Gold medals within reach as Malaysian athletes show their mettle in Rio

MALAYSIA is headed for its best ever medal haul in the Olympics – one silver is in the bag, two more are certain and if all goes well, it could well be three or even four golds for the country.

Mixed doubles shuttlers Goh Liu Ying-Chan Peng Soon showed the way, stunning world No. 6 Xu Chen-Ma Jin 21-12, 21-19 in the semi-finals at the Rocentro Pavilion 4 in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

The men’s double pair of Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V. Shem then upset China’s World No. 5 pair of Chai Baio and Hong and Hong Wei in a nail-biting three-game match last night.

Both pairs are assured of silver medals but could up their game and end Malaysia’s elusive search for gold.

The achievement of Liu Ying and Chan was especially remarkable considering that they were the first Malaysian pair to have qualified for the Olympics – in London four years ago. Then, they lost all their three preliminary round matches.

The world No. 11 Malaysians are assured of a silver, but they could go one up and become the first Malaysian gold medallists if they beat Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia in the final today (11.30pm Malaysian time).

Malaysia clinched its first silver on Aug 9 through divers Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong in the women’s 10m platform synchro.

Both Liu Ying and Chan were grinning from ear to ear and overjoyed with their success – their third over the Chinese pair in 10 meetings.

“I’m excited,” said Liu Ying after their 45-minute win over Ma Jin-Xu Chen. I think the Chinese were under tremendous pressure as they were the silver medallists in London,” added the 27-year-old, who only resumed her partnership with Chan 18 months ago after surgery on both her knees.

“It seems so unlikely. I’m so happy we completed the job. The pressure was definitely on the Chinese. Our coach (Jeremy Gan) told us to cool down.

“It has always been my dream to play in an Olympic final,” said the 28-year-old Chan.

Tan and V. Shem followed up on their win over South Korean World No. 1 Lee Young-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong on Monday with the exciting semi-final win. They won the first game 21-18, lost the second tamely 12-21 before winning the rubber game 21-18.

In the final, they look likely to meet another Chinese pair of Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan, who they had beaten in the preliminary rounds.

Top singles shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei remains Malaysia’s favourite to deliver a gold. At the last Games in London and the one before in Beijing he bagged silver. With Rio likely to be his swansong, Lee will be driven to bid Malaysian sports a golden goodbye.

Pandelela could also deliver another gold for the country when she takes part in her favourite event – the women’s 10m platform individual, with the semi-finals at 9pm tomorrow and the finals at 3am on Friday. At the London Olympics, she won a bronze in the event and will be looking to have a full complement of Olympic medals when she takes on the competition.

Malaysian chef de mission Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abdul Majid was a happy man.

“My KPI (Key Performance Indicator) has been achieved,” he said after Liu Ying and Chan assured Malaysia of a second silver.

“Anything else now is a bonus,” said Al Amin.

Morten Frost, the technical director of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), was full of praise for the mixed doubles pair.

“The way they have come back in the last 18 months has been incredible. They have grown a lot in all aspects,” said the Dane. - The Star

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