Covid collapse

PETALING JAYA: Independent shuttler Liew Daren (pic) revealed that if not for the Covid-19 pandemic he could have ended up in Singapore.

The 32-year-old said he had accepted an offer from the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) to help the team’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which was initially slated for July 24-Aug 9 before it was rescheduled to next year.

Singapore’s rising stars Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min are on course to qualify for the Games.

They are currently in the top-38 cut in the Race to Tokyo qualifiers. Kean Yew is 16th while Jia Min is in 17th spot.

“Earlier this year, I received an invitation from them to help spar with their players from May to July. I could not commit for three straight months, so we settled for just May and July instead,” said world No. 41 Daren.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to accept the offer because it’s more like a joint-training session.

“As a professional, I’m free to train anywhere and I believe they provide better facilities too.

“It’s a win-win situation because I have good place to train and get to make some extra income.

“Unfortunately, the plan is on hold because of Covid-19, so I’m not sure if they would need me again for next year.”

Daren said he is open to any future offer from the SBA.

“If the time is right and the dates don’t clash with my tournament schedule, I don’t see why not,” he explained.

“It’s actually kind of an honour too, to be handed an opportunity to work with a national BA and help them prepare for a major competition. It’s surely a good experience.”

Hopes are high on Kean Yew, 22, and Jia Min, 21, to return home with a commendable result from Tokyo as both had enjoyed a remarkable season last year.

Kean Yew made heads turn when he downed two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to bag his maiden World Tour title at the Thailand Masters in January.

The Penang-born lad would go on to reach three more finals – the Hyderabad Open, Russian Open and at the Philippines SEA Games where he lost to childhood rival Lee Zii Jia.

Jia Min also made waves after etching her name into the history books by becoming the first Singaporean to reach the quarter-finals at the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland.

Singapore’s best achievement in badminton at the Olympics was when Ronald Susilo reached the last eight in Athens 2004.

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