Water salute, warm welcome home for champ Loh Kean Yew
Badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew received a hero's welcome upon his homecoming as he enjoyed a water salute when his KL 833 flight arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 1 at around 4pm on Tuesday (Dec 21).
"I'm just glad to be back," said Loh as he acknowledged a group of 20 people who had gathered and applauded his return.
The 24-year-old Singaporean delivered a surprise gold at the Badminton World Federation World Championships on Sunday when he beat India's Kidambi Srikanth 21-15, 22-20 in the men's singles final in Huelva, Spain, despite nursing an ankle injury.
Returning with national singles coach Kelvin Ho and physiotherapist Ho Jia Ying, he also celebrated his climb to a career-high world No. 15 in the latest rankings released on Tuesday.
National swimmer Joseph Schooling had received a similar reception when he returned from the Rio 2016 Olympics with the nation's first Olympic gold medal after winning the men's 100m butterfly final.
Due to Covid-19 safe management measures, there was no public reception for the shuttler.
But a group of eagle-eyed onlookers and fans at Changi Airport managed to catch a glimpse of Singapore's world champion on Tuesday.
Denise, 26, who wanted to be known only by her first name, was running errands when she saw the media gathering and "sensed that someone important was arriving".
She said: "I suspected it could be Kean Yew and then realised it was definitely him because he posted on Instagram that he had landed. So I waited to see if I could catch a glimpse of him.
"He's done us all proud. Seeing the way he celebrated his win was especially moving. He's set an example for children to follow. I'm sure people of all ages who know of his achievement will feel very inspired."
After clearing a polymerase chain reaction swab test, Loh was welcomed home by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, as well as Singapore Badminton Association officials – president Lawrence Leow, chief executive officer Alan Ow, technical director Martin Andrew and other management committee members.
He then attended a press conference at the Changi Experience Studio in Jewel.
With the exception of a four-day spell at home from Dec 4 to 7, Loh has been on the road since August to train and compete.
He had a one-month training stint with Denmark's world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and four other top-60 players in Dubai across August and September, before he flew to Paris to train with the France national team.
In the two months that followed, he captured the Dutch Open and Hylo Open in Germany and finished second in the Indonesia Open, before claiming his historic world title.
In the process, he scalped six of the current top 10 players - Axelsen, Japan's Kento Momota (second), Denmark's Anders Antonsen (third), Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien-chen (fourth), Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia (seventh), and Kidambi (10th).