Tick-off for shuttlers

No joy in Huelva: Olympics bronze medallists Soh Wooi Yik and Aaron Chia (right) did not make inroads at the world meet despite the lack of top class competition.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia can only look in disbelief as Singapore became the latest nation to boast a world badminton champion after Loh Kean Yew claimed a well-deserved men’s singles title in Huelva, Spain on Sunday.

As Malaysian badminton remains stagnant, another neighbouring country, Thailand, celebrated its second world champion after Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai earned their breakthrough in the mixed doubles to emulate Ratchanok Intanon’s 2013 success in Guangzhou.

Even India came close to having two world champions but K. Srikanth failed in his final hurdle against Kean Yew.

India did not produce a world champion until two years ago when P. V. Sindhu won the women’s singles title in Basel.

Even Spain and the United States can boast of having World Championships winners. Carolina Marin won it three times for Spain while the unheralded duo of Howard Bach-Tony Gunawan did it in 2005.

The Huelva edition featured probably one of the weakest fields in history and it’s a shame that none of the Malaysians were able to grab the opportunity.

It could have been a disastrous outing had it not been for a solitary bronze medal from professional men’s pair Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi.

Besides Kean Yew, the other underdogs who enjoyed an excellent campaign included India’s Lakhsya Sen and Japan’s Kyohei Yamashita-Naru Shinoya, who won bronze in men’s singles and mixed doubles respectively.

While All-England champion Lee Zii Jia was rather unfortunate to sustain a nasty blister on his right foot which saw his campaign cut short in the quarter-finals, the same cannot be said for Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik.

Hopes were high on the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists to make their way to the podium but they fizzled out in the last 16.

They lost tamely to eventual silver medallists He Jiting-Tan Qiang of China 21-17, 14-21, 16-21.

A win could have made it an all-Malaysian affair in the quarter-finals with Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, guaranteeing another bronze medal.

It has overall been a disappointing season for our shuttlers. Apart from the World Championships, they also failed to win a single title from any of the six World Tour legs.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria conceded that our shuttlers are “not there yet”.

“It’s not often that you get these opportunity (playing in a depleted field at the World Championships), but unfortunately our players failed to capitalise on the advantage,” said Norza.

“We’re still relying on the same players. I want the coaching and training committee to expand our chances of having more world-class players.

“We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. We need a more robust and aggressive approach to take on new challenges in 2022 and ultimately work towards Paris 2024.

“Loh Kean Yew winning the world title for Singapore is a wake-up call but we should take it positively to work even harder.

“We shouldn’t give up in our efforts to make Malaysian badminton great again.”

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