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Badminton

Zii Jia the one to watch

Lee Zii Jia is now the most feared badminton player in the world, and he will be the one to watch at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on Friday.

Although the BA of Malaysia (BAM) did not place a target, the association believe the World No 8 will produce a solid performance in Tokyo.

Following his poor start to the season, many had written him off as a shuttler capable of emulating three-time Olympic silver medallist and former World No 1 Lee Chong Wei.

However, he silenced his critics by beating World No 1 Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark en route to winning his maiden All England crown in Birmingham in March.

BAM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria said the 23-year-old is capable of managing pressure and believes he will produce a solid performance in Tokyo.

"Zii Jia had faced an array of problems when he was at the Thailand Open (in January). He realised just how difficult things could be," said Norza, who met the eight Olympic-bound shuttlers at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara before they left for Japan last night.

"I feel he is capable and able to overcome any pressure and is well-aware of the challenges ahead of him.

"I believe he is prepared and has formulated a game plan for the Tokyo Games," said Norza.

Zii Jia, who is in Group M with France's Brice Leverdez and Ukraine's Artem Pochtarov, is expected to clear the preliminary rounds.

The 23-year-old is slated to face defending champion Chen Long of China in the last-16 stage.

Norza believes that the Olympic-bound shuttlers are in the best shape for the Olympics after months of quarantine-based training.

"They are no longer professionals or BAM players but are a Malaysian team, all training together under one roof.

"I am very proud of the spirit and determination they are showing. I am confident the difficulties they endured earlier have toughened them up, and they are now well-prepared for the mission."

Others in the squad are Soniia Cheah (women's singles), Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (men's doubles), Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (women's doubles), and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles).

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