When Park Joo-Bong of South Korea moved around with the Japanese contingent at the Badminton Asia Team Championship in Hyderabad recently, not even the die-hard badminton fans were remotely conscious of his awesome reputation as a player. Essentially a doubles player, Joo-Bong was a five-time World champion (two men’s doubles and three mixed doubles titles), an Olympic champion (men’s doubles gold, 1992 Barcelona) and winner of nine (four men’s doubles and five mixed doubles) titles at the All England Championships.

The 51-year-old South Korean has been the coach of Japan for the last 11 years. He has great hopes of pulling off a few surprises at the Rio Olympics this year.

“Unlike the last Olympics in London, where Japan had won its first-ever Olympic medal in doubles, this time we have chances in all four events,” Joo-Bong said.

“We may still have a long way to go in doubles, but in both men’s and women’s singles we have players capable of beating the best,” he said, referring to the double delight at the BWF World Super Series last December when Kento Momota and Nozomi Okuhara won the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively.

“It was indeed a remarkable progress by Nozomi, who has comfortably beaten the likes of Carolina Marin and Wang Yihan of late. The confidence level is on a high now,” said Joo-Bong.

Talking of Momota, Japan’s coach was of the view that he is a more transformed player now and has started winning major titles, unlike in the past when he did not cross the knockout phase.

“But again, when it comes to the Olympics, a fully-fit Li Xuerui (the London Olympics gold medallist) is a very dangerous customer because of her reach and attacking style. She is a great player who can destroy any opponent on her day,” acknowledged Joo-Bong.

Drawing a comparison between Wang Yihan and Xuerui, Joo-Bong said that the problem with Wang was that she loses her temper quickly. She gets angry for some reason or the other. “Psychologically, she doesn’t seem to have control over her emotions,” he pointed out.

Reflecting on the Indian players, Joo-Bong said that P. V. Sindhu is an attacking player, while Saina Nehwal is all about power and speed. “I think Saina’s skills are on the lesser side,” he added.

According to Joo-Bong, Indian badminton has a system in place now because of the contribution of Pullela Gopi Chand. “From my playing days and now, India is better off in badminton. The emergence of top players in the women’s and men’s singles is a proof of this. They are a force to reckon with now in world badminton,” he pointed out.

On the general standard of the game today, like many old-timers Joo-Bong was also of the view that it is more about speed and power than finesse. “But again, you have to tune yourself to the changing trends to be better players,” he signed off.