PETALING JAYA: Seize the opportunity, shuttlers.
Olympians from the past – Rashid Sidek, Ong Ewe Hock, Mohd Roslin Hashim and Koo Kien Keat – believe that Malaysian players have an equal chance and ability to make the Tokyo Olympics a fruitful outing.
The badminton action begins tomorrow and hopes are on Lee Zii Jia (men’s singles), Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (men’s doubles), Soniia Cheah (women’s singles), Lee Meng Yean-Chow Mei Kuan (women’s doubles) and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles) to strut their stuff.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medallist Rashid said Malaysia should ride on their recent All-England success, where Zii Jia topped two giants in Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark en route to winning the singles title.
“We’ve an All-England champ and it should just give the whole team the confidence. He was not expected to win but Zii Jia defied the odds. Our team in Tokyo should compete in the Olympics with the same spirit,” said Rashid.
“Aaron-Wooi Yik are also the All-England runners-up (2019). They have the potential.
“Peng Soon-Liu Ying were not expected to win at the Rio Games but they delivered a silver. One should never rule out underdogs. Olympics are always full of upsets,” said Rashid, who also competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Former world No. 1 Roslin said the colour of the medal would not matter.
“I believe we have a strong chance in the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles. It’s tough in the ladies though as the field is quite intimidating,” said the 46-year-old Roslin, who participated at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“The competition in this Olympics will be the most open.
“We should not waste this opportunity. I don’t think any nation has had any advantage in terms of preparation under this Covid-19 pandemic,” added Roslin, who will be the sports commentator with Astro throughout the Olympic Games.
Former Malaysian Open champion Ewe Hock, who reached the last 16 in two Olympics in 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney, said the Malaysians were the underdogs.
“The depth in the squad from Japan, China, Denmark, South Korea and Indonesia are better compared to Malaysia but we should not be ruled out. If Lee Zii Jia can play like how did at the All-England, I believe that no one can stop him,” said Ewe Hock.
“I would rate our chances 40-60 in winning medals because we are ranked lower but I hope our players will aim higher and do their best.”
Former doubles star Koo Kien Keat expects a high-quality competition.
“This is the first tournament in this quarter and all players will be fresh.
“Everyone will start on an equal footing,” said Kien Keat, who competed at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London editions with Tan Boon Heong.
They came very close to winning a medal in London but went down fighting in the bronze-medal playoff against South Koreans Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae.
“The pressure will start from the knockout stages but I hope our doubles pair will stay motivated. If they play with confidence, they have a good chance to go far,” he added.
Malaysia did well at the last Olympics when they won three silver medals through Lee Chong Wei (men’s singles), Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles), and Peng Soon-Liu Ying.