Weather damp but spirits high


BY RAJES PAUL

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian badminton players flew into chilly Birmingham but the cold weather did not dampen their spirits before they start their campaign in the All-England competition at the National Indoor Arena from Wednesday. 

The 12-member team comprises singles players Wong Choong Hann, Lee Tsuen Seng, Lee Chong Wei, Yong Hock Kin and the Hashim brothers Roslin and Hafiz and the doubles pairs of Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng, Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chang Kim Wai-Hong Chieng Hun. 

Malaysia's top national singles player Choong Hann said the chilly weather would not dampen his spirits. 

“Whether it is cold or hot, I am here just to give my best. I normally do not let these things affect my performances and I try to adjust myself to the conditions accordingly. I will focus on one match at a time. My aim is to reach the semi-finals,” said the China Open champion, who is seen as the best hope to end Malaysia's long wait to win the men's singles crown. 

The last Malaysian to have won it was Tan Aik Huang in 1996. 

The 26-year-old Choong Hann, however, has never gone beyond the third round in any of his three All-England outings so far. 

He is seeded second in the All-England and plays Germany Jens Roch in the opening round. He is likely to play teammate Yong Hock Kin but barring any upset; he is likely to enter the semi-finals. 

His semi-final match could be interesting. His opponent should come from the quarter of Chinese nemesis Xia Xuanze, South Korean Lee Hyun-il, China's Lin Dan or former world champion Peter Rasmussen of Denmark.  

In contrast to Choong Hann, Hafiz was a little downcast over the climate in Birmingham. 

“I do not enjoy cold weather. I am a slow starter and I have to warm-up for a longer period before each of my matches. But I certainly plan to give my best,” said the Manchester Commonwealth Games singles champion, who aims to reach the quarter-finals. 

But there is a possibility of Hafiz crashing out in the first round, in a battle between two youngsters. He is drawn to meet the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) champion Sony Dwi Kuncoro, 19, of Indonesia. 

Senior doubles player Lee Wan Wah said he enjoyed playing in the cold climate. 

“I guess every player has different preferences. For me, I like playing in colder conditions. I will certainly give my best and try to achieve good results,” said Wan Wah, who is featuring in his fifth All-England meet. 

Wan Wah partners Tan Fook. They play a qualifier in the opening round. Their toughest hurdle will be in the third round, likely to be Indonesian Halim Haryanto-Trikus Haryanto. The Malaysians lost to the Indons at the Thomas Cup Finals. 

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