NEW DELHI: Amidst noisy crowd, Park Joo-bong, donning a tracksuit with Japan on his back, was quietly seated in an empty stand meant for VIPs/players. He was intently studying the game, unmoved like a rock. Unnoticed by anyone around, the man is quite a legend in the badminton fraternity.
Winner of nine All England championships, gold medallist in 1992 Barcelona Olympics followed by silver in the following Atlanta Olympics, Park is currently the badminton coach of the Japan National team.
The 50-year-old Korean was watching his ward Kento Momota play India’s second seed Kidambi Srikanth in the second round. After a brief affair, the Indian managed to clinch the first game. Momota fought back in the second, to stay in contest but Srikanth proved too good in the decider. Disappointed with the defeat, Park lauded the Indian for his effort. “Srikanth has improved a lot. He is a good attacking player and plays a very fast-paced game,” Park opined.
He opened up about the Japanese youngsters and says he lacked fitness to survive a three-game affair. “Momota started off really slow in the first game. He controlled the second game very well. In the decider, he was not up to the mark physically,” he said, adding the 20-year-old has a bright future.
He revealed he played against Indonesian great Icuk Sugiarto during his salad days and also mentions his one-match affair with Indian legend Prakash Padukone. “I played him when I was just starting off while he was on the verge of retirement.” After retiring as player in 1996, he went on to coach England and Malaysia before taking the Japan offer. Park also had two eight-month brief stints with his home team, offering special coaching ahead of 2008 and 2012 Olympics
Park, who was inducted into the Badminton Hall of Fame in 2001, said the system of sport is totally different all over Asia. “In Korea, there are more international tournaments. The national team will have lot of exposure trips. In Japan, it is club-based. They train with the clubs and go for tournaments. In India, they have their own system.”