PETALING JAYA – The inclusion of national professional men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia (picture) in the Road To Gold (RTG) project should not be questioned, said the project’s coordinator Stuart Ramalingam.
Stuart said this is because Zii Jia, who is ranked fourth in the world, is the country’s best singles player currently and thus it is not appropriate to leave him out even though he has his own past history.
According to him, Zii Jia’s involvement also shows the openness of the RTG project in ensuring that appropriate support is given to any athlete who has the potential to win the country’s first gold medal at the Olympic Games.
“Zii Jia is currently ranked fourth in the world, basically we cannot overlook Zii Jia… I think his inclusion should not be questioned because he is the number one singles player in Malaysia.
“We know that he may have historical occurrences that may be in the memory of many but the matter is being resolved to ensure that Zii Jia’s chances at the Olympics are open,” he said when met at the Malaysian Football League’s (MFL) breaking of the fast programme at a hotel here yesterday.
Stuart, who is also MFL Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said this when asked if Zii Jia is still considered the best candidate to bring home the country’s first gold at the Olympic Games.
Previously, there were some negative impressions, among them that Zii Jia should not be included in the RTG project since he is a professional athlete and has sponsors.
Commenting further, Stuart said the inclusion of Zii Jia and that of other national professional badminton players has been approved by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
“Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria (BAM president) himself submitted the names of these professional athletes to ensure that opportunities are also given to them,” he said.
Besides Zii Jia, three professional doubles pairs, two from the mixed doubles camp, Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie and men’s doubles, Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi ,are among the total of 15 athletes listed in the RTG project .
On Saturday, Zii Jia, who is also the 2021 All England champion, expressed his desire to win the country’s first gold at the Olympic Games during a meeting with Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and Stuart in Kuala Lumpur.
The RTG project introduced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) last month is considered a national project with the objective of coordinating the country’s efforts in hunting for the maiden gold medal at the Olympic Games covering the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 editions. – Bernama / pic TMR File