KUALA LUMPUR: Chen Long’s victory over world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei at the Japan Open has marked him out as the shuttler to beat at next year’s Olympic Games in London.
On Sunday, the 22-year-old Chinese shuttler showed incredible determination to beat Malaysian Chong Wei 21-8, 10-21, 21-19 in one hour and 13 minutes to boost his confidence ahead of the Olympics.
With the win over Chong Wei, who has been in dominant form this year, Chen Long has beaten all the top players in the world in his third year as a senior shuttler.
The 2007 world junior champion did beat Chong Wei in the 2009 India Open but then the Malaysian was in questionable form following a bout of food poisoning.
The win in Japan was the sixth for Chen Long. He won the 2009 Philippines and German Open and the 2010 China Masters singles titles. This year he bagged the Thailand Open and China Masters and his win in Japan came at the right time as his senior Bao Chunlai had announced his retirement at the China Masters last week.
China can now look to Chen Long for more honours and can be rest assured that there is a player to take over the mantle from Lin Dan when the latter quits.
National coach Tey Seu Bock admitted that Chen Long had come a long way to be recognised as a new threat and acknowledged the fact that a win against a big star like Chong Wei could turn a player’s career around.
“We have to face it that Chen Long has earned respect. He will be a threat,” said Seu Bock.
“Chong Wei will have to just work harder to stay above all the growing challenges from other younger players. My only consolation is that the defeat will make Chong Wei more positive. I am confident that he will not let it affect him and in fact, he will bounce back as a stronger player as his focus is on the Olympics.”
However, one cannot ignore the fact that Lin Dan’s walkover to Chen Long in the semi-finals made the latter fresher for the final.
For Chen Long, a good day’s rest and great encouragement from the coaching staff and the belief that they had in him – especially after his shocking first round defeat to Kevin Cordon of Guatemala at the August world championships in Wembley – are some of the factors that led to his success.
The lanky Chen Long comes from the same batch as Kenichi Tago of Japan and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif of Malaysia and his win proved that China are way ahead as far as having a good succession plan is concerned.
The player from Fujian defeated Kenichi to win the 2007 world junior title and also knocked out Arif in the final of the Asian Junior meet in 2007.
Both Kenichi and Arif have not won any major titles since they began their chase for honours although the Japanese is doing much better.
Arif will be taking part in the Indonesia Open Grand Prix Gold, which will begin on Wednesday inEast Kalimantan and hopes are high that the Malaysian will make heads turn.
Until Arif and all the other back-up shuttlers, including the more senior ones like Liew Daren, Chan Kwong Beng and Chong Wei Feng, show more urgency and display the same determination as Chen Long, Malaysia will have no choice but to continue with their reliance on Chong Wei.
And this is something that the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) need to look into and not just accept that it is mere fate that there are no new talents emerging.