SEA Games: S'pore’s Johann Prajogo, Nge Joo Jie win badminton men’s doubles bronze
PHNOM PENH – While their seniors have gone to battle in the Sudirman Cup in China, Singapore’s second-string badminton players have competed manfully at the SEA Games.
The brightest spark among the group was men’s doubles pair and 19-year-olds Johann Prajogo and Nge Joo Jie, who belied their age and world No. 155 ranking to win a bronze medal.
The men’s doubles are in a transition phase with Terry Hee breaking up with Loh Kean Hean to focus on the mixed doubles with Jessica Tan, while Loh and Andy Kwek are just starting to combine. The emergence of the youngsters provided hope for Singapore badminton in this event.
In the round of 16, Prajogo and Nge beat unranked Cambodians Heng Mengleap and Yam Samnang, and then Malaysia’s 106th-ranked Chia Wei Jie and Liew Xun in the quarter-finals.
On Monday, they gave Indonesia’s 33rd-ranked Pramudya Kusumawardana and Yeremia Rambitan a hard fight before going down 21-16, 21-18 at the Morodok Techo National Stadium Badminton Hall.
In both games, they took early leads before their more illustrious opponents’ experience showed. Rallies were short as the 2022 Asian champions showed their speed and stroke quality to pick up fast points.
However, Prajogo displayed some fine smashes, while Nge produced some clever serves to level the score at 16-16 in the second game, but loose shots later on cost them the match.
The Indonesians will meet Pakkapon Teeraratsakul and Peeratchai Sukphun in Tuesday’s final after the Thais beat another Indonesia pair and 2022 All-England Open champions Shohibul Fikri and Bagas Maulana, who shared bronze with the Singaporeans.
Their first SEA Games experience has given Prajogo and Nge, who ended 2022 as junior world No. 1s, the belief they can make a charge for the top 100 in the senior circuit before they enlist for national service in 2024.
Prajogo said: “Playing against top players from this region, which has some of the top pairs in the world, we learnt that they are very consistent through the game, and we can do better to focus throughout from the first point.
“In the absence of our seniors, we took the opportunity to play and enjoyed the process. It’s an honour to represent Singapore at the SEA Games and we hope we can be given a chance to play at the Asian Games too.”
While they coped well with a boisterous crowd that was full of noisy Malaysian and Indonesian fans armed with kompang drums, air horns and whistles, Nge felt they could still improve.
He said: “We didn’t let the pressure of the occasion get to us, and we managed to put that aside and focus on our match.
“But it’s our first major Games and our first time playing in front of a packed arena. We still can get used to such a crowd and environment.”
Singapore badminton has completed its SEA Games campaign with three bronzes, short of the one silver and five bronzes it won in Hanoi in 2022 with a full complement of players.