With a world championships gold medal draped firmly, Loh Kean Yew returned home to Singapore on Tuesday to a grand welcome, accompanied by two water cannon salutes as his flight landed at the Changi Airport.

Loh was given national hero’s welcome back, with the media bustling about to get the best footage of him and fans joining them too with loud cheers.

After taking in the warm welcome home applause, the Penang-born was whisked away to speak to the media about his plans in 2022.

He was clear about one thing: “I was the underdog before, but now I am someone that others want to beat very badly. It’s going to be a different mindset, it’s going to be a big challenge for me and I can only learn how to handle this through more competitions.

“There are still many things I need to improve on compared to other top shuttlers like Viktor [Axelsen] and Kento [Momota], especially on being consistent and having strong mental mindset,” he told the local media.

Loh fulfilled one of his biggest career goals by capturing the world’s attention after winning the World Championships title in Huelva, Spain last Sunday when he beat K. Srikanth in straight games.

The 24-year-old showed immense progress in the second half of the year leading up to his biggest success, after he won the Dutch Open, Hylo Open and made the Indonesia Open final, all in the last three months.

He also took down some of the biggest names in the sport, including Axelsen, Momota and before that, Lin Dan.

Malaysians, including former national team-mate Cheam June Wei and the Penang Badminton Association where Loh first dabbled in the sport, testified about how they saw greatness in a player who was winning age-group titles and showed up for up to nine training sessions a week.

That dedication and hard work only blossomed when he moved to Singapore after being offered a scholarship.

Amazingly enough, Loh also clinched the world title despite carrying an ankle injury.He planned to see a doctor to get that ankle checked out, while also enjoying plenty of rest and Singaporean cuisine which he missed so much, before heading to Dubai to train with Axelsen.

The new world champion was invited by Dane for a training camp at the city on the Persian Gulf back in August too, where he attributes a significant improvement in his performance having trained with the reigning Olympic champion.

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