SOUTH Korea’s biggest names in men’s singles — Lee Hyun Il (left) and Shon Seung Mo — have quit badminton and what’s even worse is that there aren’t any able replacements except for Park Sung Hwan.
Hyun Il, a semi-finalist in last year’s Beijing Olympics, quit the national team after getting married. The 29-year-old has not been training since the Olympics.
Besides winning the Korea and German Opens, his other memorable outing last year was in Malaysia Open where, as a qualifier, he reached the final but lost to eventual champion World No 1 Lee Chong Wei.
Last year’s Malaysia Open was his comeback tournament after retiring briefly in 2007. Korea’s coach Li Mao, in a recent interview, confirmed that Hyun Il’s retirement was a huge loss to the Korean team.
Many would agree as Hyun Il was seen as the only Korean good enough to challenge top players like China’s Lin Dan and Chong Wei for titles.
Meanwhile, Seung Mo has only competed in one tournament since the Thomas Cup in May. Since then, the player, who is best remembered for winning a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has only featured in last month’s Korea International Challenge.
Korea team manager Kim Jong Soo said the only dependable singles player currently in the national team is Sung Hwan.
The World No 10, however, has yet to establish himself on the world stage. His achievements of note last year was winning the Asian crown and the Korea International Challenge.
Sung Hwan is the only Korean in the main draw of the ongoing Malaysia Open and opens his campaign against former Asian junior champion Kenichi Tago of Japan today.
Korea’s other player is World No 55 Hong Ji Hoon who competed in the qualifying round yesterday.
According to Jong Soo, several youngsters are being groomed as replacements. “There are a few good players and one of them is Lee Cheol Ho. They are under Li Mao, and we will give them exposure accordingly,” he added.