Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yonex Japan Open 2012

"Skills win you medals, but attitude wins hearts."

ESPN commentator, 
at the London 2012 Olympic final


My second year watching one of the badminton Super Series tournament of Yonex Japan Open 2012. This year, the venue was changed to Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo. The weather on the Sunday afternoon for the final was gloomy, as we welcome the autumn season. Nonetheless, our spirit to give our full support to the Malaysian contingent was never in doubt.

 P1460304-001

Yoyogi National Stadium, located just a five-minute walk from Harajuku station.

P1460309-001

The huge banner at the entrance to the indoor stadium.

P1460314-001

The complete draws for all five events this year.

P1460319-001

The indoor stadium doesn't look much different from the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, venue for the tournament in 2011.

P1460440-001

Yonex Japan Open 2012.

P1460328-001

A traditional Japanese drum or taiko members, performing a couple of songs before the matches began.

As usual, we made sure the Malaysians supporters were seated in one same spot, so that when we cheer, our voice would be loud enough to fill the whole stadium. Well, the truth is, we never made any pre-arrangements to attend the final. But you know, once we are there, we automatically becomes friends although we just see each other for the first time. That's the real beauty of Malaysians.

Before the matches started, a staff from Yonex approached one of us and kindly offered us with yellow t-shirts written with the words "Malaysia" and "Yonex" on it for free. It was just the perfect recipe to make our presence in the stadium even more obvious lol!

 P1460338-001

Part of the Malaysian supporters. Some haven't fully change into their yellow t-shirts yet.

P1460335-001

Chong Wei (white jacket) and his close friend, Taufik Hidayat, having a light moment together.

This year, due to the boycott by the Chinese team, there was a good balance of teams from every nations in the final. Malaysia has three events in the final - mixed doubles, men's singles and men's doubles. 

One of the biggest attraction is of course the men's singles final, which pitted Lee Chong Wei against Boonsak Ponsana from Thailand. This is the first competitive match Chong Wei is competing after the London Olympics final match, where he was just unlucky to miss out the gold medal.

P1460344-001

  The Malaysian pair (Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying) against the Indonesian pair (Muhammad Rijal-Liliyana Natsir) in the mixed doubles event.

 P1460354-001

It was quite an entertaining match between the two young pairs.

P1460374-001

 Next to the main court, Lee Chong Wei did his sparring session with Koo Kien Keat.

P1460400-001

 The Malaysian pair emerged winners by beating their opponent in straight set (21-12, 21-19). Prize presentation was done by the Malaysian Ambassador to Japan, 
Dato' Shaharuddin Md Som (left) and also the Indonesian legend, Rudy Hartono.

Just like last year, the Malaysian supporters were the loudest in the stadium despite our limited numbers. Not even the Indonesian contingent, nor the Thai, who came with their drums and giant flag (which we suspect they stole from the embassy lol!), managed to stop us from cheering throughout the matches. And you know, I find that they are quite kiasu actually. They will only make they voice heard whenever we cheer for Malaysia. Otherwise, they will be super silent haha!

Anyway, it was really fun to be with the other Malaysians shouting all we can for the players. Who cares if we have sore throat the next day, because it gives us a real feel of satisfaction to know that our support actually helps to motivate the players more. And guess what, there is actually quite a huge number of local Japanese who support the Malaysian players, especially Chong Wei.

P1460414-001

 It's showtime. Chong Wei definitely wanna set the record straight by winning his third Japan Open.

P1460417-001

 Men's singles finals between the two players from South East Asia.

P1460431-001

 Their names displayed on the screen, and that is how Lee Chong Wei's name is written in katakana.

The result was never in doubt as Chong Wei prevented any upsets from the Thai player by winning his match in straight games. There were times though, where several errors kept us on the edge of our seats. 

Although he did not play up to his true potential, it was enough to win him his third Japan Open title. The best rally of the match was no doubt on the final match point of the second game. In that lengthy rally, Boonsak returned the shuttlecock with acrobatic backhand defensive shots not once, but twice, which caught the admiration of everyone in the stadium. There is a Youtube video from this link and from the 0:53 seconds onwards, it was our grand appearance on worldwide TV haha wtf!

Not long though, just a couple of seconds only lol!

 P1460463-001

Chong Wei being interviewed after his match. He spoke in Malay, English, and some Japanese. No la, the Japanese part tipu only.

P1460475-001

 This time, it was all smiles from this lad from Penang.

 P1460396-001

That's us! One of us commented that his dream has been accomplished as he finally got to appear on worldwide TV, because all this while, 
he only appeared on Skype with his Mom haha wtf!

P1460492-001

 The staffs and members of the Malaysian team congratulating Chong Wei after his win.

 P1460510-001

That lady in blue, is Gillian Clark, or sometimes known as the "Voice of Badminton". She is the person behind the famous voice you always hear during badminton matches.

P1460532-001

 The third and final match involving Malaysian players was the men's doubles.

P1460537-001

 The match was between Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong against Kim Ki Jung-Kim Sa Rang from South Korea.

What I admire the most about Chong Wei during his interview after his win was the fact that the first thing he mentioned, was to thank the supporters who cheered for him throughout the game. Even though most of us went back later with sore-throats, it was a well-deserved one knowing that our effort was acknowledged by our hero.

Unfortunately, there was no hattrick wins for Malaysia as the men's pair were beaten by their opponent in straight set. Nevertheless, it was a great afternoon spent cheering for the Malaysian players. As we gathered to have a group photo together, a small group of small kids ran over to us. One of them then asked me, "Excuse me, can we have your autograph?"

I supposed they must have thought we are part of the Malaysian players. I kindly declined and told her that we are just among the supporters there, just like them. I know that if I sign for her, I will feel guilty for the rest of my life for bluffing a little innocent kid lol!

P1460546-001

  They also asked if we had managed to met up with Chong Wei.

P1460545-001

 The Malaysian team supporters this year. Believe it or not, this is only the first time we met with each other haha!

P1460553-001

 We summed out our day with a late lunch at Siddique, an Indian restaurant in Shinjuku.

It is something really amazing to see how sports and in this case, badminton, can really make us come together, united as one big family, instead of million of ringgits spent on some nice-sounding slogans. You know what I am referring to, don't you? 

2 comments:

lutfi said...

oops. i shared this post on my twitter timeline :P

calvin said...

@ Lutfi:
Yeah! Sure, no problem, Lutfi! :D