KUALA LUMPUR: Things are certainly looking up for the national badminton scene. What with men’s singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei making big strides in the international arena.
This, however, raises one question – who is next after Chong Wei?
Right now, there is no sign of any back-up shuttler following in Chong Wei’s footsteps.
Currently, the “future” players handled by Rashid Sidek under Project 2010-12, are competing in their first international tournament of the year – the ongoing Jakarta Satellite.
Next week they will compete in the Vietnam Satellite.
The players are Law Yew Thien, Lim Kenn, Liew Daren, Tan Chun Seang, Mohd Shafiq Jamaluddin, Azrihanif Azahar, Beryno Wong , Chong Wei Feng, Hew Loon, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Lok Chong Chieh, Lim Fang Yang, Vountus Indra Mawan, Kuan Kam Chung, Zairul Hafiz Zainudin, Teo Kok Siang, Chan Kwong Beng.
All the players are between the ages of 18 and 22.
While China will be fielding their two-time world junior champion Chen Jin at the Thomas Cup Finals in Japan from April 28-May 7, Malaysia’s back-up players are hoping to win satellite titles this year.
These are worrying statistics, indeed.
However, the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) high performance manager, Lim Kok Wye, remained optimistic although the gulf in the standard of Malaysia’s top singles shuttlers and that of the back-up players is wide.
“It is difficult to compare our back-up players with those from China. They have a big pool of players to choose from. But still, it is our hope to see our players making the breakthrough soon,” said Kok Wye.
Based on the assessment of coaches Rashid and Teh Seu Bok, Kok Wye named four players – Daren, Yew Thien, Lim Kenn and Chun Seang – as the ones to watch out for.
“Last year, Daren won the Taiwan Satellite while Yew Thien emerged runner-up in the Vietnam Satellite. This year, they will continue to compete in the satellite and one-star tournaments. If they win, we will send them for bigger tournaments,” said Kok Wye.
“Besides this group, we also have juniors (from the Bukit Jalil Sports School) who are doing well. We just need a little more time to see new faces coming up.”
Kok Wye said that they would review Project 2010-12, which went full swing under Rashid in March last year, in June.
While waiting for the juniors to reach world standard, Malaysia will continue to bank on the current group of players. Besides Chong Wei, the other top players are Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Wong Choong Hann and Kuan Beng Hong.
The other players who are still in the national squad despite poor performances are Lee Tsuen Seng, Yeoh Kay Bin, James Chua and K. Yogendran.
It’s time for the juniors to step up their game.