SINCE their last victory in 2018, powerhouse China have been playing second fiddle with reigning champion Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia emerging as strong challengers in the Asian junior team badminton scene.

The eight-time champion are bent on restoring their might, but expect tough resistance as host Indonesia, last year’s silver medallist, will also be putting in all efforts to clinch their first mixed team title since 2006.

The host have yet to win the title since the introduction of the mixed team competition in 2006, which saw China winning eight titles, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan have each won twice, while Thailand clinched the title in 2019. No competitions were held in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

As teams converge for the Badminton Asia Junior Mixed Team Championships 2024 which gets underway tomorrow (28 June), Indonesia will be looking at no less than victory as they play host to the 15 participating teams at Gor Among Raga arena in Yogyakarta.

For the second consecutive year, the arena will be the centre of attraction for fans to watch Asia’s young stars in action, with the Mixed Team competition scheduled from 28 June to 2 July, while the Individual competition takes place from 3-7 July. Previously, Indonesia had hosted the event in 2005, 2017, and 2018.

The mixed team tournament is played over five ties comprising men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

Following the disappointment of losing to eventual champion Japan in last year’s final, Indonesia have set their sights on their first Asian Junior mixed team title this year. Grouped with India, Vietnam and the Philippines in Group C, Indonesia are banking on the 2023 champion and world No.9 Mutiara Ayu Puspitasari, world No.10 Mohd Zaki Ubaidillah to deliver the goods, along with doubles hopes, world No.7 pair Pulung Ramadhan/Anselmus Breagit Fredy Prasetya.

India however are expected to give the Indonesians a run for their money tough with rising star Tanvi Sharma, who reached the finals of the senior national badminton championships, leading the charge, along with All-India Junior ranking champions Prany Shetigar and Aalisha Naik, Dhruv Negi and Navya Kanderi.

Expect China to go all out in Group D (Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong China) in their mission to regain their pride with last year’s Asian Junior champion and world junior No.1 Hu Zhe Ann leading the charge along with Xu Wen Jing (World Junior No.8), world women’s No.2 Chen Fang Shu Tian, doubles pair Chen Yuong Rui, world women’s singles No.7 Xu Wen Jing and their top mixed pairs Zhang Jia Han, Lin Xiang Yi and Liu Yuan Yuan.

Japan will be eager to defend their 2023 title but the absence of former junior stars such as Tomoka Miyazaki who has joined the senior ranks, (currently world No.27) could well jeopardise their hopes.

Fourth seed Malaysia have an easy passage in the Group B preliminary rounds, which features the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and Macau China. The presence of several players in the top 10 bracket of the men’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s singles of the junior rankings could well take the team further this year. Men’s world No.1 pair Aaron Tai/Khang Khai Xing are set to charge strongly, with world No.7 Muhammad Faiq and the current world No. 6 Siti Zulaikha in the women’s singles providing an extra edge to the Malaysian side.

A close battle for the top spot involving former champions Thailand and Korea in Group A is in store with the Thais banking on world No.2 Patcharakit Apiratchataset and Croatia and German Junior Opens winner Sasrunrak Vitidsarn to deliver the crucial points, along with world No.3 women’s pair Sabrina Sophita Wedler/Naphachanok Utsanon.

Tomorrow, Thailand take on Chinese Taipei in Group A, while Malaysia face Macau in Group B. Indonesia are up against the Philippines, India against Vietnam in Group C while in Group D, China begin their campaign against Hong Kong China while Japan open up their campaign against Singapore.

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