The 2021 world badminton champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore is one of the reigning talents on the court, but how did he rise to the top? Let’s look at the decisions he took, his family background, his friends and his sportsmanship that made him a star admired by fans and rivals alike.
Loh Kean Yew was born in Malaysia
Loh Kean Yew, born in Malaysia, embarked on the road to fame after graduating from Singapore Sports School. He was already competing in badminton tournaments even before he joined the school. He was offered a scholarship by the school after he won the Malaysian nationals in the under-12 category. He continued his education at Republic Polytechnic (RP), studying Sports and Leisure Management. In 2015, Loh officially became a Singaporean citizen.
Soared high despite his late start in professional badminton
Unlike many professional badminton players who start training at a young age, Loh Kean Yew began his serious full-time badminton training in his late teens, at 18. Despite the late start, he soared to the top.
Following his graduation from Singapore Sports School, Loh Kean Yew pursued further education at Republic Polytechnic (RP). During this time, in 2015, the Malaysian-born Loh obtained Singapore citizenship, solidifying his ties to the country.
At the age of 18, he made a significant decision that surprised his family. Loh expressed his desire to discontinue his studies and pursue a professional career in badminton. His mother was initially shocked, concerned about his giving up his studies. But she had faith in him, recognising his maturity, discipline and unwavering determination. Consequently, Loh dropped out of Republic Polytechnic after completing a year of study to pursue his badminton dreams.
Loh Kean Yew maintains a good relationship with his rivals
Loh goes beyond fierce competition to foster meaningful relationships with his rivals. Known for his sportsmanship, Loh has maintained rapport with fellow players, including his rival Zia Jia, whom he has praised and complimented on numerous occasions.
His friendship with Viktor Axelsen extends beyond the court. Axelsen’s daughter endearingly calls him “Uncle. Loh’s ability to form strong bonds with his rivals showcases the camaraderie and mutual respect that exists within the badminton community.
Loh Kean Yew’s brother plays badminton as well
Loh Kean Yew’s older brother, Kean Hean, shares his passion for badminton and is also a member of the Singapore national badminton team.
Loh recalls that he was introduced to the game at the tender age of four when he began playing badminton at the gate of his house, accompanied by his brothers and their neighbour. This early initiation laid the foundation for his love for the game and eventual success.
Loh Kean Yew and Viktor Axelsen are rivals, yet training buddies
Viktor Axelsen, the 28-year-old badminton sensation, has consistently outshone his peers since his breakthrough as the first European to capture the World Junior Champion title at the age of 16 in 2010. From claiming the world champion and world number 1 titles in 2017 to a triumphant return after injuries to secure the 2020 Olympic gold in Tokyo, Axelsen’s dominance has been unrivalled.
In 2021, Axelsen made waves in the badminton world by announcing his departure from the Danish badminton team’s training base, opting to pursue independent training in Dubai. However, in the absence of sparring partners in Dubai, Viktor Axelsen took an innovative approach by assembling his own globalised “team” based on personal chemistry and the desire for challenging competition. With the support of the Singapore Badminton Association, Loh Kean Yew was among the first to receive and embrace Axelsen’s invitation.
Loh and Axelsen’s unique relationship as both competitors and training partners has emerged as a standout dynamic in the sport of badminton. The two have developed a good relationship outside the game.
Dubbed “Uncle Loh” by Viktor Axelsen’s daughter, Loh is more than Axelsen’s training buddy. Their relationship has evolved into a genuine friendship characterised by playful banter exchanged on social media.
This unique camaraderie between Loh and Axelsen, often referred to as a “bromance,” has captivated badminton enthusiasts and the media alike, raising intriguing questions about the possibility of sporting rivals forging deep friendships.