BANGKOK: Going by the strong performances of China and Japan and other nations at the just-concluded Thomas Cup in Bangkok, Malaysia’s veteran and best medal prospect Lee Chong Wei will be hard-pressed to land on the podium in the World Championship and the Asian Games badminton tournaments.
On Sunday, China defeated a vastly improved Japan 3-1 to win the Thomas Cup.
And Japan underlined their prowess in the women’s competition by bulldozing past hosts Thailand 3-0 to win the Uber Cup.
Malaysia lost in the Thomas Cup quarter-finals while the women failed to clear the Uber Cup group stage.
The 35-year-old Chong Wei won all his matches but it will not be easy for him in either the world meet in Nanjing, China, from July 30-Aug 5 or the Asiad from Aug 18-Sept 2.
The re-emergence of Japan’s Kento Momota has made the men’s singles very competitive at the world meet.
There is also Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, Son Wan-ho of South Korea, Jonatan Christie of Indonesia, India’s K. Srikanth and the mighty Chinese trio – Chen Long, Shi Yuqi and Lin Dan.
At the Asiad, Axelsen will not be around but it will be equally challenging.
There are a few Malaysian youngsters like Lee Zii Jia, Lim Chi Wing, Leong Jun Hao, Cheam June Wei and Tan Jia Wei waiting in the wings but they are not ready for the big stage yet, perhaps at the next Asian Games in 2022.
In the men’s doubles, Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong were not convincing enough after losing the crucial matches in ties against Denmark and Indonesia at the Thomas Cup.
Poor finishing and distractions at crucial times are their downfalls and they will be under tremendous pressure to perform at the world meet and Asiad.
While they are still struggling to find their footing, other pairs like Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia, China’s Zhang Nan-Liu Cheng and Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen-Mads Pieler Kolding are looking solid, mean and dangerous.
It’ll be tougher for the women as Soniia Cheah and Goh Jin Wei have improved but have yet to make a mark on the big stage. When the level of competition is raised, they wilt under pressure. The women’s doubles, meanwhile, need a complete overhaul to transform them from weaklings to world-beaters.
The mixed doubles department were heading in the right direction but Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing have been battling with inconsistencies.
They can play at the highest level and bring out their best but can also lose to unknown opponents.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) know it will be a challenge to produce winners this year but president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria has promised to look into the future.
“We’ll conduct a post-mortem and look at ways on how to fast-track our young players to be world-class players. That will be our focus,” said Norza.