Shuttler has high hopes

Shuttler has high hopes

Olympian Vincent Wong dreams of a world title and gold at the 2016 Rio Games

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Shuttler Vincent Wong_L
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP
Shuttler Vincent Wong Wing-ki achieved his Olympic dream ahead of schedule when he competed at last month's London Games, but he is not finished yet.

The 22-year-old Hong Kong badminton team member from Kwun Tong has even higher hopes: to become an Olympic gold medallist and world champion.

Wong's outstanding recent form helped him qualify for the London Games - four years earlier than his planned target, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Yet Wong's ultimate target remains the same - winning gold at Asian, Olympic and world level. "Since I was a little boy, I've had the sense of becoming the world's number one player," he says. "But I also knew about the Olympics and told myself I wanted to win medals, too - gold medals."

Wong's interest in badminton began when he was six. He first hit a shuttlecock to his father to help pass the time on the pavement outside a Kwun Tong Indonesian restaurant, which his parents - both Chinese from Indonesia - ran until it was closed to make way for urban redevelopment in April.

"I was nominated by a schoolmate to join the school badminton team in Primary Three," says Wong, who is world number 22 in the latest rankings.

"I started training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute in Form One and quit school to do full-time training after I finished Form Three."

In his seven years as a full-time professional, Wong has been steadily climbing the world rankings; he entered the top 30 last year.

The qualifying period for the London Games began last May, although he had already set his sights further ahead - to compete at the 2014 Asian Games and in Rio, in 2016. Yet all those plans changed after he stunned two of the world's leading players in competition.

He beat South Korea's Lee Hyun-il and China's Lin Dan, who won men's singles gold in London, to reach the quarter-finals at last October's Denmark Open, the Badminton World Federation's premier Super Series event. "My points at this tournament solidified my qualifying chances for London," Wong says. "By the end of the qualifying period, I was even able to secure a seeding. This helped me avoid facing most of the top players in the group stage."

In May, he went to Indonesia for three weeks' intensive training. While he was there, the player, who loves to hit jump smashes from the baseline, worked on his net-playing skills and attacking combinations.

His efforts paid off as he won two group matches and got to the last 16 in London, before losing to eventual bronze-medallist Chen Long.

"I'd never beaten Chen when we'd played each other before," Wong says. "So at the Games, my coach and I adopted precise tactics to hinder Chen's defence and counter-attacking play.

"As Chen is tall, I played at a fast pace and made him run from corner to corner during points to tire him, and it proved quite successful. Sadly I didn't handle the crucial points well - so I lost."

He says the experience of playing at the London Games will help him in future. "I learned a lot playing at the Games, but I'll still consider myself an underdog in future; I won't get carried away."

Wong's more pressing priority is to play at next year's Indonesia Premier Super Series. "I want to beat my idol, Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat, before he retires. I've lost all five matches against this Athens Games gold medallist, but some matches were close. But I must be quick; he's retiring after the next Open tournament on his home soil. So this is my top priority for now."

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