SINGAPORE: Local shuttler Loh Kean Yew notched a sensational victory after he beat two-time Olympic singles champion Lin Dan 21-19,21-18 to win the Thailand Masters finals on Sunday (Jan 13).
Ranked 125th in the world, the 21-year-old Loh was up against a vastly more experienced opponent in Lin, who was also the tournament’s top seed.
But the youngster displayed nerves of steel as he won the match in straight sets, to take home the winner’s cheque of US$11,250 (S$15,000).
Loh had defeated France’s Brice Leverdez 14-21, 21-10, 21-14 in the semi-final on Saturday, while 35-year-old Lin beat compatriot Lu Guangzu 21-11, 6-21, 21-18.
"It's an honour to be able to play with Lin Dan, to stand on the same stage as him. It's been my dream since young," Loh said.
"He is very experienced and it wasn't easy to play with him. I think I used my age as an advantage to outrun him. I can't really remember what was going through my head but I think I just kept telling myself to stay focused," he added.
This is the youngster’s first head-to-head meeting with Lin, currently ranked 13th in the world.
The Thailand Masters is a Super 300 tournament, four levels below the top-tiered BWF world tour finals.
"My targets aren't going to change just because I won a tournament. I do feel happy but, to be consistent is more important," said Loh.
"Since young, Olympic gold has been my dream and it hasn't changed yet."
Soon after his victory, the accolades started pouring in.
In a Facebook post, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu called Loh's win "a fantastic achievement" and "inspiring".
"Congrats to TeamSG shuttler Loh Kean Yew for claiming our first Badminton World Federation World Tour crown! In a thrilling final today, he fought for every point until he triumphed over two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan," she wrote.
"Kean Yew - a fantastic achievement and thank you for inspiring all of us to dream big!" she added.
Team Singapore also congratulated Loh on his win.
"History has been made ... Our Singapore flag is flying high as we stand together with you in this victory," it said.