In Part 2 of this interview, Kelvin Ho, Singapore national singles coach, talks about the challenges ahead for world champion Loh Kean Yew, how they plan to counter it, and the impact of the World Championships win in Singapore. (Read Part 1 here.)
What kind of a personality is Kean Yew during tournaments – does he need you to talk to him a lot after the matches, or do you keep away from him, to let him be in his own zone?
After the match I let him be in his zone. We are (usually) in the same room, so whenever we have a meal or in our free time, then we will talk about the next match and what happened the previous match. We will talk about maybe the focus for the match and about shot quality; “this is the thing that makes you lose points”, and so on.
You’ve seen Kean Yew for a long time. What was it that was so different at the World Championships? It was almost like he’d flipped a switch.
He was feeling very motivated, because he has played a lot of the top players recently. You don’t get that much quality sparring in Singapore. And so he definitely wanted to go all out, he was very hungry to win.
Did he surprise you, the way he kept it going in Huelva?
Yes. The way he played, because in one match against Chou Tien Chen in Bali (before World Championships), when he wanted to play an attacking game, he had barriers in his mind, so after that he overcame it. To play at this intensity in a short period of time, his adaption was good.
So how do you see it going from here? He’s achieved a huge feat. But going forward from here in terms of pressure and expectations, how are you going to manage that?
I think for now, of course, there will be pressure on Kean Yew. But he’s still the underdog compared to Viktor, to Momota and the Indonesians. We do have a lot to learn from these top players. So I think there will not be much change in terms of mindset. And Kean Yew always says you have to start from zero again and go in the same mindset to fight all the way and to improve after each match.
In terms of playing style, it’s an interesting time right now, with quite distinct styles in the top players. How do you see Kean Yew’s style evolving? Are you working on evolving it or are you just going to stick to what’s worked so far?
Kean Yew knows there will be more people watching his videos but I think to take away that style is like taking away his weapon. So I think we should keep that but at the same time we need to work on other areas. So to make his game more complete, because like I say, when we play with a certain player we need to apply a certain style so we need to be complete in order to compete with everyone.
What more can we expect now from Kean Yew?
I would like to see the same intensity that he had, the concentration on court that he showed during the World Championshps. At the same time, I would like to see him stronger in other styles, applying different strategies for different opponents, so it won’t be easy for any of his opponents.
How have things changed for you personally since his World Championships win, and as a partnership?
Nothing much. You work hand in hand with the association to make sure that Kean Yew can keep focused on his training and give the best to him. Yeah, I think that’s the most important so we shouldn’t give him much pressure. We should just continue to work on his game to make it more complete. That’s the most important thing.
There must be a huge increase in interest in badminton in Singapore?
More local kids are playing badminton because of Kean Yew, definitely. That’s the big difference. So everyone now wants to play badminton!
Lastly, it must have been a huge moment for you as well. How much satisfaction and how much confidence did you take from happened in December? And what does this mean for you going forward?
Yeah, I am very happy. I never dreamed that a World Championships win was possible. But through the experience of seeing all these world class players, I hope to pass down the knowledge to the rest of the players in Singapore so that they are more hungry for success. And of course, with the experience that I gained through international tournaments, be able to share the knowledge and to build up Singapore’s team to have more players to compete at the international level.
I think we still have a lot to learn a lot, because our players still need exposure.
Catch the Singapore team in action as they take on Indonesia, Korea and Thailand in Thomas Cup Group A at the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022 in Bangkok (8-15 May).