PETALING JAYA: Two years ago, national singles shuttler Cheam June Wei went to the Thomas Cup Finals in Thailand as a sparring partner for former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
He was awed by Chong Wei’s commanding presence and how he kept the team together.
This time around the 23-year-old June Wei is going to the Thomas Cup Finals in Aarhus, Denmark from Oct 3-11 as one of the 10-member men’s squad.
The others are world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia, Liew Daren (41) and Leong Jun Hao (157) and doubles players Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (9), Teo Ee Yi-Ong Yew Sin (15) and Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani (28).
The world No. 74 June Wei is happy that his fortune has changed from a sparring partner to one of the key players.
“I enjoyed my job as a sparring partner with Chong Wei in Bangkok. I also got to watch him, Lin Dan and all the others. Chong Wei and Lin Dan are great players,” said June Wei.
Chong Wei played as the first singles and won all his matches but it was not good enough as Malaysia eventually crashed out in the quarter-finals.
Lin Dan played only in the group stage and was not as prominent in the elimination round as all the ties were decided before his turn to play. China went on to win the Thomas Cup for the 10th time.
“I’ve seen them play in numerous tournaments growing up, so both of them are my idols,” said June Wei.
“We’ll surely miss their presence at this year’s edition. Some say the competition will not be the same any more but I believe the players of the new era will provide equal excitement.
He pointed out that Japan’s Kento Momota, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting and Zii Jia have raised the bar.
On his role, June Wei said he would be ready to deliver either as the second or third singles player.
“Getting a chance to play in my first Thomas Cup Finals is a dream come true. I’ve never played in a major team event – not even in the SEA Games, so I’m excited,” said June Wei.
He was named for the Sudirman Cup in Nanning, China, last year but played no part throughout the tournament.
June Wei, however, showed that he had come of age and was ready when he emerged as the top performer at the Thomas Cup qualifiers in Manila, the Philippines in February this year.
June Wei upstaged Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, South Korea’s Son Wan-ho and Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto at the second singles to help Malaysia finish as runners-up and qualify for this year’s Finals in Aarhus on merit.
“I did well in Manila and I hope to carry that momentum to Aarhus. I’ll try to win every match for the team,” he added.
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