PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei (pic) is the first shuttler to have confirmed a spot for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia next April.
The second men’s singles spot, however, is set to be a toss up between Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and Lee Zii Jia.
This was confirmed by Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria yesterday.
Malaysia can only send five men and five women for the badminton competitions at the Games.
Norza said Chong Wei had proven that he had not lost his touches and fighting spirit by winning the Hong Kong Open last Sunday.
It was his first Superseries title in eight months. It’s also his best result since suffering a first-round loss at the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in August.
“Chong Wei has justified his status as the best player in the country. He will represent Malaysia at the Commonwealth Games,” said Norza, who hopes that Chong Wei can wrest back the men’s singles gold medal.
The At the previous Games in Glasgow in 2014, the national men’s team failed to return home with any medals after Chong Wei Feng and Liew Daren crashed out in the quarter-finals.
India’s P. Kashyap won the gold.
Chong Wei has won it twice – at the 2006 Melbourne Games and 2010 New Delhi Games.
The other Malaysians winners were Mohd Hafiz Hashim (Manchester 2002), Wong Choong Hann (Kuala Lumpur 1998), Rashid Sidek (1994 Victoria and Auckland 1990), the late Datuk Punch Gunalan (1974 Christchurch) and Tan Aik Huang (Kingston 1966).
Norza said that national head coach Datuk Misbun Sidek would decide between the 26-year-old Iskandar and 19-year-old Zii Jia.
“I’m happy with the performances of our junior players – Zii Jia and Leong Jun Hao – this year. They have shown progress,” said Norza.
“But the spot for the Commonwealth Games has been narrowed down to the experienced Iskandar and youngster Zii Jia.
“Misbun will assess their performances this year and decide who will be the second singles player,” added Norza, who is also the BAM’s coaching and training chairman.
Both Iskandar and Zii Jia have won international tournaments this year.
Iskandar too had been struggling to find his form over the last few months but he did well to win the Celcom Axiata Malaysian International Challenge in Johor Baru this month.
Zii Jia has shown the biggest improvement.
The 2016 World Junior championships bronze medallist is now the national No. 2 behind Chong Wei.
In the world ranking, he has leapt from No. 240 to No. 44 within a year.
In October, he won his first senior title at the Polish International Series.
At the Bitburger Open in Germany this month, he defeated France’s Brice Leverdez (24) and China’s Qiao Bin (35th) to reach the semi-finals.