Zii Jia stakes his claim for Olympic glory

KUALA LUMPUR: KUALA LUMPUR: Given his imperious form over the last few weeks, Lee Zii Jia must surely be among the hot favourites for a podium finish at the Paris Olympics.

On Sunday, the 26-year-old men's singles star clinched the Australian Open title by upsetting world No. 6 Kodai Naraoka of Japan 21-19, 11-21, 21-14 at the State Sports Centre in Sydney.

With six weeks left until the Olympics, Zii Jia could not have asked for a better time to hit peak condition.

Over the past five weeks, and prior to his success Down Under, the world No. 8 inspired Malaysia to their first Thomas Cup semi-final in eight years, won the Thailand Open, and reached the Malaysia Masters final.

Despite skipping the Singapore Open due to a minor hamstring injury, Zii Jia still reached the quarter-finals at the Super 1000 Indonesia Open.

Speaking to the Badminton World Federation (BWF) after his Australian Open win, Zii Jia said he is happy with his progress and is looking forward to making an impact at the Paris Olympics.

"I didn't think about making the final or winning the title like this. It was a very exciting game, definitely one of the toughest and best plays in my career. Kodai and I both gave our best.

"Mentally, I've changed a lot. I'm calmer and more positive now ahead of the Olympics. There have been so many positives over the past five weeks. I now need to go back, rest, and recharge for the Games," said the Kedah-born player, who will likely move up in the world rankings this week.

For the record, Zii Jia is the first Malaysian men's singles player to win the Australian Open crown in the World Tour era (2018 onwards).

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