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National badminton player Yeo Jia Min riding out a season of ‘ups and downs’

Four first-round exits in as many tournaments – this was how national badminton player Yeo Jia Min started her 2023 season of “ups and downs”.

Her confidence plummeted and the 24-year-old’s ranking dropped from a career-high 16th to 35th.

Victory at the US$15,000 Polish Open, an international challenge event one grade below the Badminton World Federation World Tour, was a much-needed boost.

She put up a commendable fight against higher-ranked opponents at the subsequent Spain and Orleans Masters and made the top eight. And she was stopped in her tracks most recently in the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open.

And as the world No. 29 finds her feet again in a crucial Olympic qualifying year, her focus is on doing well at the Singapore Badminton Open, where she kicks off her campaign on Wednesday against China’s world No. 17 Zhang Yiman.

She told The Straits Times in a pre-tournament interview: “This season, I’ve seen ups and downs. I lost some matches but also made adjustments, which helped me find out how I can be better.”

The series of losses at the start of 2023 affected her mentally and she grappled with confidence issues.

“I always try to see things positively but, being faced with failures, it affected my confidence and everything I do,” she said.

“I had a lot of mental struggle every time I lost and it hurt for a certain period... There were a few things to reflect after every match, whether physically in terms of not being able to keep up with the opponent, or mentally in terms of not having enough confidence.”

Winning the Polish Open helped her regain trust in her abilities, and a training stint in Thailand in April with the likes of world No. 11 Pornpawee Chochuwong also gave her a boost.

Yeo, who is Singapore’s highest-ranked female singles player, added: “I learnt that they are also human, and they still prepare the same way every match. They make mistakes but what’s different is the self-belief in themselves to overcome difficulties.”

After months spent on tour, she is also looking forward to competing in the Singapore Indoor Stadium as she soaks in the “positive energy” from the home crowd.

Yeo has never gone beyond the round of 16 at the Singapore Open but said she will “give 100 per cent, with my ability and confidence going into each match”.

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