NAYPYITAW: It was a day of contrasting fortunes for Malaysia’s five SEA Games debutants at the badminton competition in the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium C on Thursday.
There was heartbreak for Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and Yang Li Lian in the singles department when the duo limped out in the quarter-finals but three from the doubles department – Tan Aik Quan, Ow Yao Han and Teo Kok Siang – were jumping for joy after reaching the semi-finals with their respective partners to assure at least a bronze medal each.
The 22-year-old Iskandar was the most dejected after giving in to nerves in his 10-21, 15-21 defeat to Wisnu Yuli Prasetyo of Indonesia in 38 minutes.
With his meek defeat, Malaysia’s challenge ended in the men’s singles event to mark another huge flop for Malaysian singles at the SEA Games.
Iskandar’s more illustrious team-mate Chong Wei Feng crashed out in the opening round.
“I cannot express how frustrated I am right now. I had a good chance but I blew it. I was so tense in the opening game,” admitted Iskandar.
“My standard is not far from Wisnu’s. I tried to catch up but I became so emotional in the second game when all my smashes were going straight to the net.
“One thing is for sure, I will go back home with a wealth of experience. It is not easy to play when the weight of expectations is on me. I am down but not out … I will be back stronger at the next Games,” he said.
In the women’s singles, Li Lian’s late comeback ended in vain when she went down 16-21, 15-21 against Indonesia’s Bellaetrix Manuputty.
“I wanted so much to give Malaysia’s women singles a boost but I have let down myself, my coach and my nation,” she lamented.
“I was a bundle of nerves in the opening game but fortunately, I did find my rhythm in the second but by then, it was a gap too big to catch up,” said Li Lian, who has vowed to learn from her miserable experience.
In the mixed doubles, Aik Quan did well combining with Lai Pei Jing to beat Dao Tang Manh-Pham Nhu Thao of Vietnam 21-14, 21-16 but their biggest challenge will be Thailand’s Maneepong Jongjit-Sapsiree Taerattanachai.
The Thais played superbly to upset second seeds Riky Widianto-Dili Richi Puspita of Indonesia 19-21, 24-22, 21-17 in a thrilling 69-minute match.
“A bronze medal is in the bag for me in my first SEA Games but I want more. Pei Jing and I will go all out to make the final,” added Aik Quan.
It was great to see both Goh V Shem-Kok Siang and Lim Khim Wah-Yao Han giving their all to make the men’s doubles semi-finals although their partnerships will end after the SEA Games.
On Friday, Indonesian pairs are the only thing in the Malaysians’ path to double glory.
V Shem-Kok Siang will take on top seeds Rian Agung Saputra-Angga Pratama while Khim Wah-Yao Han have set up a meeting with Berry Angriawan-Suwardi Karanda.
Malaysia are also assured one bronze medal in the women’s doubles through Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo.
The duo will take on second seeds Shinta Mulia Sari-Yao Lei of Singapore and have a fighting chance to make the final.