She is the face of the next generation of women’s singles.
Just 19, An Seyoung has displayed maturity beyond her years, and is considered a medal contender at Tokyo 2020. But the Korean, who says she is honoured just to have clinched her spot, is trying not to be “greedy” by thinking of a medal.
“At first, winning the ticket to the Olympics already was a big honour. During this last year, my world ranking climbed up, and as such, I am starting to notice higher expectations from people around me,” said the world No.8.
“I am now aiming high for a medal, despite this being my first Olympics. But I know that it is not good to be greedy, so I just have to give my best in every match.”
The teenager has had the most spectacular rise of any singles player. Ranked near 100 at the start of 2019, she waltzed into the top 10 by the end of the year.
“When we started the Olympic qualification race, I was world No. 99. I was just really hoping that I could make it to the Olympics, as I knew my chances were slim. With my young age and low ranking back then, I always competed against players of higher ranking. In every tournament I played in, I just wanted to learn as much as possible.
“When the qualification period began, I won the New Zealand Open. Then, right after, at the Sudirman Cup, I defeated Tai Tzu Ying, who was No. 1, despite my much world lower ranking. I think that period was a turning point for me. I kept the momentum going to bring my ranking to a higher level.”
Her recent results indicate a player in form. She made the semifinals of all three Asian Leg events, chalking up victories over the likes of Ratchanok Intanon, Carolina Marin and Michelle Li. Yet, An Seyoung is hard on herself, and rues her missed chance of making at least one final.
“Due to Covid-19, a lot of tournaments did not happen, so I prepared a lot for the Asian Leg. I was hoping I would make it to the final of at least one of the three tournaments, but I couldn’t even get the chance to be on the podium in any of the three. In fact, I was disappointed with myself, and I still feel regretful about my performance.
“These three tournaments in Thailand were the last tournaments before the Olympics. Even though Chinese and Japanese players didn’t join this time, I still managed to play against other high-ranking players from the world. It was indeed a fruitful experience.”
An Seyoung has come a long way, but she’s aware that there is a long distance yet that she has to traverse.
“I would describe myself as incomplete. I still have a long way to go and have to compete with more players. I have to learn how to better control my emotions when it comes to winning and losing. I know there are both good and bad moments in my career and I guess I need to work harder to make myself more complete.”