ID :
Sat, 08/16/2008 - 08:36


KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 (Bernama) -- In the history of Malaysian sports, this is our best chance to win our first ever Olympic Games gold medal.

And say what we like about all sports that our athletes are involved in, Malaysia, at least for many, many more years to come can hope to win an Olympic medal in only one sport - badminton.

Yes, our squash queen Nicol David is currently world No. 1 player but squash is not an Olympic sport and badminton is the only arena where Malaysiahas consistently been among the world's best.

I have been avidly following badminton for some 50 years now and with due respect to our top singles players who have graced the scene, Lee Chong Wei isarguably the best that the country has produced in these decades.

Ranked world No. 1 last year and now at No.2, Chong Wei has that rather rare talent among Malaysian shuttlers of being a thinking player -- one who doesn't dish out the same kind of badminton regardless of who his opponentis.

He varies his game according to who he's playing against and even if heloses, it's only after putting up a great fight.

Time and again we have seen some of our badminton players squandering theirchances of winning big tournaments by not giving their very best.

As recent as the Thomas Cup finals in Jakarta in May, we came so close to upsetting China to enter the final but again what we lacked was thatall-important "killer" instinct in the crucial moment.

Chong Wei has got that instinct which he again displayed by beating worldNo. 1 Lin Dan in the Malaysia-China semi-final encounter.

In sharp constrast, Malaysia's women No. 1 singles player Wong Mew Choo failed to capitalise on nine game points in the second game of her quarter-final match against Lu Lan to force the Chinese third seed to a rubber game in theBeijing Olympics on Wednesday.

Her comments after letting slip the chance to get into the medals playoff were just as pathetic: "It's disappointing but I am satisfied with my outing in Beijing. My objective was to reach the quarter-finals and I did it." It is time that our athletes, especially in badminton, our greatest sport, and where we are among the world's top playing nations, thought out of their"jaguh kampung" (village champion) box.

Chong Wei has indeed been thinking and playing out of the box and this iswhy he is on top of his game and world No.2.

And it is on his shoulders at the ongoing Beijing Olympics that the greatest glory in Malaysian sports history could be made -- by him winning ourfirst ever gold medal.

Chong Wei brought himself a giant step closer to this greatest of achievement by booking a semi-finals berth, beating Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoroon Wednesday.

China's chief badminton coach Li Yong Bo, has said that Chong Wei is the only singles player who could dash his country's hopes of winning the Olympicgold medal.

Chong Wei's credentials to do so are virtually impeccable if he is at hisbest on match day.

"Every athlete dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal. I'm no exception but it will be very difficult to predict the winner in Beijing. There are so many factors to take into account," Chong Wei said at the Singapore Open in Junewhere he emerged champion.

"Like your form, your preparation and how you deal with the situation athand on match day," he said.

What sets Chong Wei apart from many other Malaysian players past andpresent is the deft and depth of his badminton.

And the confidence that he exudes on court is quite awesome to watch.

Now, being Malaysia's sole badminton survivor in Beijing, Chong Wei knows the stakes are exceptionally high but he must at the same time not let the pressure get inthe way of his concentration.

"I know my teammates are counting on me to deliver the goods, and at the same time I also know there's high expectation from Malaysians back hope," hesaid in Beijing.

Chong Wei, the second seed behind Lin Dan, is scheduled to face Lee Hyun-il of South Korea in the semifinals Friday night, a match which the entire nationwill be watching with batted breath.

He was reported to have taken a rest Thursday to watch on television the quarter-final match between Hyun-il and China's Bao Chunlai instead of coming tothe stadium.

There's another huge incentive awaiting Chong Wei -- he gets to becomeMalaysia's first instant sports millionaire if he wins that gold medal.

This is what the government is offering for that very elusive first gold,with RM300,000 for silver and RM100,000 for bronze.

"Maybe it's too tough for me but I'll try," said Chong Wei of possiblyreaching the final where, barring a major upset, he would meet Lin Dan.

For Chong Wei, he must treat this mission and the hopes of the nation as inthe title of one song by Elvis Presley: "It's Now or Never".