PETALING JAYA: Last October, Thailand’s most decorated shuttler – Boonsak Ponsana – suffered a right ankle injury and decided to undergo surgery.
He dropped out of the game for three months and, as a result, saw his world ranking slip to a lowly 32nd at one point – and was staring at the possibility of missing out on the Olympics for the first time in his career since making his debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.
The 30-year-old Boonsak, whose best Olympic performance was a fourth placing in Athens 2004, returned to action early this year but was clearly off form as he suffered early exits in the Korean Open, Malaysian Open, Swiss Open and the All-England.
But Boonsak gradually regained his form and confidence and the former world No. 4 proved that he’s finally back at his best by winning the Singapore Open last month – his fourth title at the Lion City.
Currently ranked 23rd in the world, Boonsak’s success in Singapore has placed him among the outsiders with a shot at this year’s London Olympics.
His fairytale comeback could also serve as an inspiration for world No. 2 Lee Chong Wei, who is also making a return from an unfortunate ankle injury in the Thomas Cup Finals in May.
“It’s fantastic to see Boonsak back on his feet and winning titles.
“That should give Chong Wei some motivation to do well too,” said national singles coach Rashid Sidek in a telephone interview from Bath.
“Physically, Chong Wei’s back to normal ... we’re just polishing up his attacking and finishing instincts.
“But what is important is that he remains consistent and effective throughout the tournament.”
Rashid also feels that although Chong Wei and world No. 1 Lin Dan are the favourites to duke it out in the final, “the Olympics will be an incredibly open tournament and any player can make the final on a good day”.
“Right now, besides Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Chen Long, the other top players will be those from Japan and Indonesia,” said Rashid.
“Then, there is also Peter-Gade Christensen, who has never won an Olympic medal ... we can’t discount him from springing a surprise.”
The former Olympic bronze medallist’s sentiments were echoed by BA of Malaysia (BAM) high performance director Datuk James Selvaraj, who expects the competition to be a “psychological warfront”.
“Our players are training hard but so are their opponents. And, right now, there is no saying who will even be in the final,” said James.
“This can be anybody’s game and we have to study our opponents closely.
“Who knows, maybe (Kenichi) Tago or (Sho) Sasaki might even prove to be spoilers in the tournament.”