But Liek Hou does not want to carry the favourite’s tag into his first ever Paralympics outing. He just wants to enjoy the experience and does not want to be unnecessarily burdened by expectations.
Liek Hou, currently coached by former Olympic bronze medallist shuttler Rashid Sidek, competes in the SU5 men’s singles class (impairment in upper body) category and is set for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with badminton making its Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
“Yes, I am all excited as this is the first time badminton got into the Paralympics.
“I have won big tournaments before but the Paralympics experience will be something else.
“I will be 33 next year while my rivals will be in their twenties, so I don’t want to be too optimistic.
“Of course, I want to try to win the gold medal but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself at the same time. I want to enjoy the occasion and I think aiming for a medal will be more realistic,” said Liek Hou.
The postponement of the Paralympics to next year has only dampened Liek Hou’s chances as he was on an unbeaten run since last November before the Covid-19 pandemic halted it in March.
Liek Hou was dethroned at the Para Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, last year but then went on to win four titles in succession.
He emerged triumphant in Denmark and Japan before carrying the fine momentum into this year to capture two more victories in Brazil and Peru last month.
He also beat his nemesis and world No. 1 Dheva Anrimusthi of Indonesia for the first time since 2017 in Sao Paolo. It was also Dheva who prevented Liek Hou from winning a seventh title in Basel.
Liek Hou has no competition lined up this year and admits he needs to be tough mentally.
“Mental toughness is important in these uncertain times when we do not know whether we will get to go for any competition after this. We can only train and prepare.
“I improved a lot from training and sparring with the national shuttlers at ABM (Academy Badminton Malaysia) in June.
“I hope to get the chance to do the same next year before the Paralympics.”
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