Huge blow to Soniia

SHUTTLER Soniia Cheah’s dream of making her Olympic Games debut is under threat after she limped out of the women’s singles first-round match in the individual competition at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex.

The 26-year-old suffered a hamstring pull in the first game against Myanmar’s Thet Htar Thuzarer but her decision to carry on playing proved costly as it aggravated her lower back pain.

Soniia soldiered on to win the first game 21-18, but with limited movement due to the pain, she lost the next game 10-21.

She was trailing 5-12 in the decider before she finally threw in the towel and walked out of the court.

Soniia admitted she was taking a big gamble when she went into the match without full fitness having injured her left ankle during her match against Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the team event semi-finals on Monday.

“I wasn’t in my best condition as I sprained my ankle during the team event a few days back, ” said Soniia.

“I decided to play on for the country as SEA Games is equally important to me.

“Unfortunately, things got worst when I pulled a hamstring. It then aggravated the pain on my lower back.

“I couldn’t move well after that and it was painful, so I decided to retire from the match, ” added Soniia.

With the setback, Soniia failed to go one better than her runner-up finish to Goh Jin Wei in the Kuala Lumpur Games two years ago.

But now, Soniia’s participation the Olympic Games is a question mark. She has picked up the injury with less than five months to go before the qualification for the Tokyo Olympics ends on April 30.

Soniia can’t afford to be sidelined for too long as the Race to Tokyo is set to intensify when the World Tour resumes next January with the Malaysian Masters.

Soniia is currently ranked 32nd in the world but is positioned at the 18th spot in the Race to Tokyo rankings. She must move into the top 38 at the end of the qualification to make the cut.

Soniia has a history with injuries. In 2013, she was floored by an Achilles rupture that took her almost two years to recover.

If Soniia fails to make the cut, Malaysia can forget about having a representative in the women’s singles in Tokyo.

Earlier, Jin Wei had to forget about Tokyo Olympics after going under knife to fix her stomach ailment.With Soniia out, S. Kisona is left to carry the nation’s challenge in the SEA Games.

The debutant, however, survived a scare yesterday by beating home player Airah Mae Nicole Albo 18-21,21-10,21-15 to set up a quarter-final meeting with third seed Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia.

In the men’s singles, Lee Zii Jia made short work of Singapore’s Joel Koh with a 21-17,21-10 win but Soong Joo Ven failed to get through after being ousted by another Singaporean Loh Kean Yew 17-21,16-21.

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