Badminton at the Summer Olympics – Lee Zii Jia, Kento Momota & Chen Long Off To Strong Start at the Tokyo Olympics

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Lee Zii Jia, Kento Momota, Chen Long are favorites to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (photo: AFP)
Lee Zii Jia, Kento Momota, Chen Long are favorites to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (photo: AFP)

Tokyo: Malaysia’s World No. 8 men’s singles player, Lee Zii Jia opened his first Olympics with a convincing straight-set win over Artem Pochtarov of Ukraine on Sunday. The reigning All England champion looked in ruthless form as he won 21–5, 21–11.

Lee will take on World No. 36 Brice Leverdez of France on July 28.

The 35-year-old Leverdez who has been training and living in high-altitude places before the Olympics, believed the unique training method could improve his physical abilities and would give him stronger endurance when playing against 23-year-old Lee Zii Jia.

Meanwhile, the World No. 1 men’s singles player, Kento Momota also made his Olympic debut on Sunday. Momota was in an authoritative mood as he beat Timothy Lam of USA 21-12, 21-9.

Momota will face Heo Kwang-hee of Korea on Wednesday.

Coming off a year and a half long layoff from not playing in a single international tournament, China’s reigning Olympic champion, Chen Long and World No. 11 Shi Yuqi showed no signs of rustiness in their first Olympic match.

Chen Long jumping out to an 11-8 lead and became more aggressive to launch a 10-2 run before wrapping up the first game 21-10 against Raul Must of Estonia.

The Estonian took a 4-2 lead in the second set before Chen started attacking after the interval to win the second set 21-9.

After the game, Chen admitted that he had been waiting to compete in his first Tokyo Olympics match for 5 years: “I don’t want to wait anymore!”

“It’s been a long time since I played an international game. I was still a little nervous after the game. The main purpose of this match was to adapt to the venue. Because the wind direction of court No. 2 was a little different from court No. 1 and No. 3,” explained Chen.

When asked about how he felt playing in an empty stadium, Chen replied with a smile.

“It has been that way during our training and several other national level competitions. I may not be used to the atmosphere if there is a lot of audience inside the stadium.”

The 25-year-old Shi Yuqi also eased through his first Olympic match against Matthew Abela of Malta 21-8, 21-9. Shi will advance to the knockout stage after Sunday’s match as another player in Group H, Soren Opti from Suriname, was forced to withdraw from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after he was tested positive for COVID-19 at the last minute right before his departure to Tokyo on July 15, 2021.

Shi could face Jonatan Christie of Indonesia or Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the last 16.

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