PETALING JAYA: Disappointment for Malaysia continued in the KLRC-BWF World Junior Championships when the mixed team failed to nail the bronze, crashing to a 2-3 defeat by Singapore in the playoff in Auckland yesterday.
And the biggest letdown came from the boys' and girls' singles players.
Malaysia, who emerged as the best team in Asia in July, suffered a major setback two days ago when their top singles player, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, was ruled out of the mixed team competition after suffering a groin injury in the tie against Thailand.
In his absence, Malaysia's hopes of reaching their first-ever team final went up in smoke when they lost 0-3 to China in the semi-finals.
Arif's absence was felt again yesterday as his replacement, Lim Fang Yang, failed to live up to expectations, losing 19-21, 21-16, 21-9 to Derek Wong Zi Liang in a 55-minute battle to hand Singapore a 2-1 lead.
Malaysia had got off to a flying start when Asian junior champions Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei defeated Terry Yeo Zhao Jiang-Yao Lei 21-18, 22-20.
Singapore levelled the tie after Lydia Cheah found China-born Gu Juan too hot to handle, losing 13-21, 16-21.
Youngsters Lim Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun kept the tie alive for Malaysia, beating Zhao Jiang-Thng Boon Seong 21-12, 21-10.
But China-born Fu Mingtian-Yao Lei proved to be a class above Ng Hui Lin-Goh Liu Ying, clinching victory for Singapore with a 21-18, 21-14 win.
Coach Jeremy Gan said that the team was demoralised after Arif picked up the injury.
“They showed lack of confidence without Arif and this should not be the way.
“Yes, the team's strength was diluted without Arif but they should have been more fired up instead of being discouraged,” said Jeremy in a telephone interview from Auckland yesterday.
“We will get them all fired up again. We may have finish empty-handed here but I hope that our players will bounce back in the individual competitions (which begin tomorrow).”
China dethroned South Korea as the champions, winning the final 3-1.
Final: China bt South Korea 3-1 (Chai Biao-Li Xuerui lost to Shin Baek-cheol-Yoo Hyun-young 18-21, 15-21; Chen Long bt Park Sung-min 21-15, 21-14; Wang Lin bt Seung Ji-hyun 21-12, 21-6; Chai Biao-Li Tian bt Shin Baek-cheol-Chung Eui-seok 21-18, 17-21, 21-13).
Third-place playoff: Singapore bt Malaysia 3-2 (Terry Yeo Zhao Jiang-Yao Lei lost to Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei 18-21, 20-22; Gu Juan bt Lydia Cheah 21-13, 21-16; Derek Wong Zi Liang bt Lim Fang Yang 19-21, 21-16, 21-9; Terry Yeo Zhao Jiang-Thng Boon Seong lost to Lim Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun 21-12, 21-10; Fu Mingtian-Yao Lei bt Ng Hui Lin-Goh Liu Ying 21-18, 21-14).
Final standings: 1. China, 2. South Korea, 3. Singapore, 4. Malaysia, 5. Japan, 6. Indonesia, 7. Thailand, 8. India, 9. England, 10. Scotland, 11. Bulgaria, 12. New Zealand, 13. Holland, 14. Hong Kong, 15. Turkey, 16. United States, 17. Russia, 18. Vietnam, 19. Australia, 20. Chech Republic, 21. Taiwan, 22. The Philippines, 23. South Africa, 24. Germany, 25. Puerto Rico.