As reported last month, the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) successfully completed its annual All Japan Championships and on the weekend, the resulting national A and B team members were announced. Meanwhile, neighbouring Korea is halfway through a six-day process to select its national team for 2021.
Unlike Japan, which combines its coaches’ assessments with a single-elimination national championship, Korea uses a round-robin tournament to select singles players and has several criteria that coaches will use to arrive at their selections. Korea also gives an exemption to players who already have high international rankings. This is especially apparent this month in Bangkok, where all the exempt players have been competing in the two ongoing Thailand Opens and all the players who are trying out are now gathered in the county of Muju, in North Jeolla Province.
This year, the Korean exemptions are almost completely in line with the state of the Olympic qualifying race. This includes the fact that current world #32 Heo Kwang Hee is automatically on the team, while former world #1 Son Wan Ho (pictured), who missed most of the Tokyo qualifying period with an injury, in embroiled in the qualifying tournament, has already lost 2 of his first 5 matches, and has yet to play against former Australian Open runner-up Jeon Hyeok Jin. Jeon was injured in early 2018 and did not participate in the last two rounds of tryouts but he returned to court last spring, beat Son in an exhibition match, and went on to win two nationwide titles last year.
In women’s doubles, Korea’s coaches elected to exempt world #9 Chang Ye Na / Kim Hye Rin along with the two pairs currently in the top 8 and tentatively qualified for Tokyo, but world #10 Baek Ha Na and Jung Kyung Eun are having to participate in the national team tryouts once again. Other noteworthy names in the women’s doubles tryouts are former World Junior Champion Lee Yu Rim, who attempted unsuccessfully to make the team for 2020, and Singapore Open runner-up Kim Hye Jeong, who will be joined at the event by her younger sister Yoo Jung, both daughters of former Olympic gold medallist Chung So Young.
Japan’s national team shows just a few adjustments from last year. Chief among them is Misaki Matsutomo becoming half of a second mixed pair on the A Team and leaving women’s doubles with the retirement of her former partner Ayaka Takahashi. Takahashi’s husband Yuki Kaneko (pictured) remains on the A Team as Matsutomo’s mixed partner, while his former men’s doubles partner Takuto Inoue is back on the B Team. Another surprise adjustment saw world #19 Aya Ohori replaced on the A Team by world #83 Asuka Takahashi.
Japan kept its coaching staff constant for the third year running. In fact, in late December, it was announced that the NBA had renewed Park Joo Bong’s contract until 2025. The BKA, on the other hand, let Ahn Jae Chang’s contract expire in October and hired Kim Choong Hoi (pictured) as their new national team head coach. Kim is the 6th person to hold the position in Korea since compatriot Park took up the reins in Japan back in 2004. Korea also has a new coach, Bae Ki Dae, and Kim Ji Hyun has returned to the Korean bench for the first time since November 2018.
Sadly, the BKA was also forced to hold an election for a new chair after the unexpected passing of former Chairperson Park Gi Hyeon in early December. On January 14th, Kim Taek Gyu was elected as the new chair. A recreational badminton player and former chair of the provincial association in South Chungcheong Province, Kim beat out former national team coach Kim Bong Sub and former Asian Para-Badminton Confederation President Seo Myung Won.
Listed below are Japan’s national A team players. Badzine will publish the Korean team roster once it is released.
|Kento Momota||Akane Yamaguchi|
|Kanta Tsuneyama||Nozomi Okuhara|
|Kenta Nishimoto||Sayaka Takahashi|
|Koki Watanabe||Asuka Takahashi|
|Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe||Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota|
|Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi||Wakana Nagahara / Mayu Matsumoto|
|Akira Koga / Taichi Saito||Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata|
|Keigo Sonoda / Takeshi Kamura||Chiharu Shida / Nami Matsuyama|
Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino
Yuki Kaneko / Misaki Matsutomo
Click here for the gallery of head shots
Listed below are Japan’s national B team players
|Yushi Tanaka||Natsumi Shimoda|
|Minoru Koga||Hirari Mizui|
|Hashiru Shimono||Shiori Saito|
|Yusuke Onodera||Saena Kawakami|
|Kodai Naraoka||Aya Ohori (pictured)|
|Riku Hatano||Riko Gunji (pictured bottom)|
|Hiroki Okamura / Masayuki Onodera||Chisato Hoshi / Aoi Matsuda|
|Yoshinori Takeuchi / Keiichiro Matsui||Rin Iwanaga / Kie Nakanishi|
|Mahiro Kaneko / Yunosuke Kubota||Tsukiko Yasaki / Erika Yokoyama|
|Naoki Yamada||Moe Ikeuchi|
Kyohei Yamashita / Naru Shinoya
Yujiro Nishikawa / Saori Ozaki
Hiroki Midorikawa / Natsu Saito
Click here for the gallery of head shots