The 11 week-long journey of KBS2′s ‘Our Neighborhood’s Master of Variety and Sports’ has finally come to an end. The badminton rounds seemed to feel longer than any of the other sports matches, because the celebrity had hadn’t won a single match. Five matches, five losses. Though these are despairing results, more sweat was spilled than ever before.
In July, the celebrity team and staff entered the realm of badminton, not even knowing how to hold a racket properly. In two months, they have become players who could go against highly skilled amateurs and live to tell the tale. We met with Coach Lee Eun Woo, the mastermind behind the team’s rapid improvement, to hear about the behind-the-scenes stories of their journey.
- How would you rate the team as a professional?
They’ve improved greatly over a short period of time. The lessons I held with the celebrity team is completely different from lessons I regularly hold. Because it was important to bring them up to a level where they could compete, I had to teach them a lot of things in a short period of time. I think we covered a month’s worth of teachings in a day.
- How much did everyone practice?
Three hours a day, three or four times a week. Some members even came every day to practice. We would start practicing together once I was done with all my lessons at 9p.m. Even I found it hard to play badminton till one in the morning in the blistering Summer heat. But I knew just how hard the celebrity team were trying, so I put all my passion into teaching them. They would ask me for lessons in the weekends, and they frequently contacted me to ask if I could rent out the gymnasium for them to practice.
- Who practiced the hardest?
I couldn’t really choose one person because they all worked so hard.
- Which member is exceptionally athletic?
Of course, it’s Kang Ho Dong. Every time he’s in the gymnasium, he can become so concentrated that it always surprises me. He’s exceptionally athletic and witty at the same time. Most of all, he’s very good at absorbing things quickly. He’s the kind of person who you can teach one thing to, and they’ll learn ten things off it. He’s played tennis for a while, and it probably wasn’t easy for him to get rid of his habits, but he’s fixed them or changed them to suit badminton. He’s quite a special athlete. There’s a reason why he’s the greatest wrestler of our time.
- Then which member is exceptionally unathletic?
Max Changmin isn’t very athletic at all. But I think badminton suits him more than the other sports categories. He also works very hard. Though he couldn’t visit the gymnasium often because of his busy schedule, he personally came up to me and asked me for a coach so he could practice by himself. Whenever he came to a practice session, he had that intense gaze that he has during matches, from beginning to end. It surprised me.
It’s the same with Chansung. When I tell him why he’s making the mistakes he makes after a match, he says, ‘I know, I know what I’m doing wrong.’ Watching him shed tears broke my heart. It’s because I know that your body isn’t always at the same level as your brain is. Badminton is a fast-paced game that requires a lot of practice so that hitting the birdie becomes a reflex, and they didn’t have enough time for that to happen.
- What’s the reason why Jo Dal Hwan and Lee Soo Geun couldn’t succeed?
I think Jo Dal Hwan and Lee Soo Geun were the perfect example to show that badminton isn’t a sport that you can improve in drastically over a very short period of time. Of course, the two people worked very hard. But I think it was that they just didn’t fit with badminton. It’s like how you can’t be good at every sport, just because you’re on the national team. Jo Dal Hwan had already sustained injuries in his shoulders and knees. I heard that he even had to get surgery done. Because badminton requires a lot of movement in the knees and shoulders, it must have hurt for him to come to practices. There are many cases where badminton players quit after getting surgery done on their knees or shoulders. Even if you rehabilitate your right knee after a surgical procedure, your left knee is bound to get injured sometime later. That’s how much you subconsciously think about your injuries. In Lee Soo Geun’s case, I think he suffered from the misfortune of changing partners so often.
- How important is a partnership in badminton?
About 40%, with the remaining 60% depending on skill. That’s how important it is. Most badminton enthusiasts have a partner who they’ve played with for a long time. If a B-level team who have played together for a while goes against an A-level team who have just met, the B-level team have a higher chance of winning.
- Who was the ace in the deck?
Hands down, Lee Man Ki. He’s an A-level player in his 50s. Though his skills may differ from that of an A-level player in their twenties or thirties, but he’s one of the most talented players of his age range. Because he’s been playing for a long time, he knows how to send the birdie to certain spots in the court, and he knows how to calculate moves while he plays. And the fact that he’s left-handed is a great advantage to him.
- But his results weren’t that great.
If an A-level player has to play a match with a D-level player, the stress and responsibility means that they can’t play to their fullest potential. If we had given him a partner at a similar level, he would have done better. If the Lee Man Ki – Nickhun partnership had stayed in the game, the results may have changed.
- Badminton was the only sport where the team didn’t get a win.
Though each sport was hard on the team, badminton is one that especially relies on experience. It’s not easy. In one way, it was pretty obvious that they were going to lose. It was impossible for them to win people who have been playing for so long. I always told the team, ‘Take it easy’. It’s also a psychological game, so the first people to gain a point are also the people who usually win. It may have been a stretch to make celebrities who had just started playing badminton to be technical experts. Even normal people need at least two years to master how to use their wrist properly. The most important thing for the team was to focus on getting the birdie over the net. In two months, the celebrity team were able to catch the opposing team’s smashes and defend themselves. Setting aside winning and losing, they were amazing.
- The members cried a lot.
If they hadn’t worked hard, they wouldn’t have cried. Even I felt like I was going to cry after the Jeju match. I felt bad because they had never won once. Though I knew why they had lost, my heart ached because they had put so much time into their matches. It would be nice if the viewers could know just how hard they’ve worked, but that’s something only I and the members know. Even the staff won’t know the extent of the team’s hard work because they were only there when they had to film.
- Which moment was most heartbreaking for you?
It was when Max Changmin and Lee Jong Soo suffered from a slump during their Busan competition. Though this is a variety show, they were getting stressed and suffering from a slump like real badminton players. It just meant that they wanted to do well that much. After losing their Busan match, they didn’t even go back up to Seoul. Instead, they went drinking and quite a lot to drink.
- Which member would you like to keep training with?
Max Changmin, Chansung and Lee Ji Hoon. I think they could do so well if they kept going. Max Changmin fits badminton quite well, and Lee Ji Hoon is athletic and strong. If they had slowly worked their way up from the basics, they could have done a lot better. They had to get into matches as soon as they could, so there wasn’t time for them to build up the basics. Chansung worked really hard, but he didn’t do very well because he didn’t have a lot of time to grow.
- All the matches are over. What would you like to say to the team?
Instead of giving them consolations, I’d like to praise them. Though they cried a lot, I don’t think they had a reason to. They did so much better than others would in that time period. I want to applaud them and tell them that they did well.
Source: [TV Report]
Translated & Shared by: dongbangdata.net