BIRMINGHAM – On the eve of a big Commonwealth Games semi-final against defending champions and top seeds India, Singapore’s badminton mixed team were rocked by the news that one of their key players Loh Kean Hean had tested positive for Covid-19.
This meant he had to be isolated and could not play a part in the semi-final at the National Exhibition Centre on Monday (Aug 1).
Singapore ended up losing 3-0 and will play England, who were beaten 3-0 by Malaysia, for the bronze medal on Tuesday (Aug 2). The Republic had beaten the hosts 4-1 in the group stage on Saturday.
A Commonwealth Games Singapore spokesman revealed that Loh was not the only national athlete involved with the Games to contract the virus, as swimmer Ong Jung Yi tested positive earlier and did not travel to England.
The spokesman added: “Kean Hean’s symptoms are mild and he will remain in Birmingham for recovery. Team Singapore’s medical team is extending their support to the team and is monitoring their condition closely.”
Loh, one half of the world No. 44 men’s doubles pair with Terry Hee, expressed his frustration at not being able to help his team.
This is also the second time he was struck with Covid-19 after catching the disease in February to miss out on the Badminton Asia Team Championships, in which Singapore won a historic joint-bronze to qualify for the Thomas Cup.
He said: “I’m disappointed I can’t join my teammates on the court today. But I’m definitely with them in spirit and will cheer them on while in isolation.”
In his absence, Singapore had to field a makeshift 736th-ranked duo of Andy Kwek and Hee – who are playing together for just the third time – against world No. 8 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
While it was unexpected for the order of play to start with the men’s doubles instead of the mixed doubles, the result was unsurprising as India won 21-11, 21-12.
Hee said: “They are the better team and we are a level down from them. We managed to match their speed in the first half of the second game, but we couldn’t sustain it.
“Kean Hean’s positive test is an unforeseen situation and we will do our best with what we have.
World No. 7 P. V. Sindhu then imposed her superiority on 19th-ranked Yeo Jia Min with a 21-11, 21-12 women’s singles win, before world No. 10 Lakshya Sen overcame world champion and ninth-ranked Loh Kean Yew 21-18, 21-15 in the men’s singles.
Kean Yew said: “Of course, there is some disruption to our preparations and line-up, but I’m sure whoever comes in for Kean Hean will give 100 per cent. This is a team event, so we all have to play our part and step up in our next match.”