09 June 17 The Straits Times by MAY CHEN
For the first time, Singapore can boast of a world No. 1 in badminton.
Yeo Jia Min is the newly-crowned top junior female in the world, after the latest world rankings were released yesterday by the Badminton World Federation, the sport's world governing body.
She leapfrogged Malaysia's Goh Jin Wei to claim the top rung of the ranking for players aged below 19.
The 18-year-old is the first from the Republic to reach this milestone in either the junior or senior circuit, singles or doubles. She is currently ranked No. 62 on the senior circuit.
While Yeo could not be reached last night for comment on her achievement, Singapore Badminton Association chief coach Chua Yong Joo said the full-time shuttler's achievement is a huge feat.
Chua, himself a former national shuttler, noted Yeo's offensive ability and speed on court have helped set her apart.
He said: "She has a lot of desire and determination to do well and of course, puts in a lot of hard work."
Yeo Jia Min's senior world ranking.
Yeo, who was born and bred in Singapore, has in recent years made a habit of bagging historic firsts. She lifted the Badminton Asia Under-17 Junior Championships title in 2015, becoming the first Singaporean to triumph on that stage.
She later partnered Crystal Wong to also win the doubles title at that same tournament.
As an unseeded player, she claimed her first professional title last July when she beat Japan's Mine Ayumi to win the Vietnam Grand Prix.
That victory provided a big boost in terms of ranking points, helping her break into the top five of the junior rankings towards the end of last year.
She won the Dutch Junior event in March, before a runner-up finish at the German Junior a week later. Her achievements earned her The Straits Times' Star of the Month award twice, the first shuttler to do so.
More significantly, her feat in reaching the top of the junior rankings represents a big stride for the sport here and its ability to nurture local born-and-bred talent to become world-beaters.
Said Chua: "Her rise to the top of the world junior rankings is a result of not just the current coaches' training, but also those who have developed and groomed her in the past.
"I believe we do have coaches in Singapore who can groom players to compete at the highest level."
Yeo was not available for comment.