Lee Zii Jia, one of the top gold medal contenders for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, has decided to skip the event to focus on the World Championships, the Malaysian shuttler said on Wednesday. This brightens the prospect of one of the Indian shuttlers going all the way in Birmingham.
The Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham from July 28 till August 8 while the World Championships, to be played in Tokyo, will begin on August 22.
As reported by the New Straits Times, Lee said, “I have decided not to play in the Commonwealth Games, and it is a tough decision, which I made after speaking to my team.
“I have been playing non-stop and need to take care of my body condition.
“I want to be in my best condition for the world meet,” said Lee, who aims to be the first shuttler from his nation to win the World Championships title. Lee Chong Wei, one of the greatest shuttlers from Malaysia, finished as runner-up on four occasions (His 2014 runner-up finish was removed from the records because of doping). Lee Chong Wei, who retired in 2019, also won the men’s singles gold at the last CWG edition four years ago in Gold Coast, Australia.
With world number five Lee Zii Jia out of the picture, here are the potential contenders for the gold medal at CWG 2022 in Birmingham…
FILE PHOTO: Lakshya Sen – AFP
Lakshya came into the limelight with a bronze medal finish at the 2021 World Championships in Huelva. The Almora-born shuttler started 2022 by winning the India Open, his first Super 500 title. World No. 10 Lakshya also became the first male Indian shuttler to reach the All England Open final in 21 years. The drastic rise in the rankings for Lakshya allowed the Indian team to have the necessary depth in the squad which eventually helped in the maiden Thomas Cup triumph.
Win-loss record this year – 19-10
FILE PHOTO: Kidambi Srikanth. – AP
Srikanth is yet to win an individual silverware this year with his best performances being reaching the semifinals at Swiss Open and Korea Open. However, world championships silver medallist Srikanth had a crucial role in India winning the 2022 Thomas Cup as he went unbeaten throughout the tournament. World No. 11 Srikanth emerged victorious in all six singles ties he played including the one in the final against Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie. Four years ago in the singles final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Srikanth had gone down to Lee Chong Wei in three games.
Win-loss record this year – 18-6
FILE PHOTO: HS Prannoy. – AP
Like Srikanth, world No. 21 Prannoy too hasn’t tasted much success in individual events this year. His deepest run in 2022 has been the final of the Swiss Open. However, Prannoy was the biggest star of India’s Thomas Cup victory as the 29-year-old won deciding third singles matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Prannoy had finished fourth at the previous Commonwealth Games.
Win-loss record this year – 17-8
Loh Kean Yew
FILE PHOTO: Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew – AP
Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew stunned everyone with his World Championships title run in Huelva last year. Loh lost the India Open final to Lakshya and since then, his best result has been a semifinal finish at Indonesia Masters. However, Indians would not underestimate the world number nine who has amazing reflexes and is pretty difficult to stop once he gets on a roll.
Win-loss record this year – 16-7
Why is Lee Zii Jia’s absence significant?
Lee Zii Jia has had a solid 2022 season. He won the Asian Championships (both team and individual) and Thailand Open while reaching the semifinals at German Open, All England Open and recently, the Indonesia Open. He has an impressive win-loss record of 28-4. His aggressive playing style has troubled almost everyone on the circuit with the possible exception being Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
While he hasn’t faced Srikanth and Prannoy this year, he has won both his meetings against Loh Kean Yew and one out of two against Lakshya.
The next best Malaysian male shuttler after Lee is Liew Daren, who is currently ranked 30th in the world.