THE All-England Badminton Championship – the world’s oldest and most prestigious badminton tournament – will take place in Birmingham, England on March 6-11.
Started in 1898 the championship has a rich history of 114 years and in this 2012 edition, Malaysian World No. 1 and proud eight-time winner of the Malaysian Open Datuk Lee Chong Wei (pic) bids to be the first Malaysian shuttler to win the All-England crown a consecutive three times since our last badminton great the late Wong Peng Soon’s proud record of clinching the titles in 1950-52.
Chong Wei first won the All-England in 2010, defeating Japan’s Kenichi Tago 21-19, 21-19. He managed to defend the crown against the much fancied Lin Dan of China the following year, winning 21-17, 21-17.
Only a few players had come close to achieving the hattrick in their All-England careers.
They are Lin Dan (2006-07), Dane Paul Erik Hoyer Larsen (1995-96), Heryanto Arbi of Indonesia (1993-94), Morten Frost of Denmark (1986-87), Liem Swee King, Indonesia (1978-79) and our Datuk Eddy Choong (1953-54 and 1956-57).
In its 114 years of existence two players stood head and shoulders above the rest – the great Dane Erland Kops, who won in 1958, 1960-63, 1965 and 1967 for a record seven titles, and the incomparable Rudy Hartono of Indonesia.
The Indonesian ace won the title eight times, including seven times in a row from 1968 to 1974, and being champion again in 1976.
Seeded top Chong Wei, Malaysia’s best shuttler and our greatest hope, stands a very bright chance of capturing his third All-England crown considering his brilliant back-to back victories in the just concluded Korean and Malaysian Opens early this year and winning all his matches in the Macau qualifier to help the nation clinch a spot for the Thomas Cup finals in Wuhan, China, in May.
This is certainly our hero’s best chance of making history for himself, and Chong Wei mustn’t simply let it slip and live to regret it later.
The coming All-England will also serve as a good yardstick to gauge the level and ability of our top men’s doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.
Although, they did play a sterling role in the recent Macau qualifier in the Thomas Cup campaign, it is still too early to tell how they will perform in England, especially against the Koreans and Chinese. And lately the Japanese can’t be taken lightly, too.
Koo-Tan must not rest on their laurels and must be in the best condition physically and mentally, and most of all improve their match temperament and communication.
In today’s badminton, one is easily punished in the 21 points best of three sets formula.
The Koreans and Chinese are masters of the game and are supremely fit, fast, powerful, decisive, skilful, intelligent and brave.
To counter them our pair must always be in tip-top condition and possess a positive mindset and the right attitude. They must develop the hunger to win and not give up easily when the chips are down.
Koo and Tan first won the All-England in 2007 by beating hot favourites Cai Yun-Fu Hai Feng of China 21-15, 21-18. They finished as runners-up last year behind Danes Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, who bested them 15-21, 21-18, 21-18 in a keenly contested match.
And if they can put petty things aside and give their all in the coming All-England, play with more purpose and direction and put more effort in their finishing, they will be the pair to beat and take their place in the world once again.
Being a premier tournament, this year’s meet has attracted the world’s top players, and it is important our shuttlers perform well and realise their potential as victories in the All-England will further boost their confidence and spirits for the August London Olympic Games.