By Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran (Executive Chairman, QI Group)
Malaysians of all races certainly take pride in the emergence of Lee Zii Jia as the nation’s newest badminton prodigy after the 22 year old stunned the badminton world by emerging as the All England champion – badminton’s 5-star rated championship.
His incredible run to the most prestigious badminton title was awe-inspiring as he scalped past two of the world’s top ranked shuttlers—world No. 1 Kento Momota in the quarter finals and followed with the final victory over defending champion, Denmark’s world No. 2 Viktor Axelsen, with scores of 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 in one hour 14 minutes.
At a time when the nation is still facing various challenges due to the global pandemic, Zii Jia’s energetic win has certainly given hope that badminton will continue to bring honour to the nation and the people closer – a tradition that began in the 1960s which was followed by the emergence of the Sidek brothers and many others including the legendary Lee Chong Wei who was the last Malaysian winner at the All England in 2017.
We can now brim with confidence that the country has found someone who can finally win the country a first Olympic gold. Zii Jia has proven himself worthy of being the successor to his senior, Chong Wei, the last Malaysian to win the All England title as well as a three-time Olympic silver medalist and one of the greatest players of his generation until his retirement last year.
What excites me, as a Malaysian is that badminton has always been a true Malaysian sport where champions of all races have brought honours and glory to the nation. We had Wong Peng Soon, Punch Gunalan, Saw Swee Leong, James Selvaraj and of course the much famed Sidek brothers – Misbun, Razif Jalani, Rashid and Rahman – all having excelled in various tournaments including the Thomas Cup and the Olympics.
We are also witnessing the rise of some junior women players in the likes of 2019 SEA Games singles champion Kisona Selvaduray and the doubles pair of Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah who were crowned Swiss Open champions recently. We have young talents who can be nurtured into future world champions with the right coaching.
What makes a champion? Perhaps most success takes years of practice, perseverance and hard work, plus some luck. However, having faith in local talent, giving them access to adequate facilities, good coaching, and proper nutrition are key factors in enabling aspiring young athletes to realize their full potential. With Zii Jia’s latest achievement of becoming the All England champion, he has made us one and all…proud to be Malaysian!