PETALING JAYA: Singles shuttler Leong Jun Hao (pic) is the only junior champion – whether from the Asian or world level – still left standing in the national team following the exit of Goh Jin Wei.
Can the 22-year-old hang on or will he bite the dust too like two-time world junior champion Jin Wei and a few other young winners before him?
The 2017 Asian junior champion Jun Hao believes he can persevere until the end in the senior ranks.
“I was promoted to the national team four years ago and I believe, I can rise in the senior ranks,” said Jun Hao.
“My progress was hampered by a hip injury in the past and then came the long break due to Covid-19 but I believe the time is right for me to step up.
“I’m aware that several other junior champions have left but I hope to stay on as I have many more goals to achieve.
On Monday, Jin Wei, a two-time world junior champion quit the sport – joining a few other junior champions before her who did not realise their full potential in the senior ranks.
The others include 2013 Asian junior champion Soo Teck Zhi, 2011 Asian and world junior winner Zulfadli Zulkifli and several world junior doubles champions like two-time winner Ow Yao Han, who won it with Chooi Kah Ming (2009) and Yew Hong Kheng (2010); Nelson Heg-Teo Ee Yi (2011) and Mak Hee Chun-Teo Kok Siang (2008).
Teck Zhi struggled with injury and personal problems while independent shuttler Zulfadli’s career was cut short after a ban over match-fixing issue. The others had different reasons and some failed to come through despite many chances given.
Ee Yi is still playing as an independent shuttler with Ong Yew Sin while Hee Chun is representing Hong Kong now.
There are other world junior winners before these batches but had achieved considerable good results although none made a big mark in major tournaments.
Jun Hao hopes to make an impression starting with his second Thomas Cup Finals outing in Aarhus, Denmark, from Oct 9-17.
He has been selected together with Lee Zii Jia, Cheam June Wei, Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin and doubles shuttlers – Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani, Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun and Low Hang Yee.
“I’m free from any injuries right now. I played in one tie in my previous Finals stint (in Bangkok in 2018) but this time, I hope to play a bigger role,” he said.
The world No. 120 Jun Hao is expected to play as the third singles.