Lift Lee up for Paris

Man on a mission: Lee Zii Jia will be looking to improve his world ranking and become a worthy contender at the Paris Olympic Games.

Sand workouts and quality sparring to raise Zii Jia’s game and ranking

PETALING JAYA: Plans are afoot for the next three months to raise singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia’s (pic) game a notch higher.

Right now, the focus is on the sand workout.

The 24-year-old Zii Jia will also get to spar with foreign players in Kuala Lumpur this month before the Malaysian Open from Jan 9-14 at Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil and spend another two weeks abroad with another team of players in February before the Europe swing begins.

And coach Wong Tat Meng is excited by the prospect of pushing world No. 10 Zii Jia further in training.

The ultimate goal is to improve Zii Jia’s world ranking and prepare him to be a worthy opponent at the Paris Olympic Games.

“The sand training is to improve his speed and agility. We spent a day at the beach in Sepang recently to focus on this,” said Tat Meng.

“As Zii Jia is a tall player (1.86m), his footwork can be awkward at times. We are helping him to be agile, flexible and also play with the right balance and power on court.

“As he is also prone to blisters, this is another method for us to minimise the impact on his foot.”

Towards end of the month, Zii Jia will get to spar with the Popov brothers from France – Toma Junior (world No. 25) and Christo (world No. 29).

“The brothers are coming 10 days before the Malaysian Open and have requested to train with Zii Jia and we have agreed,” said Tat Meng.

“We are also fine tuning our plan with another foreign team, which I’m unable to disclose now, to get Zii Jia to train abroad for two weeks in February before the four back-to-back tournaments begin in Europe starting with the German Open, French Open and All-England in March.

“December and February are the only space we have for Zii Jia to focus on his training. In February, there is the Asia team competition in Kuala Lumpur but if he is not selected, we will just use the extra time to work on his game.

“Zii Jia has enough quality sparring, and that’s the least of my worries.”

While Tat Meng is happy with the strong finish by Zii Jia this year, he is hoping for a more consistent performance from his charge next year.

“The recent stints in Europe (winning the Arctic Open, reaching the final of Denmark Open and making the quarter-finals in France) have pushed his ranking into the top 10. We hope to see a further rise next year,” he said.

“Ultimately, we want Zii Jia to be in a good position when the Olympic qualifying period ends in April,” added Tat Meng.

Malaysia can have two singles players for the Olympics if both of them are in the top 16 bracket before the qualifying ends. Besides Zii Jia, the other Malaysian player in the running for a spot is world No. 15 Ng Tze Yong.

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