This year, 2021, one which accommodated a postponed Olympics, and within it, an Indian gold medal in track and field, no less, among a clutch of others, would have risen to dizzying heights at the fag-end but Loh Kean Yew of Singapore had plans to spoil India’s year-ending party.
As it happened: Kidambi Srikanth vs Loh Kean Yew
Loh may have stopped Srikanth 15-21, 20-22 at the summit, but that wouldn’t stop Srikanth becoming India’s latest hero in a wildly successful year for Indian sports. His final stumble notwithstanding, Srikanth and Lakshya Sen, who finished with a bronze after his semifinal defeat, have etched a new chapter as Indian badminton revels in a first of two medals at the game’s biggest tournament.
Ranked No. 22 to Srikanth’s 14, Loh was always considered a great talent and a medal prospect. At Huelva, he ousted world No.1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen in the first round and last edition’s silver medallist, Anders Antonsen 23-21, 21-14 in the semifinals before taking the title on Sunday.
Loh, who migrated from Malaysia, won Singapore’s first gold. Interestingly, despite having several top players, Malaysia have never won a gold at the Worlds.
Moment to savour! ❤️@srikidambi became 1st 🇮🇳 Male shuttler to win 🥈at #WorldChampionships while @lakshya_sen bec… https://t.co/LfKeDxMUc4
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Despite having played him four years ago, Srikanth knew what he was up against. He was in for a tough fight and went on the offensive from the start. Yet, despite a healthy 9-3 lead in the first game, Srikanth lost his way to squander the advantage. Loh seized the opportunity. He slowly erased the margin and caught up with the Indian with a blistering straight-line smash that kissed the lines.
Thereafter, Loh grew in confidence and dominated Srikanth at the net. From 12-12, Loh raced ahead to 19-14. It proved difficult for the Indian to bridge the gap and Loh closed it with minimum fuss.
This is the result of hard work, grit & determination. BAI congratulates @srikidambi for this phenomenal achievemen… https://t.co/5RBVpCX5Yu
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Srikanth was forced to change his strategy in the second game. Fully aware that Loh was dominating him at the net, Srikanth started to involve his opponent in rallies. With Loh uncomfortable on the forehand side, Srikanth targeted that corner repeatedly. The former world No. 1 led 9-6 at one stage, only to see Loh come back strongly by winning six straight points.