HEARTIEST congratulations to our spirited Lee Zii Jia for capturing the prestigious All England Open Badminton title recently.
Will this be a one-off win for Zii Jia? Will “Lee Junior” be a worthy successor to Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who last won the title in 2017? Only time will tell. His age is definitely an advantage. Come March 29, he will celebrate his 23rd birthday, hence he has a long way to go.
Will this All England success get to his head? In 2003, we also had a similar situation where 21-year-old Hafiz Hashim surprised the nation by winning the All England championship title. What happened to this then up-and-coming young star? He did not make it. He was a one-time champion.
Likewise, if not given the right guidance and advice, Zii Jia might suffer a similar fate (touch wood). The challenge to sustain his form and competitiveness as well as his newly-found fame starts right now.
The following are some the challenges Zii Jia will be facing:
> High expectations from the public: With his No.1 status, does this mean he will have to continue to win every game he plays from now on? This will certainly pile the pressure on him.
> Handsome rewards in abundance: Zii Jia will get his due reward for bringing glory to the country. The government and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will reward him accordingly. His home state, Kedah, also has grand ideas to reward him, including perhaps a “Datukship”. And don’t forget the almost quarter of a million ringgit prize money he won in the All England tournament. To what extent will this new-found wealth and fame affect him? Certainly, it will not be so easy for a 23-year-old to handle without professional help.
> Mental strength: Does Zii Jia have the mental strength and “fighting spirit” to remain a champion? As J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, said: “The mind is a complex and many-layered thing.” Indeed, Zii Jia will need the right support and guidance from BAM. On his part, he will not only have to work extra hard but also exercise discipline and stay focused.
Still, Zii Jia is our hope for a long-awaited Olympic gold. He will also enhance our chances of recapturing the Thomas Cup.
For the time being, Zii Jia, you are our hero. Malaysia is so proud of you.