By Amiril Muttaqien Meketar / BERNAMA
TOKYO, Sept 4 — Six-time world champion Cheah Liek Hou made history today when he became the first Paralympic badminton men’s singles champion.
The 33-year-old world number two was in devastating form as he crushed his nemesis and Games favourite Anrimusthi Dheva of Indonesia 21-17, 21-15 in the men’s singles SU5 (physical impairment) final at the Yoyogi National Stadium today.
Badminton is making its debut at the Tokyo Paralympics.
In the first game, world number one Anrimusthi made a series of errors to hand Liek Hou a comfortable 5-0 before the Indonesian closed the gap to 5-8.
After taking a commanding lead of 11-5 at the interval, Liek Hou’s performance took a dip, allowing the Indonesian to pull level at 15-15. That woke the national shuttler from his slumber as he regained his composure before a powerful smash earned him the final point to win the first game 21-17.
The second game was a much closer battle, with both shuttlers fighting neck-and-neck before Liek Hou took a slim 11-10 lead at the interval.
This time, Liek Hou was wide awake as he showed great resilience to absorb the Indonesian’s attacks before sealing a 21-15 win and bag the coveted gold medal.
Liek Hou then fell flat on the court savouring this golden moment before getting up and heading straight to his coach Datuk Rashid Sidek to celebrate a stupendous victory.
It also helped Liek Hou stretch his winning streak in Tokyo Paralympics Games to five straight matches, including three wins in Group B earlier.
Earlier today, the 33-year-old staged a great fightback to upset Fang Jen-yu of Chinese Taipei 15-21, 21-10, 21-16 in the semi-finals.
The Kuala Lumpur-born Liek Hou’s win means that Malaysia have now won two gold medals, following powerlifting ace Bonnie Bunyau Gustin’s heroics in the men’s 72-kilogramme (kg) event on Aug 28.
The national contingent have been set a three-gold target for the Tokyo Paralympics.
Malaysia have also bagged two silver medals, so far, through Bonnie’s team-mate Jong Yee Khie in the 107kg event on Monday (Aug 30) and national boccia player Chew Wei Lun, who lost 4-2 to defending champion David Smith of Great Britain in the mixed individual BC1 (physical impairment) category on Wednesday (Sept 1).
Meanwhile, Jen-yu’s hopes of a bronze medal were dashed when he lost 16-21, 9-21 to Indonesian Suryo Nugroho in 41 minutes.