The fight for the Thomas Cup has been ongoing for over a week. Sadly, Malaysia was knocked out of the running on 15th October during the quarterfinals. They lost to the Indonesian team and missed their chance to enter the semifinals.
Although the team did their best, many had already predicted their struggle. Their performance during the final group tie with Japan left many unsure if they could take on the Indonesian team. The only bright spot during the matches was Leong Jun Hao (梁峻豪)’s success in winning a single point.
The national team fell to Japan with a 1-4 defeat. Lee Zii Jia made Kento Momota work for the point with 21-15, 12-21, 21-23. However, the three after him fell in straight games. Only Leong managed to steal a point back from Japan when he won 21-19, 21-18 against Kenta Nishimoto in the final match.
The world-ranked 120th player’s upset has caused a stir of curiosity about him. So, here are a few fun facts about our national player:
1. Started badminton young
The 22-year old was born and brought up in Kuala Lumpur. Like many Malaysians, Leong started playing badminton for fun outside his house. However, he started playing the sport seriously at the age of 9 under his father’s tutelage. When he turned 13, Leong joined the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
2. Earned his fame before Lee Zii Jia
Leong may only be a year younger than Lee but he’s made his mark earlier than the 8th world rank player. He became the Asian Youth Badminton champion in 2017 and later became the runner-up for the World Youth Badminton Championships. Leong also notably once smashed China’s attempt at four consecutive hegemonies during the Asian Youth Badminton Championships.
In 2018, Leong began his adult career with a bang. He became the runner-up for Thailand Badminton Masters and earned a victory at the Finnish Badminton Open for his maiden senior title. With those successes under his belt, Leong was selected for the Bangkok Finals.
3. Featured alongside Dato Lee Chong Wei in Bangkok Finals
Leong is one of only four members in the squad who was featured in the 2019 Bangkok Finals. Other than him, current captain Lee Zii Jia and men’s doubles aces Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik were selected for the honour. Leong was only 18 when he was chosen to make up a four-man singles line up which comprised of Lee Chong Wei, Zii Jia and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin. It was a pleasant surprise as Leong won his only match in the group stage against Adel Hamek from Algeria.
4. Determination to make his dream come true
Leong’s dream has always been to become the world number one. He’s trained hard, worked hard and prioritised badminton over his social life. He was once optimistic about being Dato Lee Chong Wei’s successor. However, after a hip injury at the end of 2018, his confidence wavered. Since then, he injured his hip twice more which resulted in his world ranking dropping from 40th to 120th. He came close to giving up his dream after being frustrated time and time again, but he’s starting to revive his career.
Leong had hoped to play a prominent role in the Thomas Cup. “A prestigious event like the Thomas Cup is one of those tournaments that can bring a massive impact and confidence boost to a player,” he explained. However, his spectacular performance was not enough to bring them further than the quarterfinals.
Although Malaysia did not make it to the finals for the Thomas Cup, there are still many more tournaments to come. We look forward to seeing Leong make his comeback and will be supporting him all the way!