NATIONAL men shuttlers do not have to look far for inspiration to end their 14-year wait for team gold – they just have to look at Wong Choong Hann (pic).
Former national No. 1 Choong Hann was in the team when Malaysia last won a team badminton gold – ironically at the 2005 Manila SEA Games.
And Choong Hann, currently the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) coaching director, has called for a repeat of Manila 2005 ahead of the men’s team final against defending champions Indonesia at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex today.
“The odds are against us but my message to the players for tomorrow’s final is to go out there and assume the responsibility head-on,” said Choong Hann.
The 42-year-old Choong Hann said they were in a similar situation in 2005 but supported one another to defy the odds.
Choong Hann, playing in the third singles and final match of the tie, emerged as the hero when he powered past Simon Santoso to seal Malaysia a famous 3-2 win against Indonesia in the final likened to the Thomas Cup.
Earlier, Lee Chong Wei and Chan Chong Ming-Koo Kien Keat had lost the opening singles and doubles matches before Hafiz Hashim and Chong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah levelled the score at -2-2.
In fact, Choong Hann also showed his prowess in the team event when he steered Malaysia to a 3-2 win over Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur 2001, beating Rony Agustinus in the deciding third singles.
“We were not given the chance to win in 2001 and 2005, but we did by pooling all our individual strengths into the team and threw everything we had,” said Choong Hann.
“We outdid ourselves and were fearless. If we have the same enthusiasm, we can achieve anything. I hope our team will outdo themselves to achieve the team glory.”Even without the world top two men’s doubles pairs – Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo-Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan, Indonesia are still too strong for the full-strength Malaysian side.
Malaysia will be relying heavily on Lee Zii Jia and the two doubles pairs Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi to earn the three crucial points.
Choong Hann admitted that Zii Jia’s first point will be the key determining factor to whether Malaysia could spring a surprise against the Indonesians.
“Zii Jia will take on world No. 6 Jonatan Christie but the odds are heavily stacked against him because he has never beaten the Asian Games gold medallist in all his previous encounters,” said Choong Hann.
“In terms of ability, Jonatan is definitely a stronger player on paper, but we’re looking for a chance to upset.”
Aaron-Wooi Yik are relishing their first major first doubles role and hope to play their part when they go up against world No. 5 Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto.
But they will be oozing with confidence having kept a 100% record in three matches against their rivals to date.
“We’re aware of the importance of the two doubles points and we will try not to let the team down,” said Wooi Yik.
“This will be our first time playing as the first doubles in such an important match. We’ll do our part.”
Meanwhile, Thailand flexed their muscle to beat Indonesia 3-1 to claim their third straight women’s team title yesterday thanks to wins from Ratchanok Intanon, Busanan Ongbamrungphan and Chayanit Chaladchalam-Phataimas Muenwong