Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Ra Kyung-min axed from S. Korean Uber Cup team

JAKARTA (JP): South Korea surprisingly excluded women's and mixed doubles specialist Ra Kyung-min from the Uber Cup team despite her contribution in the qualifying round in New Delhi in February.

A release from the International Badminton Federation (IBF) on Thursday did not state a reason for Ra's exclusion. Korea named Kim Ji-hyun, Lee Kyung-won, Kim Kyeung-ran, Si Jin-sun, Lee Hyo- jung, Yim Kyung-jin, Chung Jae-hee, Jung Yeon-kyung and Kim So- yeon to play in the cup in Kuala Lumpur from May 11 to May 21.

China is the heavy favorite to retain the Uber Cup for the eighth time, with none of its team's players lower than fifth in the IBF's singles and doubles rankings. The country -- relying on Gong Zhichao, Dai Yun, Ye Zhaoying, Gong Ruina, Huang Nanyan, Gu Jun, Ge Fei, Gao Ling, Yang Wei and Qin Yiyuan -- is expected to face its toughest challenge from Denmark, which is seeking is first win in the cup.

Denmark will field Camilla Martin, Mette Sorensen, Mette Pedersen, Tine Rasmussen, Helene Kirkegaard, Rikke Olsen, Ann-Lou Jorgensen, Mette Schjoldager, Majken Vange and Pernille Harder.

In the Thomas Cup, host Malaysia hopes to repeat its feat from 1992 when it defeated Indonesia in front of its home spectators.

Rashid Sidek is the team captain, with Commonwealth Games champion Wong Choon Han and Ong Ewe Hock considered the backbones of the squad.

Denmark will depend greatly on world number one Peter Gade Christensen and 1996 Olympic Games gold medalist Poul-Erik Hoyer- Larsen to become the first non-Asian country to win the cup.

However, Denmark is likely to face either China or Indonesia in the semifinals. Despite injuries hampering its shuttlers, defending champion Indonesia is optimistic of winning the Thomas Cup for the 12th time.

China will not be a pushover for Denmark, with All England champion Xia Xuanze and talented young shuttler Ji Xinpeng on the team.

Separately, Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) chairman Subagyo Hadisiswoyo signed a memorandum of understanding with D.K. Seth of Sunrise, the distributor of Yonex sports equipment and sportswear, to extend the four-year contract.

Players expressed hope that both PBSI and Sunrise would be punctual in distributing the contract money to them.

Subagyo said PBSI would hand over copies of the contract to shuttlers for them to study.

"I don't want any of our athletes not understanding the essence of the contract. I hope when they understand, they won't break the agreement on purpose."

Responding to players' complaints about the outmoded apparel design, Seth said Yonex would provide new designs for all countries competing in the Thomas and Uber cups. (yan)