A new generation of Malaysian badminton champions has emerged

Lee Zii Jia celebrates winning All England Open Badminton Championship men’s singles final against Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham, England on March 21, 2021. Photo: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: The Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) efforts of taking a bold step to provide opportunities for young talents, started to bear fruits as a new generation of champions has started to emerge.

This was proven when men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia astounded world number one Kento Momota and defending champion Viktor Axelsen for the All England crown, two weeks after Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah bagged the Swiss Open title.

BAM president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria, who is delighted with Zii Jia’s achievement, expressed hope to see the world’s number 10 continue to work harder and maintain consistency in his performance.

“I’m happy that BAM’s plans in giving opportunities to younger players are starting to show good results. Zii Jia has made all Malaysians proud by still keeping the tradition for Malaysian men’s singles player to win the All England title (after the last won by Datuk Lee Chong Wei in 2017).

“We (BAM) are very happy and proud of his well-deserved triumph. This achievement has undoubtedly brought delight to all Malaysians. My advice to him is to always stay humble and grounded. It is a marathon, not a sprint,” Mohamad Norza told Bernama.

In the finals against Axelsen at the Utilita Arena Birmingham, Zii Jia who will be turning 23 next Monday, showcased a scintillating performance en route to clinching his maiden All England title with a pulsating 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 win.

After losing in the semi-finals to the Dane during his debut last year, Zii Jia was seen to be very determined to bring back the title, after ousting the tournament’s favourite and Japan’s Olympics hopeful Momota 21-16, 21-19.

With Japan dominating 2021 All England with seven of its players being the 10 finalists, it was indeed a blow for Momota to miss the title as the titles for women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles events were all won by his compatriots.

Meanwhile, Mohamad Norza said BAM is planning to give a hero’s welcome to Zii Jia and the national squad that will be returning on Tuesday, after spending over three weeks in Europe for the Swiss Open and All England tournaments.

“BAM is arranging something but we need to look at strict SOPs (standard operating procedures) at the airport,” he said indecisively.

Mohamad Norza also confirmed that the national badminton governing body will be looking into providing special incentives for Zii Jia, Pearly and Thinaah to honour their achievements. – Bernama