PETALING JAYA: Soniia Cheah has struggled for more than eight years just to play in the Olympics – and when the time finally came, she did not disappoint.
The 28-year-old gave former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand a scare before going down 21-19, 18-21, 10-21 in 62 minutes in Group N at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza yesterday.
Even when Ratchanok ran away with 8-0 lead in the second game, she did not give up. She won the next seven points and put herself back in contention before Ratchanok came charging back to win the second and eventually the match. Soniia had mixed response after giving a worthy performance against the world No. 6 Thai.
“I really did my best. I don’t think that I’d have any regrets,” said Soniia, who hurt her ankle in the third game.
“But, I do feel sorry for my parents, family, friends and fans because they have given me a lot of support but I couldn’t win the match.
“I’m overwhelmed to make it here to Tokyo. It took me a long period of time to get here,” said Soniia, referring to the past Achilles tendon rupture in 2013 which forced her to miss the chance to qualify for 2016 Rio Games.
Independent shuttler Soniia credited national men’s singles head coach Hendrawan for his guidance and also her team from her club Sport Affairs.
“Hendrawan is very experienced and although I have not trained under him before, his presence was reassuring,” she said.