At the risk of sounding like a prophet of doom, badminton will not bring Malaysia’s first gold in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Not, when there is more to the dismal performances than actually meets the eye.
For one, the so-called vacation in Taiwan and Hong Kong by five of the country’s hopefuls, who returned just a few days before the recently-concluded Malaysian Open, seems to fling the door wide open for conjecture.
Three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei had, a few days ago, kicked that proverbial door wide open when he attributed the dismal performances to the vacation taken by some players during Christmas, especially when the Malaysian Open began on Jan 9.
One doesn’t have to be a badminton wizard like Chong Wei, to deduce that a Super 1000 Series tournament like the Malaysian Open which attracts the world’s best players, requires superhuman sacrifices to attain superhuman abilities to be on top of your game. What more when the ultimate target is gold in Paris, in June.
Having established that, don’t you think the Dissident Five would have also been aware that their vacation, so close to the Open, would be detrimental to their performances?
So, what was this magnetic pull then to Taiwan and Hong Kong that seemed more enticing or compulsive than the dire need to stay on course for the nation’s wishes of a good showing in the Malaysian Open, and the elusive dream of the first Olympic gold?
As four of this Dissident Five are still under the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) umbrella, was national coaching director Rexy Mainaky aware of this vacation? Didn’t he have a training programme for these four players that wouldn’t have included a Christmas vacation?
Perhaps Rexy, being a foreigner and needing to keep his job, has learnt to play ball, too.
We already know of BAM’s stand on the humiliation at the Malaysian Open, with its president Norza Zakaria imploring fans and Malaysians to give his players a chance.
True, Norza and BAM need to stand behind their players, but they will do a lot better if they can get to the bottom of this ill-timed vacation. It is incumbent upon them to.
For, like they say, the devil is in the details. And BAM’s standard practice of sticking their heads into the sand in matters like this, will only further compound the questionable activities that happen above the ground, leaving Malaysian badminton at the mercy of dissident players.
As much as BAM may not want to admit it, Malaysian badminton is in a mess. Norza who did the right thing when he announced a few months ago that he would resign at the end of December, made the grave mistake of making a U-turn at the behest of youth and sports minister Hannah Yeoh.
Perhaps Hannah and Norza are part of the “Mutual Admiration Club”, but the fact remains that neither the presence of Norza nor Hannah in the Road To Gold Committee is going to make any difference to the fortunes of badminton as a rich source of that elusive Olympic gold.
Truly, there is none so blind as those who will not see, to borrow a line from the song Everything is Beautiful by Ray Stevens. And one has to be blind not to see that something is grimly amiss in the national badminton ranks.
It would appear, even to a cataract-laced eye, that the dissident players are thumbing their noses at authority. Player Power, in its many forms, has always been a formidable foe to honest performances.
Speaking of honest performers, my heart goes out to top women’s pair Pearly Tan and M Thinaah, who are like an old married couple who have lost their spark and are struggling in vain to keep a loveless marriage relevant and on its feet.
You do not have to be a badminton wizard to tell that this pair has already reached its peak, and cannot go any further than their best achievement of finishing runners-up in the Malaysian Masters last May.
It is perhaps time to rejuvenate these two players, by breaking them up and giving them new partners – fringe players who are hungry to break into the mainstream of international badminton. It will be a win-win solution for a partnership that has become stale.
This pair certainly needs some re-inventing, but just not with each other.
Until the authorities find the courage to make bold moves, let’s just hope that they won’t step onto court with their eyes wide shut.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.