Coach sweats over Leong’s erratic form ahead of SEA Games

One for the album: Sharon Wee (centre wearing Malaysian jersey), posing with the national shuttlers at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: Leong Jun Hao’s form is worrying ahead of the SEA Games in Cambodia from May 5-17.

The national men’s singles shuttler, who is the most experienced member of the team selected for the biennial Games, has been entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading the country’s challenge but he is not in the best of shape.

Jun Hao has been struggling for form since capturing his first World Tour title at the lower-tier Indonesian Masters in Malang last October.

The 23-year-old fell to a shock defeat to independent player and world No. 92 Yeoh Seng Zoe in the first qualifying round of the Thailand Masters in January.

World No. 71 Jun Hao also suffered a disappointing 21-19, 17-21, 14-21 loss to unheralded homester Dong Tian Yao in the second round of the ongoing China Masters in Ruichang.

Jun Hao’s only victory in a match this year came against Kazakhstan’s Dimitry Panarin in a group tie in the Asian Mixed Team Championships in Dubai last month.

Naturally, national singles coaching director Wong Choong Hann is having cold sweat.

“His form is a concern ahead of the SEA Games,” admitted Choong Hann during a visit by the SEA Games’ deputy chef de mission Sharon Wee at the Academy Badminton Malaysian (ABM) in Bukit Kiara yesterday.

“He has not been performing up to our expectations so far this year.

“But we are not giving up on him and will give him further opportunities to bounce back.”

Jun Hao shot to prominence after capturing the Asian Junior title in 2017 but his career has been blighted by injuries since then.

“He is unique in his own way and has been injury-prone. He has suffered ankle and hip injuries before this,” said Choong Hann.

“We have to take into account his injury problems when arranging his training programme.

“For now, his movement on court has to be better and he needs to push himself more.

“More importantly, he has to keep believing in himself.”

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