PETALING JAYA: Independent shuttler Cheam June Wei (pic) could make a difference in Malaysia’s push for a medal in the men’s team event at the Asian Games as the independent player has a track record to fill in the crucial third singles spot.
June Wei, 26, was instrumental in Malaysia’s run in the 2020 Asian Team Championship’s campaign in Manila where they finished runners-up.
He was also part of the 2020 Thomas Cup team that reached the quarter-finals in Aarhus and could have been a mainstay in team competitions for Malaysia if he had remained with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
June Wei’s decision to become an independent player last year did not go down well with the coaching staff then who did not consider him for last year’s Thomas Cup in Bangkok or any other major team events.
Several juniors like Justin Hoh and Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin were chosen ahead of him.
June Wei’s coach Nova Armada said the shuttler has the experience in team events and will be able to fit in well as the third singles if given the opportunity.
BAM’s Leong Jun Hao, who is also in the Asiad team, is also in the running but he had struggled as the third singles in the Thomas Cup last year.
“June Wei has been preparing well and is strong at this position. He should be able to take on most of his rivals from other nations at the Asian Games,” said Nova.
“We have the chance to contribute a point against teams like Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.
“He has played in major team events before and is able to handle the pressure.
“Malaysia do have a strong line-up, especially our men’s doubles pairs while our top two singles players (Lee Zii Jia and Ng Tze Yong) have the quality.
“June Wei has been given a chance to be in the Asiad team and naturally, he wants to prove that he can play his part to help Malaysia win a medal.”
Nova also felt that it will be good for Malaysia to receive a top four seeding so that they can avoid favourites China and Indonesia in the quarter-final stage.
“I hope that we can get the third or fourth seeding as it is important to avoid China and Indonesia until the semi-finals,” added Nova.
The others in Malaysia’s team are Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi (men’s doubles). Chen Tang Jie and Goh Soon Huat will be the doubles reserves but their main events are mixed with Toh Ee Wei and Shevon Lai Jemie respectively.
Malaysia last won a medal – a bronze at the Incheon Games in 2014 while their best performance was a silver at the 1990 Beijing Games.