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Malaysia’s new badminton star Lee Zii Jia has distanced himself from being labelled as a successor to legend shuttler Lee Chong Wei following his triumphant All England Open victory last Sunday.
Speaking to journalists in a group interview via Zoom on Thursday (Mar 25), the 22-year-old stressed that he hoped to chart his own journey in his badminton career, and played down comparisons to his countrymen Lee Chong Wei.
“I just want to be myself, and not compare with Lee Chong Wei because his achievements are unbreakable, his record is unbreakable, he is a legend. So I have my own journey, I have my own story to tell. I have to focus on it,” he said.
Lee Zii Jia’s superb victory, in a tournament in which he was seeded sixth, sparked plaudits across Malaysia from politicians, athletes and netizens.
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called him a “national hero” and encouraged him to use the win to propel him further for future success.
In the Sunday match, Lee Zii Jia clinched the title after beating defending champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 in an epic final in Birmingham.
En route to the title, Lee Zii Jia also beat Japan’s two-time world champion Kento Momota at the quarter-finals in a pulsating, marathon encounter.
It was Lee Zii Jia’s first title in three years, his last one being the 2018 Chinese Taipei Open. He is now ranked eighth in the world.
EMULATING LEE CHONG WEI AN “IMPOSSIBLE MISSION”
However, Lee Zii Jia believed that his achievements still pale in comparison to Lee Chong Wei, who has won four All England titles and three Olympic silver medals in his illustrious career.
Lee Chong Wei, who retired from professional badminton in 2019, reportedly said that Lee Zii Jia’s performance in the All England Open could be a sign of bigger things to come for Malaysia in the upcoming Summer Tokyo Olympics.
“If Zii Jia can play like this at the Olympics, then he is surely a contender for a medal,” Lee Chong Wei was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
When a reporter cited Lee Chong Wei’s comments during the Thursday interview, the young shuttler seemed slightly embarrassed.
“I want to thank Datuk (Lee Chong Wei) for this comment. For (him to make a) comment like this, I don’t really know what to say to that,” he said.