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'A long way to go' despite world champion crown, says Loh Kean Yew

SINGAPORE — Despite being the first Singaporean to win the Badminton World Federation's World Championships men's singles title, national shuttler Loh Kean Yew said that he has not arrived yet and still has “a long way to go”, especially now that he is no longer the underdog.

'A long way to go' despite world champion crown, says Loh Kean Yew

Singapore badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew arriving at Changi Airport on Dec 21, 2021.

  • National shuttler Loh Kean Yew arrived in Singapore on Dec 21 evening at Changi Airport
  • Two days before, he won the men’s singles title at the BWF World Championships 
  • He was welcomed with a water salute and received by Mr Edwin Tong, the Minister for Culture, Community and YOuth
  • Speaking to the media, Loh said that he still has to improve on his game
  • He noted that he is no longer an underdog following his win and others will be looking to beat him

SINGAPORE — Despite being the first Singaporean to win the Badminton World Federation's World Championships men's singles title, national shuttler Loh Kean Yew said that he has not arrived yet and still has “a long way to go”, especially now that he is no longer the underdog.

“There are still many things that I need to improve on," the 24-year-old said in response to TODAY's question at a press conference on Tuesday (Dec 21) at Changi Airport, on whether he felt that he had reached his goals yet with his latest win.

"Compared to those top players like Viktor (Axelsen), Kento (Momota) and all, their shots are much more consistent and there’s still a lot more that I need to work on like my confidence and how to handle all the pressure.”

In an interview with TODAY two years ago following his win over two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan from China, Loh had said that he was "not there yet".

He spoke to the media on Tuesday upon his return from Spain where he beat India’s Srikanth Kidambi to become world champion.

Unseeded in the tournament, Loh had beaten the likes of world number one Axelsen and world number three Anders Antonsen en route to taking the crown.

The win bumped Loh up from 22 in the world rankings before the tournament to 15 on Tuesday.

“This is just a new beginning for me because I’ve been the underdog, but now I’m going to be one of those whom people want to beat very badly," he told reporters on Tuesday.

“So it will be very different from how I’ve played all along. It’s going to be a different mindset, so it’s going to be a very big challenge for me.

“And I can only learn how to handle this while I play in competition because I can only know how I handle this during the competition itself,” he added.

The shuttler arrived in Singapore at Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 a little after 4pm from a connecting flight from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Accompanying him were national singles coach Kelvin Ho and physiotherapist Ho Jia Ying.

Loh was greeted with a water salute at Changi Airport, where his KLM flight was sprayed with plumes of water by vehicles on the ground as a ceremonial sign of honour.

Five years ago, national swimmer Joseph Schooling was welcomed with a water salute when he returned with Singapore's first Olympic gold medal after his 100m butterfly win at the 2016 tournament in Rio, Brazil.

Thanking Changi Airport for the arrangement, Loh said in an Instagram post that he was “honoured” to receive the water salute.

Waiting to receive him when he emerged from the arrival hall at Terminal 1 about two hours later was Mr Edwin Tong, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, as well as Mr Lawrence Leow, president of the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), and some 20-odd onlookers.

Several of the onlookers who spoke to TODAY said that they had gathered out of curiosity and decided to stay on after learning that Loh would be arriving and welcomed him with applause.

During the press conference, Loh said that although it has been his goal to be the world's best all along, he had not expected to win the world championships so soon.

“I didn’t think about whether it was within reach. I just kept focusing on the game and how to play.”

He added that he is “quite satisfied and happy” with his achievements so far, noting that he has had a good run — having beaten the top four-ranked men’s badminton players in tournaments over the past few months.

However, he does not think that he has reached his peak and he is still looking for ways to improve his game.

Onlookers at Changi Airport on Dec 21, 2021, waiting for badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew to appear.

His plan for next year is to balance taking part in competitions and training here and overseas. He is discussing this with his coaches, SBA and the Singapore Sport Institute.

“It’s not only about overseas training. I look forward to anything where I can improve and be a better player and a person,” he added.

But first, Loh, will visit the doctor on Wednesday to get his ankle examined. He had sprained during the quarter-final of the tournament.

Another immediate priority, since he has been mostly overseas from late August to participate in various training stints and tournaments, is to “eat and sleep”.

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Loh Kean Yew badminton BWF World Championships Sports athlete

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