The Next Generation of Japan’s Leading Players Badminton, Shun Saito | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Next Generation of Japan’s Leading Players Badminton, Shun Saito

Aiming for the first Japanese male gold medal in the Olympics, using his polished smash as a weapon.

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Born in Niigata Prefecture in 2004, Shun Saito started playing badminton at the age of 4 and has been selected for the Japanese national team in various age groups. He excels at an aggressive style of play centered on smashing.

My goal was to win the Triple Crown from the very beginning of my career. Of course I had confidence in myself, and I had a sense of mission that I had to win it. That is why I was so relieved when we won the championship.

Looking back on his achievement with a smile that still retains an innocent innocence is Shun Saito, 17, of the men’s badminton team. He won the triple crown at the high school tournament held in March this year, winning the boys’ singles, doubles, and team titles. This was an accomplishment that even Japan’s ace Kento Momota (27) could not achieve.

In the singles competition, which I wanted to win the most, I had a rematch in the finals with the opponent I lost to in the qualifying round of the Tohoku Tournament. However, because I had lost in the qualifying round, I was able to take on the challenge with the mindset of a challenger, without being overawed. It was the most enjoyable match of the entire tournament.

Her weapon of choice is her strong hitting, which she uses to her advantage with her long arms and legs.

I hit two types of smash. One is a power shot, in which I swing in a large arc and transfer maximum power to the shuttle, and the other is a sharp-angled shot, in which I keep my swing compact and hit the ball as high as possible to create an angle. Since entering the school, I have also increased the weight of my upper body center. I think this has allowed me to hit more powerful shots.

Since his elementary school days, he has always been the top-ranked player of his generation. In his third year of junior high school, he won the singles division of a national tournament. He went on to Futaba Mirai Gakuen (Fukushima Prefecture), which Kento Momota also attended. In high school, however, she experienced her first setback.

I will never forget the Inter-High School Championships I competed in as a first-year high school student. In junior high school, if I hit a smash, I could usually get it right, but in high school, I couldn’t. No matter how many times I hit, I couldn’t get it right. No matter how hard I hit, it was never decided, and if I went on the defensive, I was beaten. …… Until now, I had been able to win by doing whatever I wanted, so I had never really thought about it (laughs). It was the first time I ever had to worry about playing.”

The clue to his growth came from his first training camp for the Japanese national team, which he attended as a first-year high school student. It was at that time that Saito noticed something strange.

Top players have long matches. My game time is usually 30 to 40 minutes. But everyone plays for more than an hour. I wondered why. I asked him about it, and he told me that he really emphasized rallies. To take it to an extreme, I used to smash every shuttle that came up. But I have learned that I can determine what I am good at and what I am not good at by moving my opponent by daring to return the shuttle wide or drop it in front of the court. Then, by thinking about how to make the most of the shots I am good at, I am able to change my game according to my opponent. My next goal is to improve my shuttle ball distribution so that I can hit my best smashes in favorable situations. I have a lot of work to do.

While he speaks passionately about badminton, once he gets off the court, he has his own problems that are typical of high school students.

I really dislike studying (laughs). I still like chemistry and mathematics, but I am not good at Japanese. I especially don’t know what to do with the ancient Japanese and Chinese literature.
When I’m not studying, I watch YouTube. Recently, my favorites are the YouTube channel “Orutana Channel” and the comedy duo “Jalu Jalu. I like surrealistic comedy. I like surrealistic comedy.

Saito continues to evolve as a candidate for the next ace. Lastly, we asked him about his “ambitions” for the future.

I want to win an Olympic singles gold medal. I would like to achieve this at the Paris Olympics in 2012, or at the latest at the next Olympics in Los Angeles (in 2008). I will continue to refine my unique, aggressive style of play, and I will make it happen.

He will not stop until the day he reaches the top of the world.

Normally quiet, she sometimes shows a flashy gut-punch during a match. He is aiming for the triple crown at the Inter-High School Championships, which will be the culmination of his career.
Unpublished photos of Shun Saito, Badminton Next Generation Star Vol. 9
Unpublished photos of Shun Saito, Badminton Next Generation Star Vol. 9
Unpublished photos of Shun Saito, Badminton Next Generation Star Vol. 9

From the June 17, 2022 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Sono Aida

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