'I didn't want to miss this': Singapore's Loh Kean Yew on training with Olympic badminton champ Axelsen
SINGAPORE: One week was all badminton player Loh Kean Yew had between the end of his quarantine after the Tokyo Olympics and the start of a new adventure.
But he was raring to go. After all, it isn’t often you get the chance to train with an Olympic champion.
The 24-year-old is currently in Dubai on a month-long training stint with Dane Viktor Axelsen and four badminton players from across the globe – Englishman Toby Penty, Canadian Brian Yang, Swede Felix Burestedt and India’s Sen Lakshya.
“It’s always good to have overseas training opportunities to see how other people from other countries train and learn from each other – like different playing styles, different playing methods ... This is a very good opportunity, so I didn’t want to miss this,” Loh told CNA.
“Furthermore, he (Axelsen) is an Olympic champion ... like how many times can you train with an Olympic champion?”
Currently ranked second in the world, 27-year-old Axelsen beat China’s Chen Long in straight games to clinch the men’s singles title in Tokyo.
Discussions for a possible training stint began some time ago, revealed Loh.
“I trained with him (Axelsen) quite a bit when I was playing in the Denmark league that time, then I went to train with the (Danish) national team (for a few days) ... Then in 2020, we talked about it. He texted me and asked whether I was interested in this training camp where they get players from around the world, all around the world, to help each other improve,” said Loh, who had trained with Denmark's Langhoj Badminton Club for three months in 2018.
“He said that he should (be able) to make it happen but it would be after the Olympics.”
"VERY TIRING AND VERY FOCUSED"
As part of his training regime in Dubai, Loh puts in double sessions six days a week – two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon from Sunday to Friday.
“We have both technique, skills training and also physical training, like drills. It’s more of all of us training together,” he explained.
“Training (styles) in Asia and Denmark are different. In Singapore, we train 30 minutes per drill per person. Whereas here it is one-and-a-half minutes then change, change, change – so it is more of interval training. It is very tiring and very focused because you only have one and a half minutes.”
Loh has also been taking the time to observe and learn from Axelsen.
Axelsen relocated to Dubai just last month, and made the move along with his wife and young daughter.
“Now he is even more consistent. His shot quality is much better than the last time that I played with him (in February last year),” explained Loh, whose last competitive outing with the Dane was at the Spain Masters.
Axelsen triumphed 13-21, 21-14, 21-15 and would eventually win the men’s singles title.
“I’m still observing how he makes his shots so fast. Even from the front court, his shots are so fast. So I’m still trying to see how he hits the shuttle(cock),” added Loh.
And there remains a gulf in class, pointed out the Singaporean.
“I thought that I can follow (his standard), I thought that I can give (him) some fight. I thought it wasn’t that far, but it is much further than I thought,” said Loh.
“He’s taking care of his baby right now, so even though he is not sleeping well, I’m still not at his standard. So imagine if he slept well!”
But Loh is taking it all in his stride.
His schedule will likely only see him returning to Singapore at the end of the year as he plans to compete in a number of tournaments in Europe and then the Bali Open in Indonesia.
“It is always a good opportunity to train with other people because (there are) not many players in Singapore ... I always prefer to go out because it's an outside environment, out of (my) comfort zone,” he said.
“I can use what I see from overseas and mix it with our own training (in Singapore) to make something out of it that is more suitable for me.”