Loh Kean Yew squanders his chance to end the wait for gold

Singapore commuter Loh Kean Yew looks dejected during the men’s singles final at the Hanoi Sea Games. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore/ Jeremy Lee

SINGAPORE — The badminton men’s singles gold drought at the SEA Games in Singapore continues.

World champion Loh Kean Yew – tired and out of sorts – could not become the first Singaporean since 1983 to clinch the precious medal, stumbling to a 13-21, 13-21 loss to Kunlavut Vitidsam of Thailand in the final at Bac Giang Gymnasium on Sunday (May 22).

The current world number 10 was far from his best as he was hesitant in attack and slow in defense against his world number 18 opponent.

“I was tired, but my opponent was also tired,” Loh told reporters after his loss. “But he prepared better than me today.

“Certainly I can play better than that…I tried my best but it wasn’t enough.”

Perhaps Loh’s three-set semi-final victory over Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Tien Minh cost him too much. Perhaps his hectic schedule over the past fortnight, which included leading the men’s national team to the prestigious Thomas Cup final in Bangkok, had finally caught up with him.

But the 24-year-old just couldn’t find the ferocious shots and exceptional defense that had served him so well in his remarkable triumph at the Badminton World Championships last December. Even a fast start to the game, in which he led 9-5 in the first set, failed to put him on the path to victory.

On the other hand, 21-year-old Kunlavut was a picture of stoic brilliance throughout the final, steadily carrying Loh with outstanding defense and deceptive returns to win a well-deserved gold medal for Thailand.

It will be the second consecutive Games that Loh has won a silver medal for Singapore. At the 2019 Games, he lost to top Malaysian player Lee Zii Jia in the final.

He was the number one seed for this men’s singles tournament as Lee – along with top Indonesian commuters Anthony Ginting and Jonatan Christie – missed the SEA Games this year.

After helping the men’s team to a bronze medal earlier at the SEA Games, Loh opened his men’s singles campaign with a straight-sets win over Malaysia’s Kok Jing Hong and a straight-sets win over Filipino Jewel Angelo. Albo.

However, he was pushed to the limit in the semi-finals, as he faced Nguyen with the crowd entirely behind his compatriot. Despite being on the back foot for much of the three-set thriller, Loh managed to pull off a gutsy 21-15, 10-21, 23-21 win to reach the final.

Wong Shoon Keat remains the only Singaporean commuter to win the men’s singles event, when he beat then-world No. 1 Icuk Sugiarto en route to his memorable home gold in 1983.

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