You have the people’s vote, champ Lee Zii Jia!

The year-long Covid-19 pandemic has worn down the people although the recent arrival of vaccines has given some hope. Similarly, Lee Zii Jia’s victory in the All-England Championship men’s singles last night is a shot in the arm for a much-agonised nation.

Lee did more than just win a medal. He lifted the spirits of the 31-odd million Malaysians who have been left fatigued with nauseating politics and the gloomy economy.

Zii Jia defeated Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 in the one hour and 14-minute match that kept fans at home on the edge of their seats. It wasn’t a much jubilant sight though – there were no cheers from the stands and the athletes had to put on their own medals.

The few naysayers who are left now will harp on the fact that powerhouses like China, Taiwan and Indonesia did not take part in the championship. Their so-called argument, however, does not hold water given how Lee reigned supreme by downing world No. 1 Kento Momota in the quarterfinals and then Axelsen, the reigning All-England champion.

Many were hoping that the 22-year-old Kedahan’s result against Momota was no flash in the pan as he had failed to impress in the two Thailand Opens just two months ago.

Lee’s outstanding performance in the All-England is the kind of diversion and entertainment Malaysia needs right now. National women’s doubles pair, Pearly Tan and M. Thinaah, should also be credited for reaching the last eight of the tournament.

The fact remains that sports has once again unified a politically divided nation.

Nonetheless, the beauty of sports is often overlooked by those in authority.

Last month, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched the National Blueprint for Unity but only Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah saw the need to speak about sports as a unifying agent.

The silence from the other stakeholders was disappointing although not unexpected.

Sports can be an outlet where people de-stress especially during these unprecedented and challenging times. It is able to provide hope and believe.

Singapore, for example, recently revealed its plan to unify the people by uplifting its national football team.

Tonight, Lee proved what sports can truly do.

Thank you, Lee. You have put a smile on our faces.

List of Malaysian All-England winners (men’s singles)

1950 Wong Peng Soon

1951 Wong Peng Soon

1952 Wong Peng Soon

1953 Eddy Choong

1954 Eddy Choong

1955 Wong Peng Soon

1956 Eddy Choong

1957 Eddy Choong

1966 Tan Aik Huang

2003 Muhammad Hafiz Hashim

2010 Lee Chong Wei

2011 Lee Chong Wei

2014 Lee Chong Wei

2017 Lee Chong Wei

2021 Lee Zii Jia