JAPAN’S Kento Momota does not consider Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia as a threat to his Olympic gold medal quest in Tokyo this year.
This comes as no surprise considering the inconsistent performances of the national men’s singles players at the highest level.
Following the retirement of Lee Chong Wei last year, Zii Jia, 22, took over the mantle as the country’s top player.
However, the World No 13 has yet to establish himself as a true ace shuttler.
The Kedah-born started the season impressively when he upset World No 3 Anders Antonsen of Denmark and former World No 2 Shi Yu Qi of China at the Malaysia Masters, before bowing out to Momota in the semi-final stage.
The performance in Bukit Jalil seemed like a brilliant breakthrough for Zii Jia, but it was not to be as he crashed out in the first round of the Indonesia Masters, after losing to World No 26 Huang Yu Xiang of China.
World No 1 Momota is currently recuperating following a car crash a day after winning last week’s Malaysia Masters.
When asked if he considered Zii Jia a challenger to his Olympic title quest, Momota said: “Zii Jia is a good player with good physical strength.
“However, he needs to be patient. He finds himself making mistakes easily when he is not.
“I noticed he works hard to score a point, but the very next minute he loses a few because of these mistakes.”
Momota’s advice came after winning the Malaysia Masters at the Axiata Arena last Sunday.
BA of Malaysia (BAM) coaching director Wong Choong Hann said something almost similar when contacted by Timesport recently.
“Overall, Zii Jia needs continuous improvement. He is not well versed in some areas.
“As coaches, our work is to help him keep his composure,” said Choong Hann.
With just a few months left before the Olympics, it will be interesting to see if BAM have anything up their sleeve to get Zii Jia in form for at least a podium finish.
It is also important to note that Zii Jia and a few others, hopefully, will be ready for gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics and not end up as ‘jaguh kampung’.
Zii Jia's next assignment is the Thailand Masters, which starts on Tuesday, in Bangkok.
He plays India’s Sameer Verma in the first round.