The legend’s ‘chosen one’

A treasure beyond measure: Datuk Lee Chong Wei handing over his racquet to Ng Tze Yong after the exhibition match. — S.S. KANESAN / The Star

A SYMBOLIC handover? That was precisely the hint from men’s singles legend Lee Chong Wei when he presented a racquet to young upstart Ng Tze Yong at the Axiata Arena yesterday.

That was the defining moment of the Yonex Legends’ “Past, Present and Future” event, as Chong Wei seemingly urged the 22-year-old shuttler to follow in his footsteps as the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) No. 1 player.

It took place after Chong Wei joined fellow former greats Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, Denmark’s Peter Gade and Lee Yong-dae of South Korea in a promotional event and a fun exhibition match with some national senior and junior players before the start of the Malaysian Open semi-finals.

Chong Wei’s loyalty as a BAM player was never in question where the former world No. 1 joined the association in 1998 as a 16-year-old junior until his retirement in 2019 and it was fitting that he chose Tze Yong, who is currently the top shuttler under the association.

While Chong Wei has earned an unprecedented 12 titles at the Malaysian Open, Tze Yong struggled in his debut this week and lost in the first round to Lu Guangzu of China on Wednesday.

“It’s a good memory for me and Tze Yong. I have retired and he (Tze Yong) is BAM’s No. 1 and I hope to pass the luck by giving him my racquet,” said Chong Wei.

“All Malaysians, including me, are hoping that he can go to the Commonwealth Games and produce a good result. He cannot run away from pressure and should know how to deal with it.

“Tze Yong is an up-and-coming player and being BAM’s top singles is not easy as I’ve been there for 19 years (as a senior). But I hope he can become successful.

“He has the potential and he should know now where he stands based on his outing in the home tournament.

‘‘In the first match alone, he suffered cramps after one-and-a-half hours and it is an indication of his fitness.

“This is only the first round and there are four more rounds before he can reach a final. Not easy for his journey but he must learn to fight for whatever things that he wants to achieve.”

Chong Wei wasn’t in any way taking a hit at players who left the BAM to become independent shuttlers but probably reiterating the advantages of remaining with the national body and his success story is a testament of centralised training.

Tze Yong had grown up idolising Chong Wei as the latter had won many international Open titles, three Olympic Games and World Championships silver medals.

The shuttler couldn’t believe his eyes when Chong Wei rushed to him to pass the racquet he used during the exhibition match.

“I did not expect it at all and I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.

‘‘He is my idol and I am going to treasure this racquet,” said Tze Yong.

“I may have lost in the first round but today it felt like winning the Malaysian Open.

“What happened today was like a blessing from him and I feel good and want to use this as an inspiration to do well in my career.

“I will work hard and try to improve on my results and hopefully, I can follow in the footsteps of our legend (Chong Wei).”

Tze Yong will play in the Malaysian Masters, which begins at the Axiata Arena on Tuesday, where he will see action in the qualifying rounds.

The encouragement could help his cause as he must overcome Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand in a possible second round of qualifiers to make the main draw.

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