PETALING JAYA: Hiring full-time sparring partners is not in world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia’s plans but he may have training stints with top foreign players in the build-up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Zii Jia said that he will continue having recently retired Liew Daren as his sparring partner and as the assistant to his newly hired coach Wong Tat Meng. He will also benefit from the joint training sessions with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) on every Wednesdays.
Zii Jia, who met with 2024 Paris Oympics chef-de-mission Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin yesterday, said he will elaborate more on his training programme once Tat Meng begins his tenure as coach next month.
“I have managed to settle the appointment of my coach and Tat Meng will be my only addition to the current team. I’m not going to hire any full-time sparring partners,” said Zii Jia.
“I do have plans to have training stints with foreign players and also have weekly sessions with the BAM shuttlers.
“I have not decided on who are the players that I will join for training and I will have to sit with Tat Meng once he is here and discuss the programme in detail.
“I had a good discussion with Datuk Hamidin and it was more about my future plan and enlighten him about Tat Meng.”
Hamidin, who has been regularly meeting the athletes under the Road to Gold (RTG) programme, said it was his second meeting with Zii Jia and believes the shuttler should bounce back now that he will have Tat Meng to guide him.
“Give him time and I strongly believe Zii Jia will be back,” said Hamidin.
“As I have always told the shuttlers, including Zii Jia, take it step by step and initially go for the quarter-final and semi-finals first and eventually target higher. From next January, their aim should be winning titles. If they can win titles earlier, it’s a bonus.
“Zii Jia has also put forward several requests to RTG and helping him to cover the competition cost is one of them. Most requests appear reasonable and I will bring them to RTG for discussion.”RTG is not responsible to pay the salaries of the independent shuttlers and subsidising or fully covering the competition cost should help them to play in sufficient tournaments to push for Olympic qualification.
Hamidin had made it clear that every assistance that is accorded to RTG athletes will be done without prejudice and everyone is eligible, whether they are independent shuttlers or with BAM, if a specific support is approved.
Zii Jia used to spar with world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen during the Dane’s annual training camps in Dubai together with former world champion Loh Kean Yew. He had also trained with the Denmark’s men’s singles team last year and the Hong Kong team prior to the Asian Badminton Championship in Dubai last month.