Take Two, with New Mates

They had contrasting fortunes in their debut Olympics at Tokyo 2020 but Liu Yu Chen of China and Canadian Nyl Yakura are looking good for another Summer Games in Paris, despite changing partners.

Three years ago, Liu took men’s doubles silver alongside Li Jun Hui while Yakura and Jason Anthony Ho-Shue finished bottom in a tough Group D that consisted bronze medallists Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, semifinalists Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan and Choi Sol Gyu/Seo Seung Jae.

With new sidekick Ou Xuan Yi, Liu is currently seventh on the Race to Paris rankings. Yakura on the other hand, occupies the 14th qualifying position with Adam Dong.

“I partnered Li for eight years,” recalled Liu. “With Ou, it’s been two years and things are going well. It’s been challenging, but that’s all part of the process playing at two Olympics with different partners.”

Liu and Li had a productive partnership, reaching world No.1 in 2017 and becoming world champions a year later. Liu has not hit those heights with Ou but remains convinced there’s plenty to look forward to, especially after winning four titles as a pair, including the World Tour Finals in 2022.

“Ou has a big smash, and together we’ve been able to form a solid defence,” said the 28-year-old. “He’s strong and fast, I’m not so quick, so I trust my partner to cover me.

“These Olympics will be hard, but it’s important to get to the start line fit and healthy. I don’t want to think too far ahead about goals; I just want to take one match at a time.”

Liu and Ou have complemented each other well.

Similarly, Yakura is also adapting to Dong, having shared a different equation with Ho-Shue.

“They are different personalities. We still need to see how we are on and off the court, and this would be different to how Jason and I were,” Yakura, who won the Pan Am Championships and Panamerican Games last year with Dong, explained. “I’m trying to feel out Adam’s emotions; what makes him feel good, but also what doesn’t.

“Adam is a lefthander, and that’s new for me. We’ve been playing together for a few years now, and we are getting used to things. We are still trying to find our style and how we are supposed to play together.”

Reflecting on his Tokyo outing, Yakura shared his resolution of wanting to “enjoy it this time”.

“Nerves and excitement got to me at the last Olympics,” admits the 31-year-old. “When you get into qualifying in the later months with all the build-up to the Games, it can be stressful. It’s important to remind each other to enjoy it.”

Dong and Yakura in action at the Indonesia Masters last month.

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