KUALA LUMPUR: Targets may have to be lowered in major badminton tournaments in the absence of lanky national No. 1 Lee Zii Jia.
Malaysia have set a goal of reaching the final of the Thomas Cup Finals in Bangkok, Thailand, this year but national coaching director Wong Choong Hann admitted that they would have to re-think their plans following the exit of Zii Jia.
Choong Hann said they would have to be realistic.
“I’ve to be truthful and admit that there will have to be changes without Zii Jia,” said Choong Hann.
“He is one of the deciding variants in determining the strength of the team. I’m not blind to what we have right now but we can only do the best with what we have.”
Choong Hann explained that they had brought forward their goal to reach the Thomas Cup final following good progress shown by Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani in recent times.
Zii Jia won the All-England while Aaron-Wooi Yik made the nation proud by winning a bronze at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Initially, we targeted to reach the final of the Thomas Cup in 2024 but we brought it forward following improved showings by Zii Jia, Tze Yong and our top two doubles pairs.
“We have to re-look at our plans. This is unavoidable after what has transpired,” he said.
On the Olympic Games qualification, the focus will now shift to Tze Yong, Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin, Leong Jun Hao and several juniors. The other major tournaments this year are the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Asian Games in Hangzhou.
Choong Hann said he would not allow the commotion caused by Zii Jia’s move to leave the national team to distract the players’ focus at Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.
“Zii Jia’s case is not a performance issue but policy and we can’t get distracted by it. We will have to continue grooming the players in the BAM stable and focus on the plans we have at hand,” he said.
Yesterday, Choong Hann spent extra time with some of the probationers who have been promoted to the national squad from the junior side helmed by Datuk Misbun Sidek.
“We will assess their progress in the next three months under the probation period,” he said.
The 18-year-olds who have made the grade are Anson Cheong, Ong Zhen Yi, Chia Jeng Hon, Chua Kim Sheng, Rex Hooi Shao Herng (boys); and Khor Jing Wen, Joanne Ng, Tan Zhing Yi and Loh Zhi Wei (girls).