IN STYLE: FT’s golden boy grabs the glitter to make up for missing out on 2010
ZULFADLI Zulkifli returned to the Malaysia Games with a vengeance as he grabbed the men's singles badminton gold medal at the Pahang Sports Complex Indoor Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.
A tug-of-war between Selangor and the Federal Territories prevented Zulfadli from competing in Malacca two years ago and his determination was evident as he overcame a mid-match slump to beat Johor's Tan Kian Meng 21-14, 13-21, 21-7 in the final.
"I did not play two years ago in Malacca as Selangor and FT fought over me. I'm glad I won here as I felt I have improved physically and mentally and that was the difference today," said Zulfadli, 19, now representing FT.
Zulfadli, last year's world junior champion, had not dropped a game prior to the final and found himself facing a surprise opponent.
Kian Meng had profited from the early exits of top seed Misbun Ramdan Misbun of Selangor and fourth seed Loh Wei Sheng of Negri Sembilan.
After attacking Kian Meng's weak backhand to good effect in taking the first game, Zulfadli was unable to cope with the Johor shuttler's attacks in the second after appearing to be rattled by a disputed line call early in the game.
The gold seemed to be slipping away when he fell 4-1 behind in the third but second seed Zulfadli recovered brilliantly, conceding just three more points before taking FT's badminton gold medal tally to three.
"The shuttle was out by a distance (in the second game). It did not affect me," he insisted. "He (Kian Meng) was able to read my game.
"With his height advantage, I had to keep moving fast. It was a close game but once I got a big lead (in the third) the pressure on him to chase was too great."
Zulfadli plans to take a short break to let his knee recover from a gruelling campaign before competing at the Vietnam Open Grand Prix Gold next month.
"I need the break to recover because the bone in my knee, according to the experts, is still growing. Then I'll return to training to prepare for Vietnam," he said.
FT emerged top of the badminton medal tally after Chow Mei Kuan-Shevon Lai Jemie won the women's doubles gold to add to the women's team triumph earlier but missed out on the women's singles title when Sonia Cheah suffered a meltdown against Selangor's Yang Li Lian, who won 12-21, 21-8, 21-13.
RESULTS -- Men's singles final: Zulfadli Zulkifli (FT) bt Tan Kian Meng (Joh) 21-14, 13-21, 21-7; Bronze: Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (Joh) bt Lim Yu Fu (Sab) 21-16, 21-18.
Doubles final: Ow Yao Han-Tai An Khang (Mal) bt Goh Jian Hao-Pang Zheng Lin (Ked) 21-12, 21-15; Bronze: Tan Wee Tat-Teo Ee Yi (Joh) bt Lai Zing Neng-Roni Tan (Sar) 24-22, 17-21, 24-22.
Women's singles final: Yang Li Lian (Sel) bt Sonia Cheah (FT) 12-21, 21-8, 21-13; Bronze: M. Thinaah (Sel) bt Lim Chiew Sien (Joh) 21-19, 21-7.
Doubles final: Chow Mei Kuan-Shevon Lai Jemie (FT) bt S. Kisona-Ng Hui Ern (NS) 21-14, 21-18; Bronze: Ti Wei Chyi-Yap Zhen (Joh) bt Erica Khoo-Peck Yen Wei (FT) 16-21, 21-16, 21-18.
Mixed doubles final: Chooi Kah Ming-Lai Pei Jing (Pah) bt Low Juan Shen-Ng Hui Ern (NS) 19-21, 21-19, 21-17; Bronze: Ow Yao Han-Lee Meng Yean (Mal) bt Teo Ee Yi-Lim Chiew Sien (Joh) 21-16, 21-13.