Malaysia’s top badminton shuttlers are all likely to be back “at home” after Hari Raya. And, obviously, they are all smiles about it.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have announced that they will invite the independent shuttlers who are “most likely to qualify” for next year’s Tokyo Olympics to join the national team in training twice a week, starting from July 15.
They can even train at the Academy Badminton Malaysia on a full-time basis once they secure their qualification.
The mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, for one, are thrilled at coming “home”. They had been part of the national set-up until December 2018.
Peng Soon-Liu Ying, the Rio Olympics silver medallists, are the only independent players provisionally qualified under the stalled qualifying process.
They are currently the highest-placed Malaysians in seventh spot in the Race to Tokyo’s mixed doubles rankings, ahead of 11th-ranked Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie and 13th-ranked Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing.
A country can qualify two pairs if both are ranked in the top eight.
Peng Soon is thrilled about the prospects returning to ABM after more than a year-and-a-half.
“Yes, it’s like going back home again, ” he said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to train with the national team, although it’s just twice a week.
“The quality sparring we get will boost our Olympics preparations tremendously.
“It will benefit both parties surely. The sparring will help Soon Huat-Shevon and Kian Meng-Pei Jing as well, hence it’s a win-win situation.”
Liu Ying was looking forward to training mixed doubles matches with her former teammates.
Since leaving the national team, Liu Ying did not have the luxury of proper mixed doubles sparring sessions.
“For now, Peng Soon and I only get to spar with our men’s doubles training mates (Goh) V Shem-(Tan) Wee Kiong and (Ong) Yew Sin-(Teo) Ee Yi, ” said Liu Ying.
“But the playing style and approach are different. It helps to spar with a top women’s player.
“Apart from sparring, training at ABM will also give us an edge as the centre has good facilities.”
BAM secretary Datuk Kenny Goh said that although the independent players will be invited for sparring purposes for now, he was not ruling out on opening up further access, including support services in the future.
“At the moment, it will be just sparring but we will work out more details as we go along, ” he said.