Loh Kean Yew was celebrating a “dream come true” Monday after becoming the first Singaporean to win a badminton world championship, despite carrying an ankle injury.
The 22nd-ranked Loh stunned India’s world No. 14 Srikanth Kidambi 21-15, 22-20 in the men’s singles final to clinch the BWF World Championship in Huelva on Sunday night.
It capped a stunning run at the tournament in Spain, which saw the 24-year-old Loh beat Olympic champion and world number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark as well as world number three and fellow Dane Anders Antonsen.
He won despite spraining his right ankle in the quarter-final. He was in such pain after his semi-final match Saturday that he needed to use a wheelchair.
But he told Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper that he decided to “push through the pain and go all out in the final, and coped with ice and some treatment, and it paid off”.
“This feels like a dream, and now it’s a dream come true. I grew up watching Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei playing such big finals and now I’m here as the world champion. It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Loh, unseeded in the tournament, started off badly in the final, slipping 9-3 down in the first set. But he bounced back strongly, levelling at 12-12 and going on to win.
Kidambi fought back in the second set and notched up an 18-16 lead but Loh hung on, winning on his third match point.
“I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be,” said Loh in the Straits Times.
“I will continue to work hard to be even better as I chase my dream of winning an Olympic medal for Singapore.”
There was great excitement at Loh’s win in tiny Singapore, which has produced only a handful of world-class athletes.
“Well done, Kean Yew!” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted on Facebook.
“You do Singapore proud. Looking forward to your next success!”