HOPE: Pair begin their campaign on winning note
THE road to redemption is very long and winding but, at least, there was a start as Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong played a brilliant game to open their London Olympics campaign at the Wembley Arena yesterday.
Reduced from gold medal favourites four years ago to mere darkhorses in London 2012, Kien Keat-Boon Heong played with purpose and aggression against Japan's Naoki Kawamae-Shoji Sato to win 21-12, 21-14 in 33 minutes to offer Malaysia some hope that they, too, could be in the running for a medal.
Coach Tan Kim Her didn't hold back his praise, saying the pair played their best after a very long time but with tougher opposition up ahead, he did express hope that the pair maintain their form.
"They were very good and got off to the start that I was hoping they would as the first match is very crucial. Their mistakes were at a minimum and Kien Keat controlled the net well while Boon Heong's smashes did the damage," said Kim Her.
He is a coach under pressure as Kien Keat-Boon Heong have not performed well for a while now but Kim Her said there were positive signs from the pair.
"They have to keep focused and not worry about the opposition. They have prepared well and it is now all about winning," added Kim Her.
If the pair do go on and win a medal, Kien Keat clearly knows the reason why.
"After the first day of training in Bath, I had doubts as to whether I was really prepared for the Olympics but the training there helped me tremendously. I started getting a good feeling over the last few days and today's (yesterday) performance was all about that.
"We still have a long way to go but the feeling is positive and we just have to keep playing as well as we can."
Boon Heong, whose stated objective is gold and nothing else, said yesterday's win set them up perfectly for today's clash against Americans Bach-Gunawan.
"I don't know in what kind of form they are in but I am confident of our chances after beating the Japanese," said Boon Heong.
It was not all good news though as mixed pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, said to have an outside chance of winning a medal, crashed 11-21, 21-6, 15-21 in their opening group match to Taiwan's Chen Hung Ling-Cheng Wen Hsing.
Coach Jeremy Gan described their performance as unnatural, which Peng Soon-Liu Ying agreed with.
"We hardly took any gambles as we were afraid of making mistakes but that is exactly what happened," said Liu Ying.
They face China's Xu Chen-Ma Jin today and defeat would mean certain elimination, which Peng Soon said they would do their level best to avoid.
Women's singles Tee Jing Yi also lost but she won plaudits from coach Rashid Sidek for producing a fighting performance.
The 21-year-old lost 21-16, 15-21, 12-21 to South Korea's 11th seed Bae Yeon-Ju but Rashid said Jing Yi's rapid progress was worth praising.
"She has improved tremendously over the last few months and that showed against the Korean, who beat her comprehensively in their only previous meeting," said Rashid.
For Jing Yi, her performance boosted her confidence ahead of her next group match against Italian Agnese Allegrini tomorrow, with a win uppermost on her mind.