Lee Yong Dae: ”My mother had my fortune read and told me that I am suited to a girl one year younger than me.”
Lee’s magnificent jump smash
With his Olympic gold medal halo and looks that make him the spitting image of Korea actor /singer Lee Seung Gi, Lee Yong Dae has many “older sister fans” and, because of his habit of cheekily winking at the camera, he is known as “the Winking Prince.”
Agile and self-confident on court, in private Lee is actually a shy “big boy.”
Once when interviewed by a Korean TV station he talked about how his mother had to toil to make ends meet when he was young and how this made him determined to succeed as a badminton player so he could pay her back.
The lucky charms his mother gave him and her regular text messages of support are the main sources of his desire to win;the subtle interaction between mother and son shows how deep their feelings are for each other.
He jokes that his mother hopes he will focus all his attention on playing badminton and not start courting yet and she actually had his fortune told for him, the fortune-teller saying that he is suited to a girl one year younger than he is.
Lee started playing badminton seriously when in fifth grade and was selected for the national team at the age of 15, to date the youngest player ever to play for Korea.
His outstanding skill and results winning him the sobriquet “badminton boy genius”. Since claiming the men’s doubles and mixed doubles title at the 2005 Asian Junior Championship, he has had success in various international tournaments and has amassed substantial "combat” experience.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, at just 20 years of age, Lee won his first Olympic gold and playing at three successive Olympics is the goal that he is pursuing determinedly; such is his commitment to the game that he says he is “betting my life on a shuttlecock.”.
Up close and personal with Lee Yong Dae: 23 questions
Q. You began playing at a young age. What motivated you? Were you influenced by your parents？
A：In the summer vacation of second grade I began to feel I was a too fat so wanted to do some exercise to lose weight.
The only school sports club where I lived in Hwasun County was a badminton club so I began to play. I was hooked right away and have played ever since.
My parents basically have always supported me, apart from one time when they told me to take it easier when I became too thin because I practiced too much, but, apart from that, they have always been very supportive of my interest in badminton.
Q. How do you relax before a game？
A：I listen to some happy music while I warm up, sometimes pop songs, sometimes dance music, depending on my mood at the time.
Q. You once kissed your necklace after winning a match. Do you have a habitual way of celebrating a win?
A：I don’t remember kissing my necklace! ( laughs ) and I don’t have any habitual actions when I win.
It’s hard to know if you will win a match or not so, if you win, you naturally let out a victory cry or get down on your knees….it’s not prearranged, it all depends on your emotions at the time.
Q. You have played many matches. Which is most memorable?
A：Our opponents in the final in the mixed doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were Nova Widianto / Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia.
We won the gold because we beat them and felt that I grew a lot personally as a result of this match.
Q. What effect did winning the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal have on your life?
A：After I became famous I would often be recognized on the street. I’m not recognized so much now a few years have passed since Beijing, but I’m still recognized by two out of every ten people.
Q. You are the reigning mixed doubles Olympic champion. Will this this put you under special pressure at the London Olympics?
A：Of course there will be some pressure because I won in 2008, however, my current partner and I are working well together and trying hard and we should be able to perform well. I am around 70% confident that I can retain the mixed doubles title.
Q. Are you training or preparing in a special way for the London Olympics?
A：The training plan at present is focused on a few of the strongest pairs we might face; we analyze their strong and weak points and discuss strategy.
We also have to prepare to play other players, but time is limited so in training we are first simulating playing the strongest pairs.
Q. Who are the most formidable opponents you have faced? What were the main problems they caused you？
A：The strongest opponents at present are Fu Hai Feng and Cai Yun of China. We have played quite often in the last few years and have shared the spoils.
One time was when we lost to them in the World Championships in London in August 2008; my confidence was undermined a bit by that loss.
Fu Hai Feng has a terrific smash and also moves fast;powerful and fast, he is quite a handful
Q. What are your badminton strengths?
A：My strengths are my speed, and defense and control abilities,
Q. You are ranked second in the world. Is there any room for you to improve?
A：Our men’s doubles pairing has performed well so we have continually played in tournaments and, because of this, our way of playing and our individual skills have been exposed to our opponents.
We hope, in the next year, to achieve some breakthroughs in terms of strategy so we can surprise our opponents with our playing style.
After playing for so long it is inevitable that we develop playing habits, when smashing and receiving the shuttlecock etc.
I am very good at receiving powerful smashes and I have noticed recently that opponents are deliberately hitting their smashes with less power.
I will do some training to address this situation;as for my own smashes, I think I can generate more power so I will add some weight training to my training schedule.
Q. Which players do you admire most? Why?
A：Kim Dong Moon, winner of the gold medal in the mixed doubles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics who currently coaching in Canada.
He is very skillful; and was always very focused in training. He achieved a string of great results. I would like to equal him or even exceed his success.
Q. How do you celebrate or reward yourself for winning a tournament?
A：On the last day of a tournament, if results are good, my teammates and I will celebrate and maybe drink a little.
When one tournament ends, there are many other matches to follow;in my experience, if you are too happy about a win, you won’t be able to win the next match so you can’t let a win go to your head.
As for treating myself as a reward for doing well, in the past I thought I shouldn’t waste money on luxuries but, recently, I’ve rewarded myself by buying clothes or electronics products and hope that rewarding myself will spur me to achieve more success.
Q. When they have a setback many players have a motto that they use to encourage themselves to hang on and keep trying. Do you have such a motto?
A：It’s inevitable that matches will be lost or form will drop. In my opinion, the most important thing is to stay confident so I always tell myself : “Be confident in your ability!”
Q. What do you do to distract yourself when you are feeling down?
A：When I have time off I get together with friends and drink a little wine and relax. You have to release the built up stress or you might end up feeling really low and won’t be able to carry on.
Having a drink and letting off steam helps lift my spirits.When I am feeling low I prefer to go and walk about, especially in places where there are a lot of people, rather than staying cooped up in a room alone.
2012 VICTOR KOREA PREMIUM SUPERSERIES RUNNER UP : Lee Yong Dae
Q. Apart from badminton what other sports do you enjoy?
A：I don’t have time to do other sports but I sometimes watch baseball games.
Q. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you didn’t play badminton?
A：I am not academically minded so if I wasn’t a badminton player I’d probably do some other sport. At one time my parents wanted me to play baseball.
Q. What do you like most about being a professional sportsman?
A：Being a sportsman is my job. I also know that sport should be a happy thing so I try to enjoy it, however, I am under pressure and feel nervous when I am in a tournament.
I sometimes win and sometimes lose but, no matter what, I try to enjoy it all because this is the way I can play better.
When I am older I will probably remember my travels all over the world fondly. At present my trips always have a tight schedule and I stay in one place for only a few days.
It would be better if I could stay longer when I visit France or Taiwan for example, have a wander around and eat some good local food.
Q. You were born and lived in Hwasun County until your adolescence. Tell us about it. What do you miss most about Hwasun?
A：Hwasun is quite rural, it’s quiet and the air is good, and everyone knows everyone, there’s a lot of warmth.
I really miss its tranquility because Seoul is really noisy and the air isn’t too good, so it’s hard to feel comfortable.
Although Hwasun is a small place the locals are very willing to invest and have built a Long Dae Memorial Hall and Long Dae Sports Stadium, for which I am very grateful.
Hwasun is famous as a sports training base and anyone who knows sport in Korea has heard of it.
Q. Do you watch Korean TV dramas?Which male and female stars do you like?
A：I download some dramas before going overseas to play. I think the male and female actors in these dramas are all good looking but don’’t have any particular favorites.
Q. In an interview you once said Yoona of Girls’ Generation is your type. What do you like about her?
A：She is beautiful when she smiles and is tall.
Q. Do you have a girlfriend at present?
Q. What in your opinion are the strongpoints and weak points of your personality ? Do they affect you on the court?
A：I think I am very introverted and reserved and find it hard to get close to people.This is a weakness!
When I play I have to be aggressive and this makes people think I am quite extrovert. In the last few years of playing my personality has become a bit more cheerful.
Q. Which of your features are you most satisfied and least satisfied with?
A：I like my eyes the most;everyone says “eyes with single eyelids are attractive”.
I am basically satisfied with my features (laughs) but if I am forced to pick one that I’m not satisfied with it would have to be my nose.