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Newly-Crowned Badminton World Champion Loh Kean Yew Returns Home

2021 Badminton World Federation World Championships & Homecoming Of A World Champion

Alumnus Loh Kean Yew has become the latest sensation following his historic win at the 2021 Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships in Huelva, Spain on 19 December 2021. Kean Yew’s fame skyrocketed overnight when he put Singapore on the world map after his smashing victory.

At the World Championships, the 24-year-old Kean Yew beat higher-ranked opponents including Denmark’s World No. 1 and Olympic Champion Viktor Axelsen in the opening round and World No.3 Anders Antonsen in the semi-finals. He also thrashed Austria’s Luka Wraber and Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in other rounds leading to the final match. Kean Yew was crowned World Champion after he beat the more experienced World No. 14 Srikanth Kidami from India 21-15, 21-20 in the nail-biting final that capped off his fairytale run at the World Championships.

Prior to the World Championships, Kean Yew had already had a series of striking wins. He won his first BWF World Tour Super 500 title at the Hylo Open, before taking the Dutch Open crown in October. Just a few weeks before, he settled for the second spot at the Indonesia Open after Viktor Axelsen defeated him.

In just three months, Kean Yew outperformed himself by beating 6 out of the world’s top 10 players. He credits his sudden ascension to become a top elite badminton player to a training stint with Axelsen in Dubai for a month between August and September where he got to learn from the best and improve his game.

The Journey Of A Champion Began Here
Born in Penang, Kean Yew made his way to Singapore in 2010 when he was just 13 years old with a big dream to get an Olympic medal. Mr Desmond Tan Kok Keong, General Manager, Badminton Academy spotted his raw talent when he was 10 years old. Kean Yew had come to Singapore with his older brother Loh Kean Hean, now a national shuttler, to help him warm-up for the trials to gain admission into the Badminton Academy at Singapore Sports School. The short 10 minutes during the warm-up with his older brother was enough for Mr Tan to notice him. “It was obvious that he has an innate talent in badminton… he had that spark,” shared Mr Tan. When he turned 12, Mr Tan approached Kean Yew’s mother to attend the badminton trials. Mr Tan thought Kean Yew was outstanding at the trials and was immediately accepted to the programme.

Having left behind all that he was familiar with at a young age, Kean Yew felt homesick during his initial days at Sports School. He felt lonely as his parents remained in Penang, and he had difficulty adjusting to the rigour of the Singapore education system. Mr Tan recognised this, and helped Kean Yew assimilate to his new home. Kean Yew’s determination and grit helped him to eventually settle down, and bond well with his academy mates.

Once he was well-adjusted, Kean Yew’s desire to improve and challenge himself was evident. When his teammates were done with training, Kean Yew stayed back to put in extra training time and work on his coaches’ feedback.

Kean Yew is thankful to Sports School for providing him the opportunity to move to Singapore in pursuit of his badminton dreams, and for providing him strong support during his four years at the school. Besides Mr Tan, Kean Yew has acknowledged coaches, mentors, teachers, and boarding staff who have played an impactful role in nurturing him during his crucial teenage years.

Homecoming Of A World Champion
He shared his gratitude towards Sports School when he returned for an engagement session with the Badminton Academy on 29 December 2021. Despite his busy schedule since returning to Singapore after the World Championships, Kean Yew made it a priority to set aside time to return to his alma mater. Sports School gave him a warm homecoming to celebrate his recent achievement, during which Kean Yew addressed young shuttlers in a Lessons From The Champions session at the Auditorium. Kean Yew recalled when he was in the same Auditorium listening to Malaysia's former World No. 1 badminton player Lee Chong Wei. He said: "I listened to how he talked and he inspired me to play well in the SEA Games. I was once like you and you could also be here next time.” During the session, Kean Yew was candid as he spoke on a range of topics – from his time at Sports School, to his pre-match routines, his most memorable wins, the importance of respecting coaches and being grateful, and his feelings on his recent win. His advice to student-athletes: “Chase your dreams, show respect to your coaches, give back and show gratitude, remember the school values, and just give your best.”

At the event, Kean Yew also signed the T-shirt that he wore for the historic final match at the World Championships and graciously presented it to Principal Ong Kim Soon and his former mentor, Mr Desmond Tan. In return, the school presented him with a photo montage of his days at Sports School.

IBDP Year 5 shuttler Remus Ng was motivated by the sharing. He said, “The session today allowed me to have a better understanding of what it takes to be one of the best. I learnt a lot from the session, and will strive to do better in training.”

Alexis Lee Ying Shin, a IBDP Year 6 shuttler who co-hosted the interview session, had similar sentiments. She said, “I think the session today made me realise that behind all the glory and fame, Kean Yew ultimately is still a normal human being who faced many challenges on his path to becoming a world champion. It reminded me that all dreams are possible.”

Fellow national shuttler and alumna Yeo Jia Min also attended the event. Jia Min also reached a career-high 16th in the Women’s Singles after her recent performance at tournaments. She became the first Singaporean to qualify for December's Badminton World Federation World Tour Finals. She eventually retired in her second match due to a knee injury. Prior to that, Jia Min played in the final of the Hylo Open against higher-ranked opponent Busanan Ongbamrungphan, and settled for second place after losing to the World No. 14.

The top Singaporean shuttlers visited the Badminton Hall after the event for a Meet-and-Greet session with student-athletes in the Badminton Academy, who were thrilled to get Kean Yew and Jia Min’s autographs and snap photographs with them.

Both Kean Yew and Jia Min will not be resting on their laurels as they are still eyeing an Olympic medal. They are passionate about making their mark in badminton, and are unafraid to seize opportunities and push themselves towards their goals. They have a busy schedule ahead as they continue their sporting pursuits in 2022.

Besides their positive attitude, their humility and grounded nature despite rising to fame are winning their qualities. They truly epitomise what it takes to be a Learned Champion with Character.

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