When Sudirman Cup arrived in Australia for the first time ever in 2017, only three nations had their names engraved on the trophy.
Third seeds Korea were one of those with history in the tournament that started in 1989 but they had to play bridesmaids at two of the six consecutive editions China reigned supreme prior to Gold Coast. Title No. 3 – their last – came in 2003 before China’s 10-year stranglehold on the biennial competition kicked off.
The Koreans were not prepared to wait any longer, although this young and inexperienced squad was not considered among the favourites – several of their doubles stars had just retired and some chose to sit this event out. Men’s singles ace and world No.1 Son Wan Ho was also unavailable for the World Mixed Team Championships final.
The triumph, however, was grabbed in sensational fashion from the jaws of defeat against favourites China, who had been pushed to their limits in the semifinals by Japan.
Going into the fourth match 2-1 down, after Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan and Chen Long had won their duels against Choi Solgyu/Seo Seung Jae and Jeon Hyeok Jin respectively, the young Korea players had their backs to the wall.
Up stepped All England champions Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee to see off their women’s doubles opponents Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan to level proceedings. It was then left to 14th ranked Choi and his mixed doubles partner Chae Yujung to complete the gargantuan task of getting the better of accomplished world No.2 pair Lu Kai/Huang Ya Qiong.
And complete it they did, rather convincingly in straight games (21-17 21-13) against the error-riddled Chinese tandem. The unwavering spirit shown by Choi and Chae to get their team across the line will be talked about by Korean badminton fans for years to come.
The scenes that followed the winning point evoked emotions as new head coach Kang Kyung Jin raced first out of his seat to embrace Chae. Seconds later, Choi and Chae were under a pile of jubilating teammates.
Kang, who assumed his role only months earlier, had said pre-tournament he was hoping to make the final.
His charges went one better and ended a 14-year wait in style.