Forget about gold medal and qualify for Paris first, Foo Kok Keong tells Lee Zii Jia

Datuk Foo Kok Keong

Last week, Lee Zii Jia shocked the badminton world when he announced he was taking a break from the sport after losing in the first round of the Indonesian Open.

He also lost in the first round of the Singapore Open and the second round of the Malaysian Masters last month.

While many have questioned Lee’s decision, former Olympian Datuk Foo Kok Keong said taking a break may help Malaysia’s No. 1 player.

“I do not know him that well, but perhaps the pressure of being the national No. 1 and Malaysia’s gold medal prospect affected him,” said Foo, when at SJK (C) Kepong 3, during an Olympic Day celebration on Wednesday.

“There have been many badminton tournaments since we emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, and Lee has played in most of them.

“I hope Lee’s break will allow him to reset his mind and body. He has a new coach (Wong Tat Meng), and perhaps they can resume competing next month.”

Wong has spent the last seven years coaching in Scotland, South Korea and Hong Kong, and will take charge of Lee from July 1.

Lee and Wong will meet Road To Gold coordinator Datuk Stuart Michael Ramalingam on June 30 to discuss the player’s plans.

Olympic Day celebration.
Foo signs autographs during the Olympic Day celebration at SJK (C) Kepong 3.

Lee has dropped to No. 13 in the world rankings but has accumulated 58,959 points in the qualifiers for Paris and is at No. 9.

“For now, I think Lee should forget about the gold medal. His job is to qualify for Paris,” said Foo, who played in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. “Take it one step at a time.”

The 60-year-old Foo, once ranked world No. 1, said he is confident the Malaysian shuttlers can do well in Paris, despite losing singles coaching director Wong Choong Hann. The former World Championship silver medallist stepped down last week, taking the blame for the shuttlers’ “lack of progress”.

It came a month after Academy Badminton Malaysia’s chief executive officer, Michelle Chai, stepped down following Malaysia’s dismal performance at the Cambodia SEA Games. High-performance director Dr Tim Jones was relieved of his duties.

“I am confident BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) will get suitable replacements. We have a year before the Olympics, so I am confident the players know what to do to qualify for Paris,” said Foo, a member of the Malaysian team that won the 1992 Thomas Cup.

The Olympic qualifying period started on May 1 and ends on April 28, with the rankings on April 30 determining the qualifiers.