Wooi Yik happy and inspired by best friend’s feat

PETALING JAYA: Soh Wooi Yik and Lee Zii Jia have been the best of pals since they joined the national badminton set-up in 2011.

So when Zii Jia shocked the world by emerging as the All-England singles champion on Sunday, it made Wooi Yik all lumpy in the throat as he remembered their dream of winning a major championship together.

Wooi Yik missed out on the opportunity to do it this time as he and Aaron Chia, the current No. 1 men’s doubles pair in the country, opted to skip the trip to Birmingham due to Covid-19 concerns.

The world No. 9 Wooi Yik-Aaron themselves came close to becoming All-England winners when they finished runners-up two years ago.

“Zii Jia and I, we’re brothers for many years. We train, sleep, eat and hang out together and of course we talked about conquering the world together.

“We did it in 2019 by winning the SEA Games gold (in Philippines) but our ultimate dream is obviously standing on the podium in major meets, hopefully the Olympics and World Championships.

“I’m so happy that he captured the All-England. That was a superb performance all week long and he totally deserved it.

“The way he fought and turned things around despite losing his self-confidence at one point really inspired me. Being the No. 1 singles player in the country, he’s under a lot of pressure and many people are not aware of that.”

In Sunday’s men’s singles final at the Arena Birmingham, Zii Jia beat defending champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 30-29,20-22,21-9.

Wooi Yik also recalled how Zii Jia was there for him after he was left heartbroken following the All-England final defeat to Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan two years ago.

“I was really down after missing out on our first All-England glory, that was close and I paid a heavy price for being overconfident, ” recalled Wooi Yik.

“Zii Jia came to console me and he told me not to be too hard on myself. It’s a shame he didn’t make the cut to play from the reserve list that year. But it didn’t dampen his spirit and he was there to support me from the first round until the final.

“Being the top singles and doubles shuttlers in the country, we face almost similar pressures and situations. We always got each others’ back, we advise and listen to each other.

“I must say I learn a lot from him because he was first to assume the national No. 1 ranking before myself and Aaron. I’m able to handle things better now thanks to him.”

Wooi Yik and Zii Jia had played doubles together during their junior days.

They won silver at the 2012 Asian Youth Under-15 Championships in China and emerged the Under-14 champions at the 2014 National Junior Grand Prix Finals.

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