The youngest male badminton player of the Tokyo Olympics, Brian Yang, almost created one of the biggest upsets of the Games’ history.
19-year-old Brian Yang was on the verge of shocking second seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei before losing a hard-fought match 18-21, 21-16, 20-22. The men’s singles Group P match has made Yang the talking point in the badminton fraternity.
Chinese Taipei’s top player Chou eked out a narrow win against the unseeded Canadian to advance to the quarter-finals.
Chou, the world’s No. 4, came into the group's last match as the heavy favorite against world No. 45 Yang, after beating Felix Burestedt of Sweden in his first outing.
With nothing to lose, Yang produced his best performance and stretched his superior opponent to the limit. The match turned out to be unexpectedly close, as Chou barely held on, taking the hard-fought first game 21-18.
However, Yang clawed back from a four-point deficit to win the second game 21-16 to force a decider.
In the third game, Chou jumped off to an early seven-point lead, only to see Yang pull even as the game came down to the wire. In the clutch, however, the 31-year-old Taiwanese star managed to pull through, edging Yang 22-20.
Yang had his chances to stun the veteran but couldn’t capitalize on them. Had he managed to keep his nerves intact and forced a couple of mistakes from Chou, he would have registered perhaps the biggest win of his career.
Chou was under a lot of pressure against me: Yang
“Going into the match, I felt very little pressure, and I think that Chou felt a lot of pressure, especially as the match went on. I challenged him more and more, because he was much higher ranked than me, as well as the second seed. If he won, it would be seen as normal, but if he lost, it would be a big deal. So all the pressure was on him,” Yang, who bowed out of the competition with two losses in the group stage, told Sportskeeda.
Toronto-based Yang admitted that it was one of his best matches so far. He said:
“I think I played one, if not the best match I have ever played. I felt that my defense was really good. I controlled him pretty well, my shots were good quality, and I executed my frontcourt shots really well too. Looking back at the game, I felt like we were pretty evenly matched. But I think what distinguished the winner from the loser was the fact that he had more experience. When the game got really tight, he knew what to do, whereas I didn’t really try to change anything when it got close to game or match point.”
Yang lost to Sweden’s Felix Burestedt 12-21, 17-21 in the first match but bounced back to play probably the best match of his life.
“All in all, it was a memorable match. I am really proud of the match against Chou and my confidence really got a boost after that, knowing that I can compete with the current world number 4.”
In the quarter-finals on Saturday, Chou will face off against the defending Olympic champion and sixth-seed, Chen Long of China.
Despite bowing out, the teenage sensation rated his maiden Olympic experience as 'amazing'.
“My first Olympics was a surreal experience. Even as our Canadian team entered the village, I was having a hard time believing that I was at the Tokyo Olympics. Everything about the experience was awesome, from the amazing views in the village to the delicious food, from the overflowing souvenir shop to the super kind volunteers. I had a great time in the village with my teammates, and met some amazing athletes from all over the world as well,” said Yang.
The tall Canadian was elated to be in the company of the best shuttlers in the world and cherished every moment of his Tokyo journey. He added:
“As for the badminton arena and competition, even though there were no spectators, I could still feel the atmosphere and pressure when I was on court. The feeling of knowing that I'm competing at the Olympics, on court, in the presence of the world’s best badminton players, is a feeling I will never forget. It's also something I hope to get used to in the future. It's disappointing that I have to leave Tokyo so soon, but the experience was something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The young Canadian will be a completely different player after his Olympic debut and is set to dazzle international badminton in the years to come.