By Oh Seok-min
INCHEON, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- The world's top-ranked men's badminton duo from South Korea expressed confidence Wednesday that they will turn the pressure of competing at home into joy at the upcoming Asian Games.
Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong, badminton's No.1-ranked men's doubles tandem, have been zeroing in on their last-minute training for their pursuit of their first Asiad gold together.
A total of seven gold medals are up for grabs in badminton at the 17th Asian Games set to kick off on Friday in South Korea's western port city of Incheon.
"It would be more tense and somewhat burdensome playing in front of many Korean spectators," Lee told Yonhap News Agency. "But we will be trying to even enjoy such strained circumstances.
"I am excited that the Asian Games draw near, as grabbing gold at the Asiad is my final goal for this year," Lee added. "I have practiced and prepared hard for it and will do my best to the end."
Aside from their individual event, Lee and Yoo will also enter the men's team competition. South Korea will face India in the opening match on Saturday. Should it prevail, South Korea will then face Japan in the quarterfinals. Japan, the reigning world team champ, has a bye to the quarters.
"Japan won this year's Men's World Team Championship, but we have taken an upper hand in the men's doubles over our rivals and we've improved a great deal," Yoo said. "I believe we can meet people's expectations (of defeating Japan)."
Matches between the regional rivals have often been played under tension, with bitter memories of Japan's harsh colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula still running deep among South Koreans here.
"We can enjoy advantages of playing at home, but a high level of interest is often a source of pressure," said Lee Deuk-choon, head coach of the badminton squad. "We're trying to shake off such pressure."
In order to help his athletes fully show their skills, Lee and his coaching staff have employed diverse methods to boost their physical strength and to alleviate stress.
"We have a group of personnel for the players' psychological and mental support," the head coach noted. "After conducting mental exercises, we were able to relieve their stress."
Lee and Yoo also vowed to let go of their stunning defeat last month and concentrate on the upcoming event.
The duo fell to Ko Sung-hyun and Shin Baek-cheol in three sets in the final at last month's World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, the most prestigious tournament in the sport. Ko and Shin, the 10th-ranked team, enjoyed their first world title and also ended South Korea's 15-year drought in the men's doubles.
"As we had been focusing so much on winning that match, the defeat was a huge disappointment," Yoo said. "But we've tried hard to control our thoughts, as the matches at the Asian Games are more crucial.
"If we have good results (at the Asiad), the joy will be doubled," Yoo added. "I will do my best so that I will have no regret over my performance."