All business on his birthday

Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia returns against Netherlands' Mark Caljouw during their men's singles semi-final match on day four of the All England Open Badminton Championship at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham, central England, on March 20,2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS/ AFP)

PETALING JAYA: World No. 8 Lee Zii Jia has no intention of basking in his All-England glory for a long time.

In fact, it ends today on his 23rd birthday as the reigning All-England men’s singles champion plans to hit the ground running when he reports for training at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.

The man hailed as a national hero is now out of the mandatory quarantine period and he can expect visitors to show up at training to congratulate him and there are already a long list of invitations for him to attend functions of those who want to share his All-England joy.

But Zii Jia stressed that it was business as usual for him as he was focused on badminton.

“Since I won the All-England, many people have gotten in touch with me for interviews and there are other invitations almost everyday.

“It isn’t possible for me to respond to all of them, ” said Zii Jia.

“While I appreciate that everyone is happy and want to celebrate with me, I just want to make it clear that I’m just an ordinary athlete.

“When I return to ABM (today), I will resume my life as an athlete where training will always be my top priority. I need to train well, get enough rest to recover and have my own personal time.

“I just want to focus on becoming a better player and I don’t want all these side activities to hinder my training.

“I have seen many athletes, who are famous after winning, get distracted by doing other things. As a result, they end up spending lesser time in training and eventually their performance is affected.”

Zii Jia also said that he would keep his feet firmly on the ground.

“I may be the All-England champion, but once the training starts, I’m just like anyone else, ” said the reigning SEA Games champion.

“I won’t expect any preferential treatment. It doesn’t mean I will train five days when others train seven days.

“In fact, I want to work even harder.”

Zii Jia said he wanted to refine his strong points and rectify his weaknesses as he strives to become an established top 10 player.

“I’m still inconsistent. I play well in one tournament and then drop in the next one. I’m working hard to be a stable player and be confident all the time, ” explained Zii Jia.

“Everyone in the top 10 has the same standard, the only difference is consistency. My task is to maintain good performances, so that I can slowly move up the ladder – from top 10 to top 5 and eventually the No. 1 spot in the world.”

National coaching director Wong Choong Hann said Zii Jia would kickstart his training with some workout in the gym today before returning to court practice tomorrow.

“The coaches have planned his training programme accordingly and they will keep the celebration and distractions to a minimal level, ” said Choong Hann.

“We have filtered all the invitations and requests and only allowed a few.”

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