Thursday, July 28, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Tuesday’s Olympic draw might have been the talk of the badminton world, but one of the principal protagonists shrugged off its repercussions on his campaign.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (featured image) has had a near-perfect build-up for the Rio Games, having twice beaten his great rival Lin Dan in recent months, but the top seed isn’t yet thinking too far ahead. The draw has Lin in Lee’s half, and if both live up to their seeding, should meet in the semi-finals.
“I’m not thinking of the semi-finals yet,” Lee told local media yesterday. “For a start let me focus on one match at a time. If I meet Lin Dan, I will face him and compete against him.
“This is my last Olympics, so I will make sure I give it my best shot. The draw is all okay; I must be prepared mentally and physically. What is most important is that I should not feel that my opponents are not good and not strong for me. I’ve learnt over the years how to deal with pressure. I will fight in every match and, if I lose after giving my best, it’s perhaps fated,” he said.
Another strong Men’s Singles contender, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, said he was focussed only on his group matches. Fourth-seeded Axelsen is in Group L with Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana and Korea’s Lee Dong Keun, and is expected to progress to a semi-final against World champion Chen Long of China.
“It’s an exciting group for me,” Axelsen said. “I know both players from the World Superseries tour and have been playing a few close matches against both Lee and Boonsak. However I feel good and believe that I can perform at a high level. I haven’t looked much at the draw besides my own group but of course Men’s Singles is really competitive.”
Meanwhile, India’s Saina Nehwal, who is in the top half of the draw alongside World champion Carolina Marin (Spain), Olympic champion Li Xuerui (China) and Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun among others, acknowledged she had a difficult path ahead.
“It’s a very very tough draw for me but I just hope to do well and give my best,” said Nehwal, who is in Group G with Ukraine’s Maria Ulitina and Brazil’s Lohaynny Vicente.
BAM Technical Director Morten Frost expressed his confidence that his players could progress to the knock-out stage and beyond. “I’m quite pleased with the draw. All of our players have a good chance to make the quarter-finals.”
Frost believes Chen Long – one of the biggest threats to Lee’s quest for gold – has a tough draw as he is in the same half as Korea’s Son Wan Ho and Viktor Axelsen.
“Son was one of the reasons China lost to Korea in the Thomas Cup,” said Frost. “I think he will be a tough opponent for Chen Long.”
Malaysian Women’s Doubles player Vivian Hoo believed she and partner Woon Khe Wei had a shot at making the quarter-finals. The Malaysians are in Group C with Indonesia’s Nitya Krishinda Maheswari/Greysia Polii, England’s Heather Olver/Lauren Smith and Hong Kong’s Poon Lok Yan/Tse Ying Suet.
“To me the draw is quite good as we avoided stronger opponents such as Denmark and China. We hope we can enter the quarter-finals. We cannot be too confident as the environment at the Olympics is different because everybody wants to win and there is added pressure,” she said.