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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tournament Analysis –Beijing 2008 (Part 1)

Can Malaysia end its Gold-less drought in the Olympics? Can Indonesia convert their two World Champions into Gold Medals? Will China dominate?

Part 1 – Malaysia
The gold-less tiger

Malaysia’s recent triumph in Macau may be signs of greater and higher achievements to come. Can Malaysia convert its strong showing in Macau into the European Tour, and then subsequently into the all important Olympics? Strong medal contenders are Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong and Lee Chong Wei, with possible medalist being old hands Wong Choong Hann and Choong Tan Fook/ Lee Wan Wah.

Koo and Tan appear to be peaking right at the moment. Defeating renowned Korean pair Lee/Jung and reigning World Champions Kido and Setiawan enroute to their finals triumph over seniors Choong and Lee, they appear to have regained some semblance of the form that got them the All England title. While one would like to wait for further results from the European circuit before making any more claims, it seems that Koo and Tan are riding on a confidence high. However, the game of badminton is such that… anything could happen. Koo and Tan have not exactly been the most consistent pair in the badminton world, being beaten by a relatively unknown Japanese team in the World Championships that left many heartbroken. Everyone has to remember that the Olympics are just one tournament, and one upset, just one upset against Koo and Tan… and then Malaysia will have to wait for another 4 years. Can Koo and Tan handle such pressure?

Lee Chong Wei appears to have a blind spot for Indonesian players. Defeated by Simon and Sony in the Taipei Open and World Championships, he however, is a strong medal contender. Main rivals include Taufik Hidayat and Lin Dan, who are gunning for their second and first Olympic Golds respectively. While Lee is a great player, many would still doubt his ability to perform on the centre stage, evident in his Quarter Finals defeat by Bao Chunlai, who he has never lost before prior to that event in the 2006 World Championships where he was seeded first. Lee has to learn how to overcome Indonesians Simon and Sony, who are both as deceptive and fast as Taufik himself, and are proving to be Lee’s Achilles Heel. Will Lee falter and break Malaysia’s hearts once again?

Former World Championships Silver Medalist Wong Choong Hann could be a medalist in Beijing. While one would not make such bold claims when Choong Hann’s place in the Olympics is not even secured yet, it must be mentioned that he has shown remarkable improvement in recent tournaments, culminating in the thrilling 3 set victory over then world number 3 Bao Chunlai. Will the great master Wong bring home something for the first time, in what may be his last Olympics?

Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah is what I call, a special case. They face no problems in defeating higher ranked players, yet get swept away by lesser players. Choong and Lee have to learn how to control this if they want to improve on their 4th place ranking in Sydney. Narrowly losing the Macau Open title to young guns Koo and Tan, can they strike gold, silver or bronze in possibly their last Olympics?

Can Malaysia strike gold this time?

Stayed tuned for part 2 on Indonesia’s medal chances!

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