On Thursday (29 July), Malaysia's mens singles badminton player Lee Zii Jia had the whole nation holding their breath when he went up against China's Chen Long in the round of 16 match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 23-year-old had a strong start, beating Chen Long 21-8 in the first set. However, experience soon prevailed as Chen Long exerted his dominance, crushing Zii Jia 21-19 in the second set and 21-5 in the rubber set.
It was a devastating blow for Zii Jia, who offered an apology
after his match.
Plenty of support for Zii Jia
Despite not being able to bring back a medal, Malaysians were quick to rally behind the reigning All England champion.
One of them is badminton great Datuk Wira Lee Chong Wei, who consoled Zii Jia.
In a heartfelt Instagram post, the former Olympics silver medalist said that Zii Jia had nothing to apologise for because he gave it his all during his match with 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," Chong Wei wrote.
In Chong Wei's opinion, Zii Jia is better than Chen Long in terms of speed, power and technique.
However, a lack of experience doomed Zii Jia's chances.
"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."
On top of that, this being Zii Jia's first Olympics, it's understandable that he was a bundle of nerves.
"It’s his first Olympics, who won’t be nervous? My first time in the Olympics (2004 Athens) 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 wrote.
'Better don't let us see you'
In typical LCW fashion, the 38-year-old ended his post with a friendly advice and a 'warning' to his long-time rival Chen Long.
LCW jokingly suggested that Zii Jia should move his training base to somewhere in Melaka.
"Heard that training there will bring you the Olympic gold," he wrote, referring to Filipino weightlifting hero Hidilyn Diaz, who bagged the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal after training in Melaka
for almost a year.
LCW also left a side note for Chen Long, 'warning' him against showing his face in Malaysia.
"You again! Better don’t let us see you in Malaysia, [sic] in next one month! Hahaha. Joking mate. Have a good tournament and all the best!," LCW wrote.
Ironically, it was also Chen Long who ended LCW's quest for gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, forcing him to bring home a silver medal instead.
Chin up, Lee Zii Jia! The future is still bright for you. Thanks for doing the best for your country.