TheStar


THE rock of Acropolis stands like a mountain in the heart of Athens, bearing the ruins of the Parthenon. It's almost a parody of the Malaysian badminton team.

They had come to Greece knowing they had a mountain to climb but with high hopes. The dream has crumbled and only the rubble remains.

And to climb out of the rubble, Malaysian badminton really needs to widen the scope and look to even younger players to come up and deliver.

The best hopes in Athens, Wong Choong Hann in the men's singles and Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah in the men's doubles, fell after two matches.

Roslin Hashim went out in his opening match against Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro.

Lee Chong Wei beat Ng Wei of Hong Hong before falling to China's Chen Hong while the second doubles pair of Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng also fell early, losing to China's Sang Yang-Zheng Bo in the second round.

There was an air of resignation in the Malaysian camp.

“I have failed, blame it on me,” declared national singles coach Misbun Sidek.

“There was no problem with the training. The players are as fit as they can possibly be but they just did not have it in their hearts to go out there and win.”

They did fight hard, with only Chong Ming-Choon Eng losing in straight games. But in the end, they just did not have the staying power.

“It's not that they were no match for their opponents. I believe all top 15 players in the world are of the same standard. The only thing our players lacked was the winning edge,” Misbun said.

Malaysia are sliding in Olympics badminton since the sport made its debut in the 1992 Barcelona Games. It is the first time that none of the shuttlers made it to the semi-finals.

At the last Games in Sydney Tan Fook-Wan Wah were beaten in the playoff for the bronze medal.

Malaysia had three medals to show from the Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The doubles pair of Razif-Jalani Sidek won bronze in 1992 and their brother, Rashid took the singles bronze in Atlanta. The best effort thus far was a silver from Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock in 1996.

On the future of the players, Misbun said that he would think about it back home in Malaysia but it was quite obvious that Roslin's international career looks set to end.

Roslin knows it himself and was talking about retirement after his defeat.

Chong Wei remains Misbun's next great hopes while Choong Hann will be around for a few years more.

“We have to groom more youngsters to take over from the likes of Lee Tsuen Seng and Kuan Beng Hong, who are the next echelon. Players from other nations have got far ahead of our youngsters,” said Misbun.

Doubles coach Kim Hock was more forthright about the future.

“I will likely change the combinations as early as the Singapore Open,” said Kim Hock, who was quite upset over his charges' failure.”

Tan Fook-Wan Wah, were beaten by Lee Dong-soo-Yong-sung in the quarter-finals.

“The Koreans were gunning for Wan Wah from the beginning and they complained to the service judge about his service. When the judge faulted him a few times, he was rattled.

“He must learn to keep his cool. Our defence was also poor. The Koreans could answer our attack but when they attacked, we had no answer.”

Kim Hock was also thinking of more than the men's doubles now.

“I think we should pay more attention to the women's doubles and mixed doubles. I don't want a situation where when the men lose, it's all over.”

Malaysia had a pair in the women's doubles – Chin Eei Hui-Lim Pei Tty.

They did well to beat the higher ranked Japanese pair of Shizuka Yamamoto-Seiko Yamada for the second consecutive time before bowing out as expected to Chinese world number one Huang Sui-Gao Ling.