Lee needs good sparring partners

MEN’S singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia has expressed his concern over the lack of good sparring partners – a week after the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) dropped his teammate Soong Joo Ven.

The 24-year-old Joo Ven’s six-year stint with the national team will officially end on Jan 31.

The former boys’ singles Under-18 champion was dropped by the BAM as they did not find him suitable for their Project ‘24, aimed at winning gold at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games and reaching the final of the 2022 Thomas Cup Finals.

Without Joo Ven, the depleted men’s singles department are now left with just six members including 22-year-old Cheam June Wei, 20-year-old Leong Jun Hao and the 19-year-old trio Ng Tze Yong, Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin and Lim Chong King.

Of the six, June Wei is the only player who looks capable of matching Zii Jia’s level of play.

“It’s hard to believe that at just 22, I’ve become the second oldest player to June Wei in the team, ” said Zii Jia.

“With Joo Ven leaving the team, the team are now made up of mostly juniors, and they are my only sparring options now.

“I plan to speak to the coaches and see if it’s possible to request for sparring partners (outside of the national team).”

Joo Ven’s departure marks the end of the men’s singles batch that was roped in for the national team in between 2014 and 2015.

Asian junior champion Soo Teck Zhi, two-time national champion Lim Chi Wing and Chong Yee Han were the other players who have failed to make it big despite having the privilege of sparring against former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei previously.

Meanwhile, buoyed by his semi-final outing at the just-concluded Malaysian Masters, Zii Jia is hoping to carry the fine momentum into the Indonesian Masters starting tomorrow in Jakarta.

“Hopefully, I’ll recover soon enough to be ready for the next challenge, ” said Zii Jia.

“Most players travel from here to Indonesia after a tiring week, so those with the best condition will have the upper hand.

“Making the Malaysian Masters semis is definitely a decent result. I’ve defeated a couple of top players and improved on my quarter-final outing last year. I definitely want to build on this good start.”

But a tricky path awaits Zii Jia in Indonesia.

Zii Jia should get past Sittikom Thammasin of Thailand to set up a last-16 meeting against Olympic champion Chen Long of China.

Should he upset the Chinese star, Zii Jia could then cross paths with Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting in the last eight before a possible rematch against world No. 1 Kento Momota in the last four.

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