A dejected Lee Chong Wei will have to wait another year to become the world champion in badminton. He lost to China's Chen Long in the recent world championships in Denmark. - BERNAMA
I received a text message from a friend while anxiously watching the World Championships men’s singles final between Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long of China at a sell-out Bellarup Super Arena.
His message simply stated, “Spain won the first world badminton title before Malaysia.”
Just before Chong Wei’s match, a robust youngster Carolina Marin had showed the world – her determination, single-mindedness and youthful confidence to win the women’s singles title.
She broke apart Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China 17-21, 21-17, 21-18 – to become the first Spaniard world badminton champion.
Soon after her heroics, old hand Chong Wei wilted to a 19-21, 19-21 defeat against a pumped up Chen Long.
With that, Malaysia’s 37-year wait for an elusive world title continued.
That text message has been rather disturbing.
Why can’t a badminton nation like Malaysia win a world title – when a country like Spain – considered an upstart in badminton, have produced a world title-holder?
Is the 31-year-old Chong Wei plain unlucky? Is he just jinxed in the World Championships? Or is he mentally not strong enough? Or Malaysia’s badminton system just flawed?
It was Chong Wei’s eighth attempt at the world meet – and surely he has the experience on his side.
He has played in two previous finals – losing narrowly to Lin Dan of China at Wembley (2011) and conceded a walkover to the same player in Guangzhou last year - so he should have known what to expect.
He has beaten Chen Long twice before this year but on Sunday, the table was turned. It was the former world junior champion who dictated the pace throughout the match.
Maybe, Chong Wei did get nervous. Maybe, his age has caught up.
Throughout the week though, he has only shown us his determination and hunger to win – despite coming out of a thigh injury two months ago.
Whatever the reasons are for his shortcomings at the World Championships, Chong Wei has done his best for the nation.
We should not be overly worried about him - he will bounce back – like he always does and will go on winning other titles – until the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games – that is his promise.
Our concern right now should be on how to produce the next echelon of players.
These players should be groomed to be as good as Chong Wei - or even better.
We need to find our own Carolina Marins, our own Viktor Axelsens of Denmark.
We need passionate and vibrant youngsters – knocking vigorously at the door of stardom in badminton.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) should not hide behind Chong Wei anymore.
The focus should be on raising quality coaching at the lower levels. Intensifying the talent-scouting programme. Forming new ideas and approaches to empower school students to excel in badminton.
And we need a leader in the training and coaching department to re-strategise and prevent Malaysian badminton from falling backwards even further.
If not, there will come a day when we will have world champions from Ocenia, African and South American continents before Malaysia do – and that will be the ultimate humiliation.
The writer is not sure whether her heart can take another defeat after having watched Chong Wei fall in all three back-to-back World Championships finals but she will treasure this one particular moment in Copenhagen – of little Danish boys and girls – shouting the name of Lee Chong Wei…Lee Chong Wei...Lee Chong Wei on top of their voices.