KUALA LUMPUR: Former international Lim Khim Wah has defended the top players for their absence in this week's National Championships at Juara Stadium.
The national meet, which kicked off on Tuesday, was supposed to be country's most prestigious domestic event, but it is certainly lacking the star power without some of country's best shuttlers such as Lee Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong, Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Chen Tang Jie and Toh Ee Wei.
However, Khim Wah, who won the national title once with Chan Peng Soon in 2008, sees no issue with that as it's perfectly okay for the top players to skip a "less important" local meet to prepare for the bigger international assignments.
"I think there's a great difference inparity (between the top players and other local shuttlers), so I totally understand if our top shuttlers chose to focus on preparing for the upcoming World Tour events," said Khim Wah after teaming up with Khoo Kwang Yean to beat Tan Kean Wei-Hairulnizam Eizariff 21-11, 21-19 in the first round today.
"This week isn't important for them. During my time with the national team, we would also skip it if we have something more important events coming up. We will only play if the schedule allowed us to."
In the men's doubles contest, BAM rested their top three pairs including Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun and Nur Izzuddin Rumsani-Goh Sze Fei but fielded backup combinations instead.
They are Nantes International Challenge winners Yap Roy King-Wan Arif Junaidi, Goh Boon Zhe-Beh Chun Meng and the experimental combinations of Wong Vin Sean-Choong Hon Jian and Fazriq Razif-Haikal Nazri.
"The absences of top pairs will pave the way for not only the new backup pairs to shine, but also those from the states. I see this as a good thing for the sport,," said Khim Wah.
"Back in those days (before 2017), where the national meet was held as a yearly circuit with two Open legs and one finals, where the national players would qualify and dominate too.
"I had won the Opens with (Koo) Kien Keat, (Goh) V Shem and the most memorable one had to be the the Finals with Peng Soon, which was equivalent to the now National Championships.
"The competition is certainly now more wide open with bigger participation coming from the states and professional clubs. In my case, I decided to play because I would love to be part of it.
Khim Wah's regular partner V Shem, who entered the tournament with Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub, also got off to a winning start by beating Chang Yee Jun-Ooi Yi Keat 21-12, 21-11.
Haikal and Fazriq, the son of doubles legend Datuk Razif Sidek, were barely challenged in their 21-17, 21-6 win over Zulfaiz Zulkiffli-Zulhelmi Zulkiffli.
In the men's singles, top seed Leong Jun was safely through to the fourth round but it was the end of the road for defending champion Soong Joo Ven.
Jun Hao beat Lok Sie Zi 21-17, 21-13 while Joo Ven, who is also the second seed, had to retire after trailing Aaron Kok 11-2 at the first round interval due to his poor fitness.
Lee Shun Yang and Ong Ken Yon, the third and fourth seeds, also cleared their third round hurdles by defeating their Lim Ming Hong (21-19, 21-12) and Naim Ahmad Fairuzly (21-12, 11-21, 21-16) respectively.