Badminton

Thomas Cup is a boon for professional shuttlers

KUALA LUMPUR: Representing Malaysia in the Thomas Cup can help professional players like Cheam June Wei sustain their careers.

The shuttler, who will be making his second appearance at the world team championships this week, said independent players can attract more sponsors if they feature often in major tournaments.

June Wei, who was called up by BAM to be one of the four singles players for the Thomas Cup in Chengdu, China, said: "Receiving a call-up to play in the Thomas Cup is not just an honour but a huge boost for a professional player like me.

"As independent players, we get to attract more sponsors when we play often in major tournaments.

"I'm thankful to BAM for giving me this opportunity."

Once touted to be one of Malaysia's top men's singles players, June Wei left the national setup in 2021 after failing to make an impact.

But as the fourth-highest ranked player in the country, behind world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong (No. 18) and Leong Jun Hao (No. 37), the 27-year-old June Wei was roped in to add depth and experience to the Thomas Cup team.

June Wei, who played second singles at the 2020 edition in Aarhus, Denmark, believes Malaysia have a good chance of going far this year.

According to the Penang-born player, Malaysia should defeat Hong Kong in the opening Group D tie on Saturday and can upset favourites Denmark. The other team in the group is Algeria.

"If I am fielded, I will play either third or second singles. It depends if the coach decides to rest Zii Jia or Jun Hao in any of the ties.

"On paper, we should beat Hong Kong because our team spirit is better. Against Denmark, we also stand a chance to win.

"I've not played Hong Kong's third or fourth singles player before (Chan Yin Chak and Jason Gunawan), but Denmark's Anders Antonsen and Rasmus Gemke are the same batch as me. I've played them before, even during my junior days," said June Wei, who has been training at the Academy Badminton Malaysia for the last three weeks.

Apart from Zii Jia, Jun Hao and June Wei, the other men's singles player in the squad is 20-year-old Justin Hoh.

Malaysia last won the Thomas Cup in 1992. At the previous edition in Bangkok two years ago, Malaysia crashed out in the quarter-finals after losing 3-2 to eventual champions India.

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