KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Not many would have placed much faith in Malaysia’s young badminton squad.
But, they proved the naysayers wrong when they did the unthinkable in the just concluded Sudirman Cup in Vantaa, Finland.
When the Badminton Association of Malaysia set the quarterfinals target for them, some fans were sceptical that the squad would go beyond the last eight.
However, the “underdogs” delivered an exceptional performance to keep the critics off by keeping other young bloods at bay in Finland.
One thing that the fans may have noticed throughout the mixed team championship, led by national singles ace, Lee Zii Jia, was how the squad oozed great team spirit to reach the last four.
Ergo, former world number one, Datuk Lee Chong Wei urged the young squad to keep the fighting spirit in Finland alive and carry it into the Thomas and Uber Cup finals in Aarhus, Denmark, from October 9-17.
Chong Wei pointed out that the fine run that they achieved in the Sudirman Cup will definitely motivate them to get cracking in the Denmark outing starting this Saturday.
“I believe they will get better and stronger, all they must do is keep the ‘never say die’ spirit into Thomas and Uber Cup finals,” he told Bernama when contacted today.
The 38-year-old badminton legend, who led Malaysia to check into the Sudirman Cup semi-finals in Guangzhou, China 12 years ago, was satisfied to see the way team captain Zii Jia steered his teammates en route to repeat the 2009 success.
The three time Olympic silver medallist also hoped that the exceptional achievement in Finland would come good for the backup players to learn how to handle pressure in the competitive stage.
In the meantime, the Penangite wished to see the achievement in Finland inspire young children to emulate their “brothers and sisters” feat of not holding back easily as portrayed in the court at the Energia Areena in Vantaa.
Malaysia went against all odds, beating arch-rivals Indonesia in an epic 3-2 win last Friday, before losing 1-3 to Japan in the semi-finals on Saturday, their second defeat against the team from the Land of the Rising Sun in Finland.
The national squad began their campaign in Group D by recording a narrow 3-2 victory against England followed by a 5-0 thumping of Egypt by their second string shuttlers before they went down 1-4 to Japan to finish second in the group, and thus secured a last eight spot. — Bernama