Home2017Small framed Watanabe's big dreams in badminton

Small framed Watanabe’s big dreams in badminton

Japan's talented 19-year-old shuttler Yuta Watanabe is aiming big in his badminton career –  after finding his niche in the doubles.

The multiple bronze medal winner at world junior and Asian junior championships has quit playing in the singles because of his small frame. He stands at 1.65m and weighs only 55kg.

"I don't have the built and muscles to play in the singles. I am aware that I will not go far in my badminton career if I keep playing in the singles," said Watanabe who is in the team to the Robot Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships in Ho Chi Minh City.

Watanabe won the bronze in the boys' singles and team event in the 2015 Asian Junior Championships. The singles bronze when he beat China's Lin Guipu 21-10, 21-12 in the playoff.

He also won the bronze in the team and men's doubles in the 2014 Asian Junior Championships held in Alor Setar, Malaysia.

In the world junior championships Watanabe was bronze medal winner (team and mixed doubles, with Arisa Higashino in Alor Setar, Malaysia (2014) and men's doubles with Kenya Mitsuhashi in 2015 in Lima, Peru.
  
Born in Suginami, Tokyo, the unassuming Watanabe sees his potential in the doubles events. He won the Vietnam International mixed doubles title with Arisa Higashino – beating Thailand's Tinn Isriyanet-Pacharapun Chochuwong  21-16, 21-14 in the final.

In the men's doubles Watanabe partnered Kenya Mitsuhashi to finish runners-up in the Vietnam Open International Challenge and the Austrian Open International Challenge last year.

Watanabe-Arisa also featured in the 2015 Russian Open Grand Prix mixed doubles final but were beaten 13-21, 21-23 by Malaysia's Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying for the title.

"I am confident of taking my badminton career to greater heights in the doubles. I wish I could ply my (badminton) trade in the singles but I don't have the built," said Watanabe, adding that badminton is in his blood.

"I have set high personal targets with the Tokyo Olympics topping the list. I am confident of qualifying for the next Olympics."

Badminton coaches have hailed Watanabe as a "badminton gem" who should not be allowed to go to waste just because of his small frame.

In the Asian Mixed Team Championships Watanabe partnered Endo Hiroyuki in the men's doubles in the 5-0 whitewash of Vietnam in a Group C match on Wednesday and won 21-8, 21-10 against Do Tuan Duc-Pham Hong Nam.

"Mark my words…Watanabe is a star in the making. He can go far in both the men's doubles and mixed doubles," said Endo.

"He (Watanabe) has good footwork and has power packed smashes. If he can work on his fitness and add more muscle things will work out for his badminton career,"
In the 5-0 win over the Philippines he played in the mixed doubles with Arisa Higashino. They beat Peter Gabriel Magnaye-Thea Marie Pomar 21-14, 21-11. 

Japan head coach Park Joo Bong said Watanabe will be paired with several seniors this year to find out who and what style suits him in the doubles.
 

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