Datuk Lee Chong Wei has left big shoes for the next Malaysian badminton champion to fill. Yet, newly crowned All-England champion Lee Zii Jia (李梓嘉) has stepped right into them.
Datuk Misbun Sidek, who has been there for both champions revealed the duo have a common trait that sets them apart from the rest— their winning attitude.
Datuk Misbun has played a huge part in both champions’ lives. He coached 38-year-old Chong Wei for a long time in different stages of his career. When Chong Wei started as a rookie player in the early 90s, Datuk Misbun was there. He also guided Chong Wei to win his first silver medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. For Zii Jia, Datuk Misbun coached him when he joined the back-up squad during 2017 and 2018.
Datuk Misbun stated that the two differ from one another, but “they have the same determination in them that makes them distinct from others“. Datuk Misbun recollected that Chong Wei once asked him how many times he had won the national title. “I told him six,” he said. “(Chong Wei) told me he wanted to win more than me. He went on to win ten.” Zii Jia shared his predecessor’s thirst. “Even in the back-up squad, he wanted to do more than others,” Dauk Misbun stated. “He was motivated inwardly.”
However, Datuk Misbun admitted their playing styles are different. It stems from their physique. Zii Jia’s height (1.86m) came from his parents who are former national basketball players. “His athleticism on court is impressive,” Datuk Misbun stated. “He lacked the technical part of the game in the beginning and was quite erratic. He however, has improved so much. His weapon is his powerful smashes.”
On the other hand, Chong Wei developed his physical condition from scratch as he is lightly-built. Datuk Misbun claimed he’s one of the fittest players. “He can run and not get tired, and he has a variety of tricks in his game. He has been so dominant for years.”
Datuk Misbun stressed that Zii Jia needs to learn to use his strong points to his advantage. “Zii Jia has won a major title at the age of 22, he needs to believe in himself that he can achieve more.” Datuk Misbun firmly believes it’s the only way for Zii Jia to have longevity like Chong Wei in the game.
“In Thailand (in January), Zii Jia played safe and was lifting the shuttle but in the All-England, he was aggressive and unleashed his explosive smashes,” the former badminton player observed. “He needs to bring out this strong side of him all the time and that’s the hardest part.” Datuk Misbun also stated that Zii Jia would need guidance and encouragement to ensure his journey is consistent and unpredictable.
Although winning All-England is no easy feat, Datuk Misbun reminded that this was a tournament where top players from China, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong were absent. However, Datuk Misbun did not lessen his achievement in any way.
“Beating two world champions (Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark) is amazing and the world will now take notice of him,” he said. “(Zii Jia) will be the target in the next tournaments.” He is confident that while Zii Jia has much to learn, if he continues what he’s doing now, the future will be bright for him.
As Malaysians, we will continue to watch Zii Jia grow and support him wholeheartedly. After all, Malaysia boleh!
Source: The Star