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Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia in action during the match against Chen Long of China at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, Tokyo, Japan, July 29, 2021. — Reuters pic
Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia in action during the match against Chen Long of China at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, Tokyo, Japan, July 29, 2021. — Reuters pic

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TOKYO, July 30 — National badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei believes that men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia’s quest for Olympic glory is not over, just “delayed” following the latter’s defeat at the hands of China’s Chen Long in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Games.

The three-time Olympic silver medallist is also of the opinion that in terms of power, speed and technique, Zii Jia was way better than Chen Long during their clash on Thursday (July 29).

“However, nervousness during crucial moments may be the reason why the reigning All England champion lost 21-8, 19-21, 5-21 to 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Chen Long.

“Lee Zii Jia, don’t be too disappointed. It was a really good performance. The whole of Malaysia knows you tried your very best. I am proud of you. Malaysians are proud of you.

“Armed with experience, Chen Long’s a tough nut to crack for you. Chen Long’s not the defending champion for nothing. He may look innocent but he’s very intelligent in working out his opponent’s tactics.

“It’s his first Olympics, who won’t be nervous? My first time in the Olympics (2004 Athens) wasn’t smooth sailing either. What’s important is to keep your chin up and move forward. The next Olympics is just three years away. Your victory isn’t over, just ‘delayed’,” he posted on his Facebook page.

Chong Wei was denied the Olympic gold medal three times by two China shuttlers — twice by his nemesis Lin Dan in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London editions as well as by Chen Long in 2016 Rio.

The former world number one, who is also the Malaysian chef de mission for the Tokyo Olympics, also jokingly suggested that perhaps Zii Jia should find a place to train in Melaka.

“Heard that training there will bring you the Olympic gold,” he said, in reference to weightlifting sensation Hidilyn Diaz, who bagged the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal a few days ago after training in Melaka for the past year.

Meanwhile, former national doubles ace Koo Kien Keat, through his social media posting, also encouraged Zii Jia to continue to shine at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Lee Zii Jia is only 23-years-old, (there is a) long journey for him in his badminton career. This defeat is just the beginning. Playing against Chen Long will never be an easy game, that’s the reason why Chen Long is the only defending champion in this Tokyo Olympics.

“Lot’s [sic] of improvement can be seen in Zii Jia’s game, physical and power, just lacking major tournament experience. Kudos to Lee Zii Jia for the overall performance, and coach Hendrawan too,” said Kien Keat, who once forged a formidable doubles partnership with Tan Boon Heong. — Bernama

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