PETALING JAYA: Mixed doubles ace Chan Peng Soon is no illusionist. But he can imagine and hear millions of Malaysian fans cheering loudly when the Olympics badminton competition gets under way on Saturday at the 10,000 capacity but empty Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.
The 33-year-old admits that it will be strange to be playing his first Olympics without fans but nothing is going to stop him from playing his heart out for all the Malaysians who will be watching him and partner Goh Liu Ying in action live from their TV and online.
Amid the surge in Covid-19 cases in Japan, the organisers announced a ban on fans attending the Olympics events in the Tokyo.
Peng Soon and Liu Ying open their Group D campaign against Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man-Tse Ying Suet at the US$300mil (RM1.26bil) stadium, a venue where the duo played at the 2018 and 2019 Japan Open.
“We played there twice in 2018 and 2019, so it will definitely feel strange for not having any spectators. But there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Peng Soon after testing the venue together with the entire Malaysian team yesterday.
“An empty stadium is still perfectly fine for me because I know for a fact that we have millions of Malaysian fans supporting us from home, so I could still imagine the cheers we’re getting despite the quiet atmosphere.
“With Malaysia still under lockdown, I think we will have even more supporters this time because most people will be staying at home most of the time and watching the action on their screens.
“For that, we must try to perform our very best to justify their support and not let them down.”
World No. 7 Peng Soon-Liu Ying will surely hope that Tokyo, and particularly Musashino Forest Sports Plaza, continue to be a lucky charm for them as they try to go one better than their silver medal feat in Rio five years ago.
The Japanese capital proved to be their favourite hunting ground after winning the Japan Open back in 2012 and reaching the semi-finals in their last three appearances in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
“Hopefully it will continue that way, but I don’t think our last few outings in Tokyo will count for anything,” stressed Peng Soon.
“It’s good performances that produce good results, so we have to give our best in every single match.”