PETALING JAYA: It has been eight years since Malaysia last bagged the boys’ doubles title at the Asian Junior Badminton Championships.
That was when Mak Hee Chun-Teo Kok Siang overcame South Korea’s Choi Young-woo-Kim Gi-jung in the final at the Juara Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
This time, when the 19th edition of the Asian Juniors starts in Bangkok on Saturday, national back-up pair Ooi Zi Heng-Soh Wooi Yik know they have a tough act to follow.
But Zi Heng-Wooi Yik, who were promoted to the back-up squad from the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) programme last December, are relishing the challenge of ending Malaysia’s drought.
“We’ve been preparing hard for this tournament and we’re ready to get going,” said the 17-year-old Zi Heng.
“Since moving up to the back-up squad to train under coach (Cheah) Soon Kit, we’ve improved a lot on our physical fitness. We’re definitely much tougher on court now.
“It will be a tough tournament, but we aim to get into the final ... that’s also our coaches’ target for us.
“Our toughest opponents will definitely be China’s Han Chengkai-Zhou Haodong. We lost to them in the quarter-finals of the Asian Juniors last year, so it would be good to beat them this time.”
Zi Heng-Wooi Yik are seeded sixth and have a first-round bye before meeting either Su Li-wei-Ye Hong-wei of Taiwan or Vietnam’s Duc Phat Le-Dang Quang Huay in the second round.
They are expected to progress to the quarter-finals, where they are drawn to meet seconds seeds Pakin Kuna-Anuvit-Natthapat Trinkajee of Thailand, with the winners likely to face third seeds and reigning silver medallists Chengkai-Haodong in the last four.
Two other pairs – Chen Tang Jie-Hoo Pang Ron and Chang Yee Jun-Ng Eng Cheong – are also in the fray. They are unseeded and face seeded opponents in the early rounds.
The Malaysian squad will leave for Bangkok on Thursday.
The competition will start with the mixed team event on Saturday. The individual event starts on July 13.