Having played two finals at the YONEX German Open 2023 on Sunday, and won the men’s doubles, Kim Won Ho will be one of the players to watch at the YONEX All England 2023, which begins tomorrow.
And while this will be his second All England – he last played here in 2018 – Kim has a deeper connection with the world’s oldest tournament. His mother Gil Young Ah’s luminous career was studded with three straight All England victories, from 1993 to 1995.
“I vividly remember the audience’s etiquette which watching matches and the standing ovation for us,” recalls Gil, of those moments that are nearly three decades old.
The first two of those victories was in the company of Chung So Young, who won no less than six All England titles with four different partners. Interestingly, Chung’s daughter Kim Hye Jeong too is one of the contenders at the current All England, arriving in Birmingham as the fourth seed in women’s doubles.
Chung and Gil are of course legends of the game, for they are also Olympic champions. Their offspring are still early in their career, and given the backing of their accomplished mothers, can perhaps go on to bigger things themselves.
“I am so proud of my son being an internationally competitive player,” said Gil Young Ah. “I tend to tell my son about what he can do and should do. He has a strong will to ask me questions on his own first, and he often calls to get advice on how I had played.”
Chung too is always there for her daughter, offering her perspective.
“I only give advice to the extent that I watch the video and give feedback. But my daughter thinks it’s nagging (if) she doesn’t accept what her senior says, but what her mother says. If she has any difficulties during training or competition, I give advice through what I have experienced. She doesn’t like to talk to me as a senior but as a mom, so I only give her light advice.”
And while both Gil and Chung can look back with satisfaction on their careers, there is pain intermingled with pride.
Gil remembers leaving a young Kim Won Ho at home when she’d leave for training.
“I was so sorry for my young son that I had to often leave the house because I had to play badminton,” Gil recalls. “As my son grew up, I endured the hard time thinking that he would understand it later.”
“I’m grateful and proud to be an internationally competitive player, but it hurts because I know how much pain there has been in the process,” adds Chung. “I think that there will be no problem in her career of being an badminton player as long as she has her own will. However, if she gets married, it will be difficult to maintain her career without her husband’s help. So I tell my daughter to do what she wants even if she doesn’t get married.”