RASHID Sidek has challenged the back-up shuttlers, who will be promoted to the senior squad, to start thinking big and go the extra mile to justify their inclusion in the 2012 London Olympics project.
Chong Wei Feng, Arif Latif, Tan Chun Seang and Liew Daren are certain to make the grade in the men’s singles, while Julia Wong and Lydia Cheah are the women’s singles who will be part of the four-year programme.
The players were in Rashid’s back-up squad for the last three years and he feels promotion will put them under more pressure, but eventually force them out of their comfort zones.
Rashid admitted that their current level is far off from Lee Chong Wei and even trail Hafiz Hashim and Kuan Beng Hong, so they must grab this opportunity to become top class players.
“Once they are part of the London Olympics programme, they will be under pressure and this is something good for them. Only then will they start working harder and become better players,” said Rashid.
“While with the back-up squad, they didn’t have specific targets and they were not thinking big. The target now is the Olympics and if they remain in the comfort zone, they will not make it.
“Chong Wei is still way ahead of them and even Hafiz and Beng Hong are better. The newcomers have no choice but to make the breakthrough in tournaments and produce consistent results.”
The progress shown by Julia, who finished runner-up in the Macau Open on Sunday, and Lydia, the Taiwan Open runner-up, has been encouraging but Rashid wants them to remain consistent.
The coach said the duo have the skills to match the top players but have only done so when they were the underdogs and expects this mentality to change.
“Julia missed a good opportunity to win the Macau Open. Zhao Mi was playing in her third consecutive tournament and would have conceded if Julia had pulled her to three games,” said Rashid.
“Lydia too gave up easily against Saina Nehwal (of India). Respecting opponents too much doesn’t help and they must start being aggressive.
“They play well as underdogs but when favoured to do well, they crumble.
“Julia and Lydia must sustain the current momentum and being part of the 2012 Olympics project should have a positive affect on their mental approach.”
Olympics project coordinator Kenny Goh will have a meeting with Yap Kim Hock, Misbun Sidek, Rexy Mainaky and Rashid tomorrow to finalise the number of players in the elite squad.