Hoki, Kobayashi Aim for Repeat World Championship;
Biggest Challenge May Come from Indonesia

*World rankings are accurate as of July 19.

Takuro HOKI / Yugo KOBAYASHI (Japan)
Takuro HOKI / Yugo KOBAYASHI (Japan)

In the thrilling men’s doubles, the two teams volley the shuttlecock back and forth with a speed and dynamism that can make one catch their breath.

Takuro HOKI and Yugo KOBAYASHI brought home Japan’s first World Championship gold at last year’s competition. It was a memorable moment for Hoki, who said, “We proved our growth with our victory.”

Following their second-place finish in 2019, the two worked on improving their receiving skills. They had long-standing reputations as attackers, but Kobayashi realized that he did not match up to Hoki as a receiver. To overcome this issue, he worked one-on-one with Coach Kim Her TAN after team practice. Kobayashi’s improved receives helped the duo become more tactical, leading to the growth that Hoki mentioned.

Hoki is fired up ahead of the World Championships. “We are the only ones this year who can aim for a consecutive championship title,” he says. “Winning the World Championships is our biggest goal for 2022.”

An Exceptional Indonesian Team

Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON / Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO (Indonesia)
Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON / Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO (Indonesia)

Hoki and Kobayashi’s biggest rivals are Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON and Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO of Indonesia, where badminton is the national sport. Kobayashi described them as “an exceptional duo”—a clear sign of respect.

Although Gideon and Sukamuljo have yet to win an Olympic medal or World Championship title, their tricky plays have kept them at the top of the BWF World Ranking since Fall 2017. They are sure to be gunning for the championship this year. Badminton enthusiasts are in for an entertaining time with Sukamuljo, who is known for his ability to dazzle his opponents.

Indonesia also has some other standout teams, including Hendra SETIAWAN and Mohammad AHSAN, experienced veterans at 37 and 34 years old, and Fajar ALFIAN and Muhammad Rian ARDIANTO, a pair known for their powerful attacks.

Setiawan and Ahsan’s stamina may falter when compared to their younger counterparts, but they are ranked No. 3 in the world and have an impressive ability to turn any fast shot into an opportunity. If they win, it will mark the fifth championship for Setiawan—a new record in men’s doubles. Incidentally, Setiawan, one half of the Beijing 2008 Olympic gold-winning team, has an affinity for Japan, having once played for a Japanese corporate team.

Meanwhile, Alfian and Ardianto—No. 5 in the world—have brought along a ton of experience as they enter their late 20s, allowing them to master a wider variety of offensive plays. Like Hoki and Kobayashi, they have been riding high and are gaining the confidence to win their first major title.

Malaysia and India Look to Make a Name for Themselves

Aaron CHIA / SOH Wooi Yik (Malaysia)
Aaron CHIA / SOH Wooi Yik (Malaysia)

Of course, there will be many other fierce competitors at the World Championships. Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medalists Aaron CHIA and SOH Wooi Yik and 2021 World Championship bronze medalists ONG Yew Sin and TEO Ee Yi will be competing for Malaysia, which like Indonesia takes pride in badminton as its national sport. The Malaysians’ flawless receiving skills are likely to propel them to the top.

Meanwhile, after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, WANG Chi-Lin and LEE Yang (Chinese Taipei) hope to recreate their success in Tokyo with another major victory. Wang and Lee were by no means Olympic favorites, but they have proven their ability to come out strong on the world stage.

Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY / Chirag SHETTY (India)
Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY / Chirag SHETTY (India)

Though often overshadowed by teams from Japan and Southeast Asia, Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY and Chirag SHETTY, who led India to its first Thomas Cup victory this past May, and Kim ASTRUP and Anders Skaarup RASMUSSEN of Denmark, the No. 1 team in Europe, will be eager to seize any opportunity to stand on the podium. Both teams are tall and skilled at using their long limbs to connect powerful shots from up high.

In addition to Hoki and Kobayashi, two other teams will be representing Japan: Akira KOGA and Taichi SAITO, the second-ranked Japanese team; and Yoshinori TAKEUCHI and Keiichiro MATSUI, quarterfinalists at last year’s World Championships. Badminton fans from all over Japan will surely be cheering loudly for all three teams.


BWF World Championships:
Men's Doubles Champions (2013-2021)
2021 Takuro HOKI / Yugo KOBAYASHI (Japan)
2019 Mohammad AHSAN / Hendra SETIAWAN (Indonesia)
2018 LI Jun Hui / LIU Yu Chen (China)
2017 LIU Cheng / ZHANG Nan (China)
2015 Mohammad AHSAN / Hendra SETIAWAN (Indonesia)
2014 KO Sung Hyun / SHIN Baek Cheol (Korea)
2013 Mohammad AHSAN / Hendra SETIAWAN (Indonesia)
BWF World Championships: 2021 Medalists
Gold Takuro HOKI / Yugo KOBAYASHI (Japan)
Silver HE Ji Ting / TAN Qiang (China)
Bronze ONG Yew Sin / TEO Ee Yi (Malaysia)
Bronze Kim ASTRUP / Anders Skaarup RASMUSSEN (Denmark)