OLYMPICS: Boon Heong-Kien Keat must hope to avoid being drawn in same group as favourites
KOO Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong can only hope that fate will be kind to them when the Olympic draw is done on Monday.
If they are drawn in the same group as title favourites Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China and South Korea's Chung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae, their hopes of reaching the semi-finals will be dimmed.
National men's doubles chief coach Tan Kim Her, in a telephone interview from the University of Bath, said Monday's draw will be crucial and he believes Kien Keat-Boon Heong's medal chances will be boosted if they can avoid the top two pairs.
This is because only two pairs in each of the four groups will advance to the quarter-finals and Kim Her feels Kien Keat-Boon Heong do not need the added pressure of having to play either Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng or Jae Sung-Yong Dae, with whom the Malaysians have struggled in recent times, in the preliminaries.
"Cai Yun-Haifeng and Jae Sung-Yong Dae are dangerous and we hope that Kien Keat-Boon Heong can avoid their group. If they avoid the top two, the chances of reaching the quarter-finals and, progressing to the medal rounds, will be good," said Kim Her.
"Not that Kien Keat-Boon Heong are afraid to play them but we don't know the two other combinations who will be in the same group. The pressure will be high to clinch one of the two spots for the quarter-finals.
"It doesn't matter if we play Jae Sung-Yong Dae or Cai Yun-Haifeng in the quarter-finals or beyond that. The two pairs will be under more pressure in the knockout stage because they haven't won the Olympic gold and this is also their last chance to do so.
"The whole scenario will change in the knockout stage and Kien Keat-Boon Heong can take advantage as the underdogs.
"Since Pang (Cheh Chang) took over from Rexy (Mainaky) in September, the target was to get Kien Keat-Boon Heong back among the top four so that they will be seeded and this would have helped them avoid their main rivals in the group stage. However, we couldn't achieve it.
Kim Her said the training stint in Bath has been good for Kien Keat-Boon Heong and is looking forward for a top performance from them when the competition begins at Wembley Stadium on July 28.
"They have prepared well and the environment in Bath has been good for them to remain focused on their task."
The players have been training in Bath for the last four days and have been given a break today.