NAYPYITAW: Malaysia's back-up shuttlers face the litmus test in must-win matches on Thursday to save face in the quarter-finals of the badminton competition of the SEA Games.
For once, all countries in South-East Asia have sent a relatively younger group of players for the Games because some of their top stars are competing in the ongoing BWF World Super Series Finals in Kuala Lumpur.
For national singles coach Rashid Sidek, this year’s SEA Games is truly a chance to showcase the country’s future stars.
He said that it would be a true test for most of them and a reflection of the respective countries’ depth in talents starting from Thursday’s quarter-final stage.
“In some cases, it is a straightforward battle among the back-up shuttlers. We will be able to measure whether Indonesia, Thailand or Malaysia are leading the way as far as their future in badminton is concerned,” said Rashid.
After the shocking defeat of Chong Wei Feng in the opening round, the hope is now on 19-year-old Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin to salvage some pride.
He will take on Wisnu Yuli Prasetyo of Indonesia on Thursday but the favourites for the gold medal are the two top seeds – World Championships bronze medallist Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam and Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand.
Rashid is optimistic that Malaysia will be able to battle for the gold medal in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events through strong performances by Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo and Tan Aik Quan-Lai Pei Jing respectively.
On Thursday, Khe Wei-Vivian should beat Htoo Htoo Ya-Hlaing Mon Kyu of Myanmar to set up a match against former Singapore Open champions Shinta Mulia Sari-Yao Lei from the island republic.
Aik Quan-Pei Jing also have an easy ride into the quarter-finals against Vietnam’s Dao Manh Thang-Pham Thao Nhu but second seeds Riky Widianto-Dili Richi Puspita of Indonesia can spoil their party.
Lim Yin Loo will be in action in two quarter-finals - with Lee Meng Yean in the women’s doubles and with Ong Jian Guo in the mixed doubles.
In the men’s doubles, Lim Khim Wah-Ow Yao Han have an easy match against Bao Minh-Nguyen H. Khang but Goh V Shem-Teo Kok Siang have a tricky match against Thailand’s second seeds Maneepong Jongjit-Nipitphon Puangpuapech.