Badminton’s Yoo Soo Suk-young hopes to ‘regain world No. 1’…”Congratulations, Gajiwara!”
“Omedeto (おめでとう – congratulations)!”
Yoo Soo-soo (20-Sport Class WH2-Korea Disability Employment Service) shouted out to Japan’s Daiki Kajiwara (21). They were speaking to the media from their respective countries side by side in the joint press area after the WH2 Men’s Singles Badminton Final at the Hangzhou 2022 Para Asian Games. The raucous celebration caused the room to erupt in laughter, but it wasn’t all smiles. Yoo Soo-soo was disappointed to see the world’s No. 1 once again fall short. 안전놀이터
Yoo claimed the silver medal in the singles after losing 0-2 (15-21 9-21) to Gajwara at Binjiang Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China on Sunday. Despite being a proud runner-up in his first Para Asian Games, Yoo was still reeling from the loss. “I’m bitter because I didn’t do as well as I expected,” he said. “I was nervous and my right forearm came up in the middle of the second set. I didn’t play the way I did in the first set,” he said.
The match was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams battling back and forth and then faltering in the late stages. In the first game, Yoo Soo-soo held a 13-10 lead before dropping eight straight points to lose the match. In the second game, she faltered in a 6-6 tiebreaker, giving up seven consecutive points. She then pulled within 9-14, but was unable to extend the lead as Gajiwara’s exquisite high-clear attack took her down.
Yoo said, “Gajiwara has achieved a grand slam by winning the Asian Para Games. Congratulations to her,” Yoo said, but added, “I’m sad because next year there is the World Championships and the Paralympic Games in Paris, so I was going to aim for (the Grand Slam), but it was taken away from me.” Gajiwara, who won the singles title at the Tokyo Paralympics two years ago, also won the World Championships in Tokyo last year and had won three majors before the Asian Games.
“I wasn’t thinking about (the Grand Slam), but I’m happy to win the tournament I really wanted to win,” Gajiwara told the Korean media. Speaking about Yoo, he said, “She is a player of my generation, so of course I am aware of her as a rival. “I will not lose (in the future),” he said. Yusung, who was translating Gajiwara’s words from the sidelines, teased her rival by saying, “Don’t lie to me.
Gajiwara, who is a year older than Yoo, is the reigning world number one in the men’s WH2 category and has taken over the reigns of South Korea’s national team coach Shim Jae-yeol and Kim Jung-jun (Sport Class WH2-Daegu Urban Development Corporation). Yoo had dreamed of becoming Korea’s next ace and reclaiming the throne, but her hopes were dashed. Until this match, Yoo had played 12 singles matches against Kajiwara and lost all of them.
Despite not winning a gold medal, Yoo managed to secure podium finishes in all three events he competed in (silver in the singles and bronze in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles). “Before the tournament, I thought, ‘No matter how bad I play, I’ll get a silver medal,'” he said. “I’m relieved to have accomplished the minimum goal, and I’m glad that I won medals in all the events I competed in,” he said, adding, “I’m really happy that I won the most medals among Korean badminton players.
Looking ahead to the World Championships and the Paralympics, Yoo is looking at the World Championships and the Paralympics. “Last year’s World Championships were held in Japan, so Japan won both gold medals. At the World Championships next February, I will definitely stop them.”