Bayar Saihan’s determination to meet Korean Air was extraordinary. He knew how strong Korean Air was, so he was more determined.
A hotel in Manama, Bahrain, where players, coaching staff and officials of the team participating in the 2023 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, as well as officials and reporters are staying together. You can often hear Korean in hotels and nearby convenience stores and cafes, but most of them are voices from Korean Air members who represented the V-League in the competition.
However, even though he is not a member of Korean Air, there is one person who greets and converses with reporters in Korean when he meets them. It is Bayar Saihan (to graduate from Inha University/OK Financial Group) who participated in the competition as a member of Mongolia’s Bayanghongor. On the 16th (hereafter local time), Bayanghongor and Bayarsaihan, who defeated Diamond Food (Thailand) in the last group stage match and succeeded in advancing to the top round, trained in the morning of the 17th and took a break in the afternoon. That night, I was able to talk briefly with Bayarsaihan.
The first thing I asked Bayarsaihan was to introduce the team. He said, “Our team came to this tournament with the purpose of preparing for the Summer Challenger Cup and the Asian Games. It can also be seen as a rehearsal for the national team. About 5 to 6 additional members joined the existing Bayanghongor members, and I am one of them.”
After hearing Bayarsaihan’s explanation, Eddie (Sungkyunkwan University/Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance) wondered why he couldn’t come to this tournament. He said, “Originally, the Mongolian Volleyball Association also contacted Eddie. I had talked with the school about going to Bahrain together after the Asian Quarter Draft, but suddenly about a week or two before the Asian Quarter started, the association said, ‘There are a lot of wing strikers in Korea, so I want to give them a chance’. I got a call saying they would not take Eddie but me. So Eddie couldn’t come. I’m sorry I couldn’t come with you. Eddy was also very sorry,” he told the behind-the-scenes story.
Unfortunately, Eddie could not come, but this tournament had many meanings for Bayarsaihan. Bayarsaihan said, “In fact, the Mongolian Volleyball Association has called me since 2019, but this is the first time I have been unable to go because of my schedule in Korea. In the meantime, he thinks it is an opportunity to relieve the regret of not being able to join the national team. It is time to use what I have learned so far in Korea for Mongolia. Also, if I become a naturalized Korean, I also think that this may be the last tournament I will play for Mongolia.”
How was the group stage between Bayanghongor and Bayarsaihan? I looked back at the three group stage matches with Bayarsaihan. Bayarsaihan said, “I played the first match against the Yemeni team (Kaypil), but my team didn’t have a long practice period and couldn’t communicate well with each other, so I couldn’t show my skills. So it seems lost. We lost 2-3 that day, but I missed Eddy (laughs). I think it would have been a 3-0 win if Eddy had been there. I didn’t like the fact that we, the de facto Mongolian national team, lost to the Yemeni club team.”
Continuing, Bayarsaihan said, “In the match against Suntory Sunbirds (Japan), the opponent was a very strong team, so I wasn’t sure of victory. Instead, in order to unconditionally win the match against the last Thai team (Diamond Foods), I entered the game with the feeling that it was a practice to prepare for the match. In the game against the Thai team, I really risked my life. This is because if we won this match, we could leave us in Mongolian volleyball history by advancing to the top round. In the end, a dramatic victory was achieved. Everyone was happy as if they had won,” he said, looking back at the two games that followed.
I was curious about how Bayar Saihan, who had personally worked with Suntory and knew Korean Air from his experience in Korea, would predict the match between the two teams on the 18th. Bayar Saihan, who pondered for a while, said, “To be very honest, I think he has a good chance of going for the fifth set. It will be that intense. Both teams play fast, and players with good skills are holding on.”
Afterwards, he said, “But I still think that Korean Air can win. Korean Air is the strongest team in the V-League, and we have been working together for a long time. In my opinion, if only Dmitry Mushalsky (Russia, MB/OP) can block well, other players will not be a big problem for Korean Air players. Peng Xu-kun (China, MB) can also be matched against Korean Air’s middle blockers. Personally, I will support Korean Air (laughs)” and carefully raised Korean Air’s hand.안전놀이터
It is not only Suntory that is sticking with Korean Air. Bayanhongor also faces Korean Air on the 19th. “The manager and coaches keep asking me about Korean Air (laughs). Bayarsaihan, who expressed his grievances (?), said, “You know how to play Korean Air, help me practice, who is the Spike server, and where is the sub course?” I want to imprint the existence of Han on Korean Air. I am not sure that we will win because it is such a strong team, but I think there is a small possibility if we believe in our teammates and risk our lives like we did in Thailand.”
In particular, Korean Air has Jin Ji-wi, a senior who passed the path that Bayarsaihan walked first. Jin Ji-wi, who participated in the Asian Games as a Hong Kong national team, was naturalized in Korea in 2019 and joined Korean Air through the draft of a new player and has been playing so far. Bayarsaihan, who revealed that he and Jin Ji-wi were cheering each other through SNS, etc., left a bold message for Jin Ji-wi at the end of the interview.
“Jiwi hyung, I intend to do my best to win. Please do your best too! Let’s have a fun game!”