PETALING JAYA: It was the moment he was waiting for and Soo Teck Zhi sank to his knees in joy after winning the boys’ singles title in the Asian Junior Badminton Championships at the Likas Indoor Stadium in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
The lanky Teck Zhi was in smashing form, scoring a 21-17, 13-21, 21-15 win over South Korea’s Jeon Hyuk-jin in 55 minutes. It was a memorable occasion for the Kuala Lumpur lad as his family was among the crowd cheering for him.
In doing so, the 18-year-old became only the second Malaysian to win the title after Zulfadli Zulkifli’s feat in 2011. He is, however, the first-ever shuttler under the BA of Malaysia (BAM) to do so since the tournament’s inception in 1997.
The win also completed Teck Zhi’s collection in the region, having won the Asian and Asean Schools Championships last year.
Teck Zhi started well yesterday, taking an 18-13 lead before going on to take the first game as Hyuk-jin struggled to overcome his opponent’s height advantage and powerful smashes.
But the Korean was no pushover, having defeated three higher ranked players, including second seed Soong Joo Ven of Malaysia en route to the final. He duly took control of the second game to force a decider.
After a neck-and-neck start in the rubber game, Teck Zhi eventually eased ahead 13-10 and then 17-11 before coolly holding his nerves for his biggest career victory.
“It’s really a joyous occasion for me. I could not have done it without my coach (Zhou Kejian), my friends and family members who were in the crowd cheering me on,” said an elated Teck Zhi, who was playing in his first Asian Juniors.
“This win means so much more to me since I’m also the first player under the BAM banner to achieve this feat.
“Since I missed last year’s tournament, I told myself I had to win it this year as I won’t be eligible next year. I really prepared well since last year.
“Although I started well, I lost focus and got a little nervous in the second game. I changed my game plan in the decider after some advice from my coach and it worked well.
“My next target now will be the World Junior Championships in Bangkok (Oct 23-Nov 3). But I have to keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard,” added Teck Zhi.
In the girls’ singles final, 17-year-old Aya Ohori of Japan stunned top seed and world No.17 Busanan Ongbumrung-phan of Thailand 21-11, 16-21, 21-13.
South Korea’s Choi Sol-kyu-Chae Yoo-jung took the mixed doubles title when they defeated Liu Yuchen-Huang Dongping of China 21-11, 19-21, 21-13.
China clinched both the boys’ and girls’ doubles titles to add to their triumph in the mixed team event.
By KNG ZHENG GUAN - THE STAR