KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has challenged the national badminton team to capture the Sudirman Cup.
He urged them to use the Rio Olympics as an inspiration and motivation for the world mixed team tournament, which will be held in Gold Coast, Australia, from May 21-28.
In Rio de Janeiro last August, Malaysia won three silver medals – in men’s singles (Lee Chong Wei); men’s doubles (Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong); and mixed doubles (Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying). Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei also deserve mention for becoming the first women’s pair to reach an Olympic quarter-finals.
Malaysia have never gone beyond the semi-finals in the Sudirman Cup. They have only reached the semi-finals once – in Guangzhou, China in 2009.
In 2015, Malaysia crashed out in the quarter-finals in Dongguan, China.
No wonder Khairy has made this rallying call.
“At the last Olympics, except for Chong Wei, the other shuttlers did not have high rankings ... but the team demonstrated great spirit to achieve one of our best Olympic results,” said Khairy.
“I’m hoping for the same at the Sudirman Cup. On paper, the team may not be ranked as favourites but I believe we have a team that can enter their first final and challenge for the title.”
Besides Chong Wei, the others in the Sudirman Cup team are Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Lee Zii Jia (men’s singles); Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi (men’s doubles); Goh Jin Wei, Soniia Cheah (women’s singles); Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei, Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (women’s doubles); and Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, Chan Peng Soon and Cheah Yee See (mixed doubles).
Khairy said that expectations were higher for the Sudirman Cup this time because the team had more depth with the rise of standard among the women shuttlers.
Although Malaysia will miss the services of mixed doubles ace Liu Ying, who is out with a shoulder injury, others like Jin Wei, Soniia, Vivian-Khe Wei, Pei Jing and Yee See have improved.
“We do have depth now. The women shuttlers have stepped up,” said Khairy.
He, however, warned them against being too individualistic.
“It’s not right to expect only Chong Wei or V Shem-Wee Kiong to win ... everyone in the team must play his or her part to win. There should not be passengers in the team,” he said.
Malaysia are in Group C of the Sudirman Cup with Japan and Germany. They face Germany in their first match on May 23.