At 28, Mohd Hafiz Hashim feels he still has something left in the tank to entertain medal hopes at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Since winning the All-England badminton title in 2003 at the age of 21, Hashim failed to remain at that level as his game tapered off, but the fire is very much in his eyes as he hopes to give it all one more shot.
Here for the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Grand Prix (Gold) tournament which began Wednesday, Hashim, seeded second behind India’s Chetan Anand, has his sights firmly set on the Olympics, although he will be a ripe 30 by then.
‘My target is the 2012 Olympics. I know I will be 30 then, but my experience will be an advantage and if I can maintain my fitness level, I can do well in London,’ said the 21st-ranked Hashim in a chat with IANS.
Leading the Malaysian challenge at the India Open, Hashim admitted that there were a lot of youngsters coming up through the ranks.
‘The game has changed a lot since I won the All-England. Many youngsters are emerging and I know that the competition is getting tougher. But I have been performing consistently although I might not be as fit and fast as I was in 2003,’ was his realistic assessment of where he stood in the international pecking order.
In fact, back in 2003, Hashim became the first Malaysian to win the All-England men’s singles title in 37 years. Compatriots Sidek brothers, Misbun and Rashid, besides Fook Kok Keong and Ong Ewe Hock were all finalists, but couldn’t counter the might of the Indonesians and the Chinese who produced a succession of champion players.
In the event, Hashim’s stunning success in Birmingham helped to resurrect Malaysian badminton that dominated in the 1950s and 1960s through the likes of Eddy Choong, Punch Gunalan, Wong Peng Soon and, of course, Tan Aik Huang, who won the All-England crown in 1966.
The Sidek brothers promised much, but Malaysian badminton went through a trough despite making the 1988 Thomas Cup final with a spectacular 3-2 win against Indonesia.
Hence, Hashim’s 2003 success was all the more significant and the very mention of it lit up his eyes. In some ways, he realises he is on the home stretch of his badminton career, but with only a little over two years left for the Olympics, he wants to give it his best shot.
‘The India Open will help me prepare for the Super Series events in Singapore and Indonesia, and hopefully, I will do well. Like I said, the Olympics is what I am eyeing at this moment,’ he said.
On his chances here, Hashim said: ‘I want to take one match at a time and not think too far ahead.’