IT has gone from bad to worse for Malaysian badminton.
The hope of seeing medallists at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics seems a distant dream if the recent performances of the shuttlers at the Asian Games badminton competitions is of any indication.
Malaysian shuttlers did not go beyond the quarter-finals and failed to win a medal for the first time in 32 years since the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) also flopped in three other major tournaments this year.
They failed to defend their overall title at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April after falling one short of their three-gold target. The team also blew a semi-final target at the Thomas Cup Finals by losing in the quarter-finals in Bangkok, Thailand, in May.
And none of the BAM players returned home with a medal at the World Championships in Nanjing, China, earlier this month. It took an independent shuttler – Liew Daren – to save Malaysia the blushes by claiming bronze in the men’s singles.
Malaysian sports fans had hoped for the shuttlers to rise to the occasion in the Asiad but they failed miserably. This, despite a decision by the BAM to lower their medal target to only two following the withdrawal of men’s singles ace Lee Chong Wei, who is down with a respiratory-related illness.
The medals should have come from either the men’s or mixed doubles as Malaysia do have quality players such as world No. 11 Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (No. 6) and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (No. 9).
All three pairs showed great fighting spirit before going down to their opponents by the narrowest margins but unfortunately, no one remembers the losers.
National No. 2 Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi’s stunning victory over world No. 3 Keigo Sonoda-Takeshi Kamura of Japan in the second round was the only bright spark but they lost to Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto, whom they had beaten at the All England in March.
While men’s singles back-up players such as Lee Zii Jia, Cheam June Wei, Soong Joo Ven and others are trying to narrow the gap with Chong Wei, youngsters from Indonesia – 20-year-old Jonatan Christie and Anthony Ginting, 22, – showed their high quality.
Kuala Lumpur SEA Games champion Jonatan upset All-England champion Shi Yuqi of China en route to reaching the men’s singles final while Anthony blew away reigning world champion Kento Momota of Japan and former world champion Chen Long of China before losing to Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen 21-16, 21-23, 17-21 in an 82-minute semi-final thriller yesterday.
In order to catch up, national singles chief coach Datuk Misbun Sidek has a big task to fast track the progress of his players.
BAM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria admitted the team’s outing was a failure and called for swift and drastic measures to arrest the decline of Malaysian badminton.
“We targeted two medals but achieved none. It’s a failure,” said Norza, who is also the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president.
“Inconsistency and poor finishing continue to be our problems. Our players are not strong mentally.
“I’ve asked coaching and training committee (CNT) chairman Datuk Ng Chin Chai to find a solution. I hope the fans will give us more time to get things right,” said Norza.
Isn’t this the same tune sung by the BAM after every tournament flop? Surely, this will not be the last – unless the players buck up and the BAM stop the rot.