The All-England 2006 badminton competition finals concluded yesterday, and as surely as following a movie script, Malaysia has come up empty again. Tan Fook and Wan Wah have again finished runners-up to Jens Erikson and Martin Lundgaard from Denmark in an exact rematch of the 2004 All-England men’s doubles finals. I’m beginning to wonder what it will take for our players to actually win this bloody thing. Malaysian players are trained by the best badminton coaches in the world, and they have no lack of technical skills. What we’re missing is that winning mentality – the sort of stuff that defines athletes like Tiger Woods. The will and the toughness of mind to win.
It’s perplexing, really. The Malaysian public has gone so far as to expect a loss from our boys even when facing an opponent of similar strength. I mean, even when it’s a 50-50 showdown, it really is only a 30% winning prospect.
Why? What is missing in all the years of mental and physical conditioning? What will it take for us to finally win, and win consistently, commensurating with the skills that’s undeniably there?
It’s so tiring to always be hopeful and be disappointed every single time.
Chong Wei is also guilty of this. There’s never been a better singles player in recent memory from Malaysia. Choong Hann had his moments, but could never really challenge the big guns from China, Hafiz is inconsistent, and Roslin is, well, hopeless. Even the older crop of players – Rashid could not win outside of Malaysia, and Ewe Hock rarely, if ever, shone.
It’s not enough to say that we take heart from the fact Chong Wei stretched Lin Dan to 3 games in the semis before losing. He was leading Lin Dan 13-6 in the decider, for crying out loud! At this level Chong Wei should have the fortitude to close out the game.
It’s always the case – the self-consolation that always comes. No problem. We’ve reached the semis. We lost to the eventual champion. We lost to a higher ranked player. We stretched them to a punishing three setter! We showed ’em!
This in every single tournament we lose!
Ah screw it. It’s a typical day for Malaysian badminton.
I did want to talk about the other games from the finals, but I think I’ll settle with just Gao Ling. Gao Ling by far is the nicest badminton player to watch in a long while. Other women players, no, actually everybody plays the game with a poker face, with the occassional fist pumps, smash grunts and exasperated expressions on an unforced error. But nobody in all the years I’ve watched professional badminton smiles like she does on court, finding a light moment often during tense matches. She is always smiling, literally lighting up her face. I’m sure her partners for women’s doubles and mixed doubles find her very easy to play with. While she’s not a Chinese rose like Huang Hua or even Xie XingFang, she’s not bad looking either. She is, by the way, the top mixed doubles player with Zhang Jun and until recently, the top women’s doubles with I-forget-her-name. Mixed doubles champion for both Sydney and Athens Olympics, and gold medalist in both mixed and women’s doubles for literally countless badminton tournaments over the past 5 years.
Watching Gao Ling play soothes my soul. 🙂