Vijesh Rai from Anaheim
BADMINTON is very important to Malaysia. The large presence of Malaysian shuttlers at the World Championships which kick off at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim today underlines that fact.
The inclusion of badminton as one of the eight core sports by the Cabinet Committee for Sports further emphasises the importance of the sport to the country.
Millions of ringgit has been and will be poured into the sport, which will see centres of excellence and infrastructure being set up across the country.
After all, badminton is the first sport in which Malaysians can claim to have been world class in, thanks to the Thomas Cup and All-England triumphs in the 1950s and 60s.
It will be wrong to say that Malaysian shuttlers are no longer world class, they are but in terms of the pecking order, they trail China, Indonesia, South Korea and Denmark by some distance.
While China have several Olympic champions in their fold and are dominating the World Grand Prix circuit, Indonesia are in Anaheim with Taufik Hidayat, the men's singles gold medallist in Athens last year and doubles pair Candra Wijaya-Sigit Budiarto, who are strongly favoured to win the title a second time after their 1997 triumph.
Korea, though hit with the retirement of Olympic champions Ha Tae Kwon-Kim Dong Moon, still have some quality players while Denmark won the men's doubles title in 2003.
Where is Malaysia in this equation?
It is ridiculous, given Malaysia's history in badminton, that a world title has never been won by the national shuttlers.
The World Championships had been so barren for the men's singles shuttlers that Wong Choong Hann's silver medal effort in Birmingham and Roslin Hashim qualifying for the quarter-finals was the best showing ever.
Previously, only Rashid Sidek had managed to survive till the last eight.
The men's doubles have done better with Razif Sidek-Jailani Sidek, Cheah Soon Kit-Soo Beng Kiang and Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock all having won silver medals. But being second best is no longer enough.
The national shuttlers must realise that.
It has been upgraded by the Government and the likes of Lee Chong Wei and Hafiz Hashim represent the future of Malaysian badminton.
They must set the standards for the next generation of players and they must set them really high.
Setting quarter-final and semi-finals targets can no longer apply and starting with this edition of the World Championships, Malaysians must chart new frontiers in the sport.
A Malaysian world badminton champion is long overdue and this must change in Anaheim.
Live on RTM if...
MALAYSIANS will get to see the national shuttlers in action live on television if they advance to the semi-finals and final of the World Badminton Championships.
RTM has sent a crew to Anaheim and word has it that there will also be delayed coverage of the championships which kick off tomorrow.
Cable channel Starsports is also scheduled to screen the World Championships, which is expected to be broadcast to over 140 countries.
(source: New Straits Times)