Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), one of the badminton citadels of Asia. Riding on the success of the recently concluded All England Championships, BAM is betting heavily on 23-year-old Lee Zii Jia to win Gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
When it comes to the Olympics, Malaysians have been perennial underachievers. Since badminton’s inclusion into the Olympics in 1992, Malaysians have been featured 4 times in the Finals. First, Rashid Sidek winning the Bronze at 1996, Atlanta Olympics. After this, it took them 12 years to put a name in the top draw. A name that created a sensation and went on to become one of the greatest players of the sport.
The name was Lee Chong Wei, and the year was 2008, Beijing Olympics. Lee first broke into badminton in 2003 when Lee made back-to-back appearances in the finals of the Malaysia Open, India Satellite, and Malaysia Satellite tournaments. Winning 1 out of the 3 finals and earning his first entry at the Olympics in the 2004 Athens games.
Lee’s careers span over 17 years, the longest run for a single's badminton player. In these 17 years, he played a record 103 final and won 69 titles. Lee has made it to the Olympics a total of 4 times and won 3 consecutive silver medals in 2008, 2012 & 2016. In 2004 Lee lost against Chen Hong in the second round, 2008 & 2012 lost against his friend, arch-rival and the greatest player of all-time Lin Dan, and 2016 lost against Chen Long. All of whom are from China. When it came to the Olympics with such talent, Lee’s duel with the Chinese always left him and his fans wanting more.
Lee has immensely popularized badminton all over, and especially in Malaysia, he is considered the greatest sporting personality. He was also conferred with ‘DATUK’ a state honor for winning the 1st silver medal at the Olympics for Malaysia and himself. In 2019 Lee was well on road for his 5th Olympics appearance and when again life decided to take a different turn.
As the great John Lennon said, “Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans.” Lee Chong Wei was diagnosed with nose cancer and was forced to announce his retirement.
It has been over 2 years since the Legend, Lee Chong Wei, bid farewell to badminton.
Since then, Malaysian badminton fans have pinned their hopes on Lee Zii Jia to win the ELEMENTAL Gold medal.
Lee Zii Jia like his predecessor broke into the badminton mainframe at a very young age and started following his national hero’s winning legacy. Lee Zii Jia won his first BWF World Tour title in 2018 when he was just 20 years old. After his first BWF title and other good outings such as the semi-finals match at All England against Viktor Axelsen that he lost, saw him break into the top-10 of the BWF ranking.
Due to COVID, all tournaments were canceled in 2020 and the Olympics were pushed to 2021. Lee Zii Jia’s comeback was not the one anticipated for. When BWF announced all major tournaments towards the end of 2020, Lee's early exit in 3 BWF World Tours had his fans in a very confused state before the Olympics.
But 2021 saw a matured and confident Lee Zii Jia making his way to the semi-finals at the Swiss Open. He took his time to work on himself and trained hard to bounce back. Lee’s finest accomplishments came at the 2021 All England Championships where he won his quarter-finals match against world no.1 Kento Momota and won the finals against world no.2 and defending champions, Viktor Axelsen. The final scores were 30-29, 20-22, 21-9, and a match that lasted for 113 minutes.
Lee Zii Jia’s win made him one of the strong contenders at the Olympic Games. He garnered attention from all corners, gave his fans and home supporters a beacon of hope that this year might just be the year for Malaysian’s dream of GOLD at the Olympics made reality.