PETALING JAYA: All three Olympic medals for Malaysia have come from the men’s badminton players, but if the draw provides any indication there is hope of woman shuttler Wong Mew Choo breaking the trend in Beijing next month.
While the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s one-medal target remains despite the relatively tough draw facing the men shuttlers, head coach Yap Kim Hock is not discounting the chances of Mew Choo springing a surprise at the Games.
“I have studied the draw and it is good that the on-form Danish player Tine Rasmussen (pic) is in the top half of the draw and it will give Mew Choo a shot at going into the medal rounds.
“Bulgarian (Petya Pedelcheva), who is ranked in the top 20 now, should be her first test in the third round but Mew Choo should be able to overcome her.
“Although Mew Choo will likely be up against Chinese opponents from the quarter-finals onwards, she has beaten them before in previous meetings. Being the underdog, anything can happen especially when the Chinese players are under pressure to win on home soil.
“Mew Choo has been coping well under Misbun Sidek’s training programme and it all depends on how she holds her game,” said Kim Hock.
If Mew Choo lives up to her billing as the eighth seed in her debut Olympic outing, she will likely face world number two Lu Lan of China in the quarter-finals. Mew Choo has a 2-3 record against Lu Lan and her last win over the Chinese was in the Singapore Open last year.
If Mew Choo upsets the Chinese, she will be up against top seed and world number one Xie Xingfang in the semi-finals.
The odds will be against the Malaysian but Mew Choo will be taking inspiration from her famous win over the lanky Chinese in the final of the China Open last year.
En route to winning that first Open title, Mew Choo also defeated reigning world champion Zhu Lin and Athens Olympic gold medallist Zhang Ning in the last eight and semi-finals respectively.
Zhang Ning will have to fight her way to the final from the bottom half of the draw and will likely face either World Championships runner-up Wang Chen of Hong Kong or Rasmussen.
Zhu Lin was not selected as only a maximum of three players can represent a country in badminton.
Apart from top singles hope Lee Chong Wei, Kim Hock added there is also a chance for veteran Wong Choong Hann to spring a surprise based on the draw.
Choong Hann meets defending Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in his opening second round match but the Indonesian’s hopes of playing in Beijing hangs in the balance following his admission to the hospital for dengue fever a few days ago.
There is no replacement as the draw has been done and if Taufik does not recover in time, it would benefit Choong Hann.
“We have to wait and see but I think Choong Hann stands a chance of beating Taufik as he will not be in top physical condition.
“If Choong Hann clears the opening match, he has a chance to reach the last eight and should meet China’s Chen Jin.
“The chance is there for him to wrest a win and the same goes for our two men’s doubles pairs. The draw is not good for them but if they clear the first round, I am optimistic they will go far.”
Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will be taking on Japanese Shuichi Sakamoto-Shintaro Ikeda, who ended their hopes of glory in the World Championships last year, while Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah face the second ranked South Korean pair of Lee Jae-jin-Hwang Ji-man, whom they lost to in the quarter-finals of the Asian Championships this year.