The pits before the peak

Zii Jia: ‘After Thailand, my mind just went blank and all I wanted was to be alone. I cut myself off from everyone.’

PETALING JAYA: Lee Zii Jia has revealed that he nearly fell into depression before getting back on his feet to be crowned the All-England champion.

Zii Jia, who’s turning 23 next Monday, recounted how the mounting pressure over his miserable outing at the Asian leg in Bangkok two months ago was so unbearable that it had forced him into isolation.

Zii Jia battled not only with his own guilt, but also struggled to cope with criticisms hurled against him by keyboard warriors.

“After Thailand (debacle), my mind just went blank and all I wanted was to be alone. I cut myself off from everyone, I became anti-social, ” revealed Zii Jia in a virtual interview with the media yesterday.

“I tried my best to calm myself and do some soul-searching.

“It was a very tough moment for me, probably the worst in my career thus far. I lost all confidence and even had the negative thought about not being able to pick myself back up again.

“Fortunately, I managed to overcome all this but little did I know that I would go on to win the All-England! It was a real surprise.

“So, I’m really glad and happy to come back so strongly in such a short period of time.

“And having battled through this massive struggle, I believe I will be more prepared to face whatever challenges that may come next.”

Zii Jia also disclosed that he and the coaches had been working around the clock to get things right in that span of three weeks in between the Thailand and European meets.

He even lied to his family that the Badminton Association of Malaysia did not grant him a Chinese New Year break and continued to train through the festive season by himself at the Academy Badminton Malaysia.

“Frankly speaking, I didn’t have the mood to celebrate at all. My mind was all about how to recover from this predicament.

“It was very stressful indeed, it’s like everyday! I’m not the only one under immense pressure, my coaches (Hendrawan and Datuk Tey Seu Bock) too, ” he said.

Zii Jia said he was proud to win the title for Hendrawan and silence their critics.

The Indonesian had reportedly tendered his resignation before being talked out of quitting.

“As soon as the prize presentation was over, I made a video call to Hendrawan.

“He was in tears while telling me that we got through this, ” said Zii Jia.

“But he was also quick to remind me that this is just the start of the journey, there are many more challenges awaiting us. Enjoy the moment for now, but once I’m back in training, we will start afresh.”

While all eyes are on him to hunt for glory at the Tokyo Olympics next, Zii Jia said his next goal is the Malaysian Open from May 25-30.

It will be only his second appearance after his debut in 2019 ended in the first round.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the Malaysian Open. It’s important for me and I want to get good results on home soil, ” said Zii Jia.

“But just like the All-England, I will go into the tournament without putting much pressure on myself. I failed miserably in Thailand because of high expectations and I want to avoid that.

“It worked best for me to try to enjoy myself and play my best game.

“It will be the same approach for the Olympics too.”

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