Jin Wei's fitness issue continues to haunt her

KUALA LUMPUR: Unless Goh Jin Wei can return to a level of fitness and physical condition comparable to what she once had, she is unlikely to mount a strong challenge at the Paris Olympics later this year.

The top Malaysian women's singles shuttler suffered a first-round defeat for the second consecutive week, this time at the Indonesia Masters, after going down 21-9, 21-11 to world No. 8 Han Yue of China in just 28 minutes at Istora Senayan today.

To Jin Wei's credit, she displayed spirit during the season-opening Malaysia Open, giving world No. 7 Gregory Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia a run for her money before succumbing 21-15, 24-22.

However, the latest two defeats raised questions about Jin Wei's current state of fitness, although her coach, Nova Armada, is convinced that she will reach a 100 per cent fitness level by the end of April and even challenged her to beat more top 10 opponents.

Jin Wei, a two-time former world junior champion, is no longer the same player she was before being diagnosed with a stomach ailment that required a colectomy in 2019.

She left the national team to turn professional in 2022 and made quite a comeback to the world's top 32 by performing well in lower-tier tournaments. However, she has been unable to achieve satisfactory results in top-tier World Tour tournaments and other major events.

In 2023, she recorded a total of 14 first-round exits. However, she did secure a morale-boosting outing by being a semi-finalist at the Hong Kong Open, a tournament where she once upstaged Han Yue.

For the record, Jin Wei is likely to be the sole Malaysian women's singles player to qualify for the Olympics this August, as long as she maintains her position as the top-ranked Malaysian in the Race to Paris rankings.

She is currently ranked No. 27 but is comfortably the 19th qualifier because one country can only qualify a maximum of two spots – which means some players from strong nations like China, Japan, and Thailand will not make the cut when the one-year qualifying period ends in April.

None of the other Malaysians look capable of threatening Jin Wei's position, with K. Letshanaa and S. Kisona being the closest pursuers, sitting at No. 63 and No. 86.

Letshanaa showed that she still has plenty of catching up to do, having been outclassed 21-17, 21-12 by Indonesia's Putri Kusuma Wardani in the other clash of the day.

The mixed doubles division brought some cheers as three Malaysian pairs - Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei, Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing and Chan Peng Soon-Cheah Yee See all advanced to the second round.

Kian Meng-Pei Jing defeated Denmark's Mathias Thyrri-Amalie Magelund 21-19, 18-21, 21-19, while Peng Soon-Yee See made short work of Americans Winson Chiu-Jennie Gai, winning 21-17, 21-11.

Tang Jie-Ee Wei did not have to pick up their racquets as they were awarded a walkover by Taiwan's world No. 11 Ye Hong Wei-Lee Chia Hsin.

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