Jaspar Yu Woon Chai (L) with his coach/manager Zuno Kartono Hj Ali. Picture: BT/Yee Chun Leong
JASPAR Yu Woon chai will smash his way into the history books when he becomes the first badminton player from Brunei to compete at the Olympics.
He was assigned one of the three Tripartite Commission Invitation places by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) back in May to contest in the men’s singles event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. A total of 41 shuttlers will slug it out in the event and they are separated into 13 groups with the top-two from each advancing to the next round at the August 5-21 Olympics.
Yu has been drawn in Group D with World No 12 Hu Yun of Hong Kong and No 34 Pablo Abian of Spain. He expressed that it is not about getting his name written into history books but more about how he will fare in the competition despite being the lowest ranked player at 407.
“It is a privilege to be the first ever Bruneian badminton player at the Olympics and to go down into the history books. But honestly I haven’t talked about it too much,” said Yu in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday. “I’m more concerned about the performance and to be able to do well. Most important is that I have done my part to be prepared to the best that I can to play to my ability. Whether I can bring victory that is another story. “Our hopes weren’t very high from the first time we applied (for the Tripartite Commission in December). We just gave it a shot since there was no harm trying,” he added.
“To have it awarded to me, I feel very blessed and it is a very good thing. I have achieved a lifelong dream and it is definitely good news for badminton Brunei. “I hope to make the country proud and I want to thank all Bruneians for the support of our national athletes especially the Olympics delegation,” continued the 27-year-old. Yu’s last competition, before the qualifying period closed on May 1, was at the China Masters in April where he fell 21-11, 21-6 to World No 3 and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in the opening round at Jiangsu — moving him to a career-best ranking of 399.
Yu kept himself busy after that by attending a two-week training camp hosted by the Badminton Asia Confederation from May 15-29 in Kuala Lumpur. He then went for a month long training stint with the Yonex Japan badminton team in Tokyo from June 25 before returning to the sultanate on Friday.
His training included the likes of women’s singles World No 14 Sayaka Sato and No 40 Kaori Imabeppu as well as the men’s doubles pairing of Taiki Shimada and Yoshinori Takeuchi. “Training was daily from 9am to 5pm. I got a lot of help from the Yonex Japan badminton team as I learned a lot,” said Yu. “The coaches and players all took care of me. They taught me a lot both on and off the court. Overall it was good experience and good preparation period for me to do well in Rio,” he added.
Yu also hopes that he can be an inspiration to other young players to continue chasing their dream. “Until today, along the way I took a lot of specific planning,” said Yu. “I want to encourage the young players firstly, to have a dream and secondly, to know how to achieve it. After that you just have to work hard to get there,” he added. Yu also went on to thank his parents for the full-time support as well as Yonex for always taking care of him equipment wise.
Zuno Kartono Hj Ali, who is also the Brunei Darussalam National Badminton Association assistant secretary general I, will travel to Brazil with Yu as his coach and manager. He felt that Yu has improved after his training stint in Japan and he hopes that he will be able to put up a good fight against the world’s top players. “He has shown a lot of improvement after training a month with the Yonex Japan badminton team,” said Zuno.
“I hope that Jaspar will be able to compete against the top players and give them a good fight. “On behalf of the association, we would like to thank the BWF for this opportunity that Jaspar will be able to compete in such a prestigious event,” he added.
“We also want to thank the BDNOC (Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council) president (His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah) who supported the invitation from IOC to give us the Tripartite Commission as well as the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
“I hope the young players will take Jaspar as an inspiration. The association has ways to help them to go out to have ranking in the world,” concluded Zuno. The athletics duo of Md Fakhri Ismail and Maizurah Abd Rahim are set to be the other two Bruneians bound for Rio.