Lee, Jung vow to win gold
By Cho Mu-hyun
“We will win gold in London.”
Korean badminton duo Lee Yong-dae and Jung Jae-sung, ooze confidence as they train day and night for the London Olympic Games, which was evident during an interview with The Korea Times during a short break from a practice.
The pair’s most recent victory was the men’s doubles title at the All England tournament, in the same locale where the Olympic competition will take place. They said the experience has given them a timely boost.
“I think it is a good sign for London,” said the 23-year-old Lee in an interview at the National Training Center in Taeneung, Seoul. “It gave us an opportunity to get used to the ambience of England. We have gained confidence, and I think we have a great chance for the gold.”
Jung concurred: “From the preliminaries to the finals, I think I was incredibly focused, more than any other game I have played before. There was a conviction that we would win, and we did.”
What made the win even more meaningful was that it came against Chinese pair Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, ranking No. 1 in the world and their biggest rivals. The Koreans lost against them at the Korea Open, with Jung struggling with injury and Lee fighting to keep the “confidence to win” during the finals. Now they have gained that confidence.
But the two have sweated blood for seven years together, and know the unpredictability of the sport. It is now no time to slack off.
“All the other teams are watching us closely,” said Lee. “Especially the Chinese, as we are the only team that has threatened them in the past year. They usually don’t lose to other teams, but they have lost to us. They usually bring something more to the table before facing us, and we have to be ready. We are keeping sharp.
“But it’s not just China. Denmark is just as good and there are also Malaysia and Indonesia. They are all strong teams, we are preparing something that can work against any strong team we face.”
“When we train, we try to do things differently from previous occasions every time we practice,” chipped in the 29-year-old Jung. “We are preparing a winning strategy, which is not only aimed at China, but other teams as well. We have tried some variations in official tournaments, but we will not show everything yet.”
But strategy-wise, Jung expressed some lingering doubts on his own net play, which he believes needs more work as he wants to play the right shots at “important moments” to supplement his younger partner.
Injuries are obviously not uncommon for athletes, and the duo have had their fair share. Lee has suffered from pain in his wrists and Jung in his shoulders, but they are now healthy, and plan to keep it that way.
“Starting now the most important thing is to maintain our fitness, more than any records. We are minimizing appearances in official tournaments (to keep our fitness optimal),” said Lee.
The Olympics will be the last time the two pair up in an official competition, as Jung is to retire after London. They were considered one of the gold medalist favorites in Beijing four years ago, but were knocked out in the first round to the great disappointment of fans, and more importantly, themselves.
“It really hurts to think about Beijing,” said Jung with a sigh. “I was at my fastest, strongest and at the best age to play. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. I am putting in everything as it will be my last tournament.”
Jung praised his partner generously saying, “He has endless potential to grow” and was at his best, while he himself, relatively older, plans to supplement Lee with his know-how from playing longer.
“My perception of the game has expanded, and though I am no longer the same person as I was in Beijing physically, my broad view of the game is what I have to offer,” said Jung.
They extended their thanks to each other and the coaching staff for their continuous support, and vowed to repay it with the best performance within their power in London.
Ceremonies after a win are not uncommon for sports stars. Lee has previously taken off his clothes and ran around the court one time and winked at the camera on another occasion. The two laughed out loud when asked what they were planning to do if they win the gold at London.
“It is not something you actually prepare for,” said Lee, reddening visibly. “The moment really carries you away. But I expect something to happen.”
Jung chuckled and said out loud: “As it is my last competition, if I do make it to the finals and win, I don’t know what I will do. I might take my clothes off along with Lee.”