GLASGOW: Malaysian badminton did extremely well to win three gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games but the defeat of shuttler Chong Wei Feng in the men’s singles quarter-finals was a bitter pill to swallow.
It wasn’t so much the way he went down 15-21, 21-8, 21-17 to R.M.V Gurusaidutt of India. It is more about the pain of seeing Malaysia’s 24-year domination of the men’s singles event in the Games being broken.
Malaysia have won every men’s singles gold medal since the 1990 Auckland Games.
Is that a sign or a warning of something far worse that is to come?
The 27-year-old Wei Feng, seeded first, did try his best. It was just that his opponent Gurusaidutt has improved by leaps and bounds.
Wei Feng was also playing with a huge burden on his scrawny shoulders – being counted on to deliver the goods in the absence of world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
He delivered in the mixed team event but was not consistent enough to do the same in the individual competition.
There was pressure. There were expectations.
And naturally, he was disappointed that he did not take his chances. But he has promised that he will bounce back and that it’s time to move on.
Wei Feng is the country’s second ranked player but there is a huge gap between him and Chong Wei, who has dominated the Malaysian badminton landscape for more than a decade.
That is a reality we have to accept.
So, let’s put Chong Wei aside.
Let’s ask ourselves this question instead: Who is there after Wei Feng?
Is there even anyone snapping at the heels of Wei Feng?
Sadly, the answer is no.
The fear is that this vicious cycle of depending on one or two players may just continue if the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) are not willing to make drastic changes.
Let’s thrown down the gauntlet to BAM and dare them to give their back-up shuttlers a chance to feature in major events.
Throw one of these players – Goh Soon Huat, Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Choong Yee Hann, Tan Kian Meng, Soong Joo Ven, Soo Teck Zhi and professionals Zulfadli Zulkifli and Misbun Ramdan Misbun – into the cauldron and see if they can come out of it unscathed.
Let us also dare the BAM management to get their act right.
There is still a lot of confusion as to who is supposed to be doing what in the so-called new structure introduced by BAM president Tengku Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel.
So far, it seems like the president has his hands in everything.
Yes, we all want a president who is hands-on but does that include him to “turun padang” to teach the players how to serve and play badminton?
National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Zolkples Embong, for one, is not amused.
In fact, he even texted Tengku Mahaleel after the failure of the men’s singles at the Glasgow Games - asking the BAM president to provide NSC with a clear and detailed plan.
Zolkples was more interested in BAM’s development programme for singles players and the measures being taken to unearth new talents.
“I have texted Tengku Mahaleel. Enough of talking and presenting big plans … on what he wants to do. We want action. We will be meeting him to discuss all these matters,” said Zolkples.
While BAM have a lot to answer for – regarding the performances of the men’s singles in the individual competition – kudos to the shuttlers who played their hearts out to win three gold medals for the country.
So, congratulations to Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo (women’s doubles), Tan Wee Kiong-Goh V Shem (men’s doubles) and all the members of the gold medal-winning mixed team.
HOW THE SHUTTLERS FARED
Group A tie: bt Sri Lanka 5-0, bt Barbados 5-0.
Quarter-finals: Malaysia bt Scotland 3-1.
Semi-finals: Malaysia bt Singapore 3-2.
Final: Malaysia bt England 3-1.
Men’s singles: Liew Daren (quarter-finals), Chong Wei Feng (quarter-finals).
Men’s doubles: Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (gold), Chan Peng Soon-Liew Daren (third round).
Women’s singles: Tee Jing Yi (lost at the bronze medal playoff).
Women’s doubles: Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo (gold), Lim Yin Loo-Lai Pei Jing (lost in the bronze medal playoff).
Mixed doubles: Tan Wee Kiong-Vivian Hoo (second round), Goh V Shem-Lim Yin Loo (second round), Chan Peng Soon-Lai Pei Jing (lost in bronze medal playoff).