singles and the women’s team event.
Ahn’s final opponent, Chen Yufei, has been called her nemesis. Until last year, Ahn was 1-8 against Chen Yufei. It was an absolute disadvantage. At the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, Ahn was knocked out in the first round by Chen Yufei. In the quarterfinals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she was again brought to her knees by Chen Yufei. Chen Yufei won the gold medal 스포츠토토.
That history of frustration was reversed this year. Ahn has met Chen Yufei nine times this year, winning seven times. “In the past, I only beat her because she was younger,” Chen Yufei said, “but now she has grown up a lot. “Now she’s grown up a lot, and it’s become a more interesting competition, with both wins and losses.
Behind the reversal was a lot of physical training and sweat. Ahn is an admitted “practice bug. “Even on vacation, if I don’t exercise even a little bit, I get anxious and can’t rest,” she says.
When both the national team and club training were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, she stayed with her parents in Gwangju and ran up and down the stairs of her 40-story apartment every day. In September last year, he went to a wrestling gym to improve his endurance and strength, which were considered weaknesses.
He joined a wrestling club within his team, Samsung Life Sports, where he received special lessons from wrestling coach Ahn Han-bong, 55, a gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He trained in the mornings and afternoons in badminton, then twice a week at night for two hours of wrestling-style hell.
On the mat, which is more physically demanding than on the ground, he learned the basics of running and step drills called “ladders,” as well as wrestling-specific techniques like bridges (an upside-down bow) and crisscrosses. Until recently, whenever she wasn’t training for the national team, she would visit the wrestling center.
“At first, Se-young was not very flexible, so she had a lot of injuries and it seemed harder for her to play,” says Ahn, “but now her legs stretch better than before and she seems to be less tired until the end of the match.”
Ahn is just 21 years old. She is on the verge of achieving the “Grand Slam” (Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games, and Asian Championships). Only Kim Dong-moon (48) and Park Joo-bong (59) have reached the same height in badminton. Both accomplished the feat in doubles, but Ahn will be the first to do so in singles. She has already pinned two buttons (World Championships and Asian Games) and has her sights set on the Dubai Asian Championships and Paris Olympics next year.
“I feel more confident. “I feel like I’m writing a narrative,” she says, “The results may be good or bad, but if I play badminton and enjoy it, I’ll be able to achieve good results. Her best days are just ahead.