Zii Jia won’t take Brice, Artem lightly in Tokyo

by BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – National men’s singles badminton ace Lee Zii Jia (picture), who won the 2021 All England title, will not take things for granted after being drawn in Group M with France’s Brice Leverdez and Ukraine’s Artem Pochtarov for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old Zii Jia described Brice as a threat and said he would not underestimate the Frenchman’s capability as the 35-year-old was hugely experienced.

Brice had stunned national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei in the first round of the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Some may say my draw is quite tough because, perhaps, Brice is in the group. Whatever the draw is, it’s the same for me because to be a champion or a good player, whoever you are pitted against, you have to beat them.

“Only then you can be called a top player. If you hope for an easy path only, I don’t think you can be described as a top player. I am now looking forward (to seeing) how I am going to react at the Olympics,” said Zii Jia, who will be making his Olympic debut, via a video clip uploaded on the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) YouTube.

Zii Jia also said that he had faith in his coaches, Hendrawan dan Tey Seu Bock, who emphasised mental health so that he would be more mature and prepared for action in Tokyo.

“They must surely hope that I go there with a calm mind… not only them, I think all the coaches from every country will not want their players to perform under pressure, more so at the Olympics,” he said.

Meanwhile, the world number eight expects the stricter standard operating procedure (SOP) in Tokyo to be a challenge for all the shuttlers, adding that they would all also have to get used to playing behind closed doors.

“I too have been getting used to it (playing in an empty stadium) after the All England, Swiss Open and Thailand Open. So, whether we like it or not, we have to get used to this kind of situation, more so since the SOP will be tighter in Tokyo… I am ready,” he said.

In the meantime, Zii Jia said he had met up with Chong Wei after winning the All England to seek advice and knowledge that could help propel him to even greater heights.

Meanwhile, Aaron Chia, who will partner Soh Wooi Yik in men’s doubles, feels that they have a chance to advance to the quarter-finals after being drawn in Group D with Indonesians Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan, South Koreans Choi Solgyu-Seo Seungjae and Canadians Jason Anthony Ho-Shue/Nyl Yakura.

“I feel that we have a chance to make the quarter-finals. We have never met the Canadian pair before but we have won twice and lost twice to the South Koreans, so we have a 50-50 chance against them.

“No pair has an advantage because at the Olympics, anything can happen. Whatever it is, it will be different compared to normal tournaments. We will have video analysis and focus on intensive training a week before leaving (for Tokyo),” said Aaron.