Badminton legend Lee Chong Wei believes that men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia’s quest for Olympic glory is not over, just “delayed” following his defeat to China’s Chen Long in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The three-time Olympic silver medallist is also of the opinion that in terms of power, speed and technique, Zii Jia was better than Chen Long during their clash yesterday.
“However, nervousness during crucial moments may be the reason why the reigning All England champion lost 21-8, 19-21, 5-21 to 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Chen Long.
“Lee Zii Jia, don’t be too disappointed. It was a really good performance. The whole of Malaysia knows you tried your very best. I am proud of you. Malaysians are proud of you.
“Armed with experience, Chen Long’s a tough nut to crack for you. Chen Long’s not the defending champion for nothing. He may look innocent but he’s very intelligent in working out his opponent’s tactics.
“It’s his first Olympics, who won’t be nervous? My first time in the Olympics (Athens 2004) wasn’t smooth sailing either. What’s important is to keep your chin up and move forward. The next Olympics is just three years away. Your victory isn’t over, just ‘delayed’,” he posted on his Facebook page.
Chong Wei was denied the Olympic gold medal three times by two Chinese shuttlers – twice by his nemesis Lin Dan in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London editions as well as by Chen Long at Rio 2016.
The former world No 1 also jokingly suggested that perhaps Zii Jia should train in Melaka.
“Heard that training there will bring you the Olympic gold,” he said, in reference to weightlifting sensation Hidilyn Diaz, who bagged the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic title a few days ago after training in Melaka for the past year.
Meanwhile, former national doubles ace Koo Kien Keat, through his social media posting, also encouraged Zii Jia to continue to shine at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Lee Zii Jia is only 23 years old, (there is a) long journey for him in his badminton career. This defeat is just the beginning. Playing against Chen Long will never be an easy game, that’s the reason why Chen Long is the only defending champion at this Olympics.
“Lots of improvement can be seen in Zii Jia’s game, physicality and power, just lacking major tournament experience. Kudos to Lee Zii Jia for the overall performance, and coach Hendrawan too,” said Kien Keat, who once forged a formidable doubles partnership with Tan Boon Heong.