Lee Yong-dae, South Korea’s reigning Olympic champion in mixed doubles badminton, will get a new partner in his title defense at the 2012 London Games, his coach said Tuesday.
“We’ve concluded that Lee Yong-dae and Ha Jung-eun will be the optimal mixed doubles team,” coach Sung Han-kuk said. “We made the call after three European tournaments this month.”
Lee, 22, won the Beijing Olympics gold medal with Lee Hyo-jung, a 30-year-old who announced her retirement from the national team after winning mixed doubles gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games last fall. She played with Shin Baek-cheol at the time.
Korea’s Lee Yong-dae (left) and Jung Jae-sung compete during the men’s doubles second round match at the All England Open Badminton Championships earlier this month. (Xinhua-Yonhap News)
With Lee Hyo-jung out of the picture, Sung and his coaches mulled over the best combination for Lee Yong-dae over the German Open, All-England Open and Swiss Open championships.
In Germany, Lee played with Kim Ha-na and lost in the quarterfinals. After skipping the mixed doubles in England, Lee teamed up with Ha in Switzerland and reached the semifinals, where they lost to a tough duo in three sets.
“(Lee and Ha) pushed the strong Danish team (of Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christina Pedersen) in the semis to three sets,” Sung said. “After taking into account these recent results, we felt (Lee and Ha) played well as a team.”
Ha, 23, had previously played with Lee at the 2005 Korea Open as a high school freshman. In Beijing, Lee Yong-dae provided stability while Lee Hyo-jung, slightly taller than her male partner at 181 centimeters, attacked the net with abandon. Coach Sung said Ha, listed at 173 centimeters, may not be as adept near the net as Lee Hyo-jung but has potential for improvement.
“Lee Yong-dae is the steady player and Ha will get better around the net,” the coach said. “He’s found a good match.”