How learning from an Olympic champion helped Loh Kean Yew to world domination

The 24-year-old became the first badminton player from Singapore to win the World Championship title, and told Olympics.com how the Tokyo 2020 champ helped him in 2021.

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Athletes tend to be coy about revealing the secrets to their sporting success, but reigning badminton world champion, Loh Kean Yew was quite the opposite when asked about how he managed to raise his game, sharing that he learnt a lot from training together with reigning Olympic champion, Viktor Axelsen.

"When he trains he is very focused. And his work ethic is very good. So I prepared myself that I should be very, very focused," The 24-year-old told Olympics.com, sharing exclusively some of the valuable insights that he picked-up from Axelsen, after being invited by the two-time Olympic medallist to train together at the Dane's base in Dubai ahead of the World Championships in Huelva in 2021.

"As I was training with him, I tried my best to learn whatever I could. Be it his focus, his consistency, his discipline, everything." Loh Kean Yew to Olympics.com

Rising to greater heights

If you had suggested to Loh at the start of the 2021 season that he would be a contender for the world championship crown, he might have been one of the first to brush it off.

Likely because, as the sport came out of it's pandemic-forced hiatus, Loh's performance in the first Asian events held in Bangkok, was a stark reality check as he tumbled out in the opening rounds of the back-to-back tournaments.

"I didn't perform well and I didn't train well and I went to the competition not knowing where I am," Lee admitted, adding, "Right after the first match that I lost I straight away realised that I'm totally not fit enough."

But instead of throwing in the towel, the poor result was a source of inspiration to train even harder upon his return to Singapore.

"It was a wake up call because in the world there are so many better players. So I was very motivated." - Loh Kean Yew

After the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, Loh joined Axelsen in his new training hub in Dubai and spent weeks sharpening his game.

The culmination of it came down to the final of the world championships, when Loh turned the tables on Axelsen, denying the Dane a second world title, as he became the first Singaporean to clinch the crown.

With one of his major childhood dreams achieved, Loh is well aware that he will have to work even harder if he wants to keep his place at the top in the sport. He shared on social media that he withdrew from the Swiss open on 23 March after a positive Covid test, but that he "Will be using the downtime to unwind and... prepare for the upcoming tournament marathon."

Even before that, Loh told us that he knows the year ahead will be a tough one, "Coming up, it's not going to be easy.

"Everyone is going to really be aware of me and my game. I'll try and do my best on court, and try my best to perform."

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