SOUTH KOREA can breathe easy now as they have another Lee to keep the flag flying high in the men’s singles event.
Following the retirement of Lee Hyun-il, South Korea had been searching for a new star to take over and they may have just found the right replacement in Lee Dong-keun (pic) if his performances in the ongoing Sudirman Cup is anything to go by.
The 22-year-old Dong-keun hardly showed any nerves despite playing as the first singles for the first time.
In fact, he played confidently to contribute points in both his team’s group ties by winning against higher ranked players – Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (12-21, 21-9, 22-20) of Thailand and Wong Wing Ki (21-16, 21-15) of Hong Kong.
Dong-keun is ranked 63rd in the world while Tanongsak and Wing Ki are ranked 15th and 25th respectively.
The lanky shuttler, armed with his ruthless attacking variation and which is completely opposite from the style of his more subdued crafty senior Hyun-il, said he was looking forward to reaching greater heights.
“I am the only men’s singles player in the Sudirman Cup team. We did not bring any reserves. I have to play in every tie and it has been a great experience so far.
“I have not gone out for many international tournaments but hopefully with this Sudirman Cup, I will be able to achieve more. I intend to improve my world ranking and become my country’s next Lee,” he said without flinching.
After the 1998 Asian Games bronze medallist Hyun-il’s retirement, South Korea had relied on Park Sung-hwan but his career ended prematurely due to injury. Then, Shon Wan-ho rose up but he sunk into oblivion after going into military training for two years.
Today, South Korea will take on Germany in the quarter-finals and Dong-keun is expected to deliver another victory for his country against Dieter Domke.
South Korea should win in all the other matches they have more depth compared to the European champions.
If South Korea win, they will take on the winner of the match between second seeds Japan and Thailand in the semi-final.
South Korea last won the Sudirman Cup in 2003 in Eindhoven, Holland, when they upstaged China in the final.
Then, Hyun-il delivered a crucial point by stunning Chen Hong. Maybe Dong-keun’s first timer’s luck will help South Korea enjoy another outstanding show in the Sudirman Cup.