04-11-2004, 12:57 AM #1
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Olympic dream is over for shuttler Hafiz
PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim can kiss goodbye to his dream of representing Malaysia in his first ever Olympic Games in Athens.
Whatever slim hopes he had vanished after his mediocre performances in the back-to-back Korean and Japan Opens.
Except for a 12-15, 15-11, 15-5 upset win over world number 10 Chen Yu of China in the second round of the Japan Open, the former All-England champion was hardly outstanding.
In the Korean Open, he crashed out 9-15, 13-15 to Shon Seung-mo of South Korea in the first round.
Even a good outing in the upcoming Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium from April 20-25, which is the last Olympic qualifying tournament, will not salvage his chances.
National singles chief coach Misbun Sidek admitted that the 22-year-old Hafiz's attempt to make it to Athens was a lost cause.
“He is left too far behind. I knew it would be difficult for him after he lost in the first round of the Korean Open,” said Misbun in a telephone interview from Tokyo.
“But the good news is that Hafiz has shown improvement in his game. What we saw from Hafiz in the recent tournaments were his best performances since his game took a nosedive,” said Misbun.
The Nusa Mahsuri's downward spiral began after his heroic achievement of becoming the first Malaysian in 37 years to win the All-England last year. Since then, Hafiz has been an early-round casualty in 12 of 13 Open tournaments.
Currently, Hafiz is ranked 30th in the world.
Only the top 16 at the end of the qualification period on April 30 will earn automatic places in the Athens Olympic. Each country can send a maximum of three players to Athens and Malaysia already have three in the top 16.
They are Wong Choong Hann, who is ranked fourth in the world, followed by Lee Chong Wei (12th) and Mohd Roslin Hashim (14th).
Even if Hafiz, by an amazing stroke of fortune, makes the cut, it is unlikely Misbun will select him.
A total of 29 men singles will feature in Athens. After confirming the top 16, the International Badminton Federation (IBF) will then select the remaining 13 players, who are ranked 17th to 64 to fulfil the quota.
A total of 172 badminton players will compete in the Olympics. There will be a total of 29 players each in the singles event and 19 pairs each in the doubles events.
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