Countless iconic mixed doubles players have walked and continue to walk the courts of badminton history. Besides the unforgettable Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong of China, another pair has significantly changed the mixed doubles game: Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping.
Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping emerged as outstanding players after years of honing their skills individually and together. Despite their young age, these two are masters of the court, winning major titles and currently ranking as the world’s third-best mixed doubles pair. Who are these two young badminton stars?
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Wang Yi Lyu, On His Way to Olympic Glory
Wang Yi Lyu was born in Zhejiang, China, on November 8, 1994. He began his badminton journey in 2003 and became a professional player in 2011. His international debut happened at the Badminton Asia U-19 Junior Championships in 2012, and he won the mixed doubles Asian Championship in 2018 and 2019. While he played his way onto different world stages, he dreamed of competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
True enough, Wang became a player who was great enough to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics mixed doubles tournament. He played and dominated the mixed doubles category with Huang Dong Ping for years. And after playing each other 15 times, 12 of which were finals, the two were finally crowned Olympic champions.
As a badminton player, Wang knows his strengths and weaknesses. However, he balances them out on the court with his partner. In an interview with the Badminton World Federation, Wang said he played with his partner in the prestigious finals without focusing on winning or losing. He just aimed to play well, which became an advantage for them.
“It might not be my best achievement, but it was definitely a significant achievement,” Wang stated. Since taking home the gold medal in 2021, he and Huang Dong Ping have continued to take the world of badminton by surprise.
Setbacks and Moving Forward
It’s common for athletes to withdraw from competitions due to injuries or other unavoidable circumstances. Losses are also a part of badminton. No matter how seasoned a player is, they can’t always win. Wang has had his share of setbacks, such as his fears during his first Olympics.
Wang said the most challenging match he had during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo was the first match. It was his first-ever Olympic game, and he felt like he wasn’t prepared and had no experience. Wang played nervously until he learned to let go of his overthinking. He started to feel more focused and relaxed, overcoming a 3-13 record against their compatriots, Zheng Siwei and Huang Ya Qiong.
After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics mixed doubles tournament, Wang continues with more training and preparation for more games, facing new challenges. Recently, he fell ill during the India Open badminton championship in New Delhi, withdrawing from the mixed doubles final against Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan.
Nevertheless, the end is nowhere near for Wang. If anything, the Olympics gold medal was just the beginning of his success in badminton.
Huang Dong Ping, the Golden Show Stealer
Huang Dong Ping was born in Fujian, China, on January 20, 1995. She first played the sport at age eight in Quanzhou and played until she was named an Elite Athlete of International Class by the General Administration of Sport of China in 2017. Now, she’s the third-best mixed doubles player in the world, along with her partner Wang Yi Lyu, and ranking 759 in women’s doubles.
Huang is a two-time mixed doubles winner of the Asian Championship. She won with Wang in 2018 and 2019, and just like him, she dreamed of competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, she took the dream up a notch by wanting to “win a medal.”
Though Huang didn’t have any special feelings after winning the Olympic gold, she acknowledged deep down in her heart that it was a happy occasion. She said, “I also felt that I’ve fulfilled a childhood dream.”
Huang is honest about her struggles as a player. She recognizes what makes a match difficult, but she’s also always determined to get better. About winning the Olympic gold medal, she said, “I think it boiled down to our mentality.” She had already lost to the then-Olympic mixed doubles champions many times before, so she played more relaxed and freely.
The two pairs already knew about each other’s strategy, and Huang and Wang had an edge in their mental strength.
Tests Along the Way to Victory
It was an hour and nine-minute battle against Zheng and Huang. And even before the finals, Huang had already gone through obstacles. During the quarterfinals against South Korea’s Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung, Huang found the match psychologically tough.
The semifinals were also nerve-wracking because they played against the home team, Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino. When they finally shared the same court with their fellow countrymen during the finals, she developed the attitude to make game-winning shots without pressuring herself and her partner. Ultimately, the pair’s courage and mental strength propelled them to win the gold medal.
In 2022, the Chinese Badminton Association (CBA) temporarily split Huang and Wang for the Denmark Open. According to sources, the pair has been inconsistent with their games after winning the Olympic gold in 2021. One reason is injuries: Huang with an elbow injury, and Wang with a back injury. Another is losing the hunger for victory and self-confidence.
An Unlikely Combination for a Golden Partnership
The six-footer Wang Yi Lyu and five-four Huang Dong Ping make an unlikely combination for a golden partnership. But their differences in physical and emotional stature have only helped them move forward. The two gave fans a glimpse of their characters in a Badminton Unlimited episode. Wang is more serious, and Huang, the comedian of the pair, with whimsical comments.
The world-class pair have witnessed ups and downs together, and their split in 2022 aimed to rejuvenate them. The need to rediscover the excitement and energy when playing together only hints at their strong bond and potential. The badminton world is ready for more from the Olympic gold medalists!
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