TheStar
PETALING JAYA: Youngster Kuan Beng Hong is looking forward to featuring in the World Badminton Championships in Anaheim, California, in August but he will not be losing sleep if he fails to make it.

What matters to Beng Hong more is to make his way up the world rankings and become a player to be reckoned with.

Beng Hong is one of the four players in contention for the three places earned by Malaysia in the men's singles.

Lee Chong Wei and Mohd Hafiz Hashim are ranked fourth and sixth in the world respectively and they are set to feature in the championships based on their consistent performances since the start of the year. The third spot is a toss up between Wong Choong Hann and Beng Hong, who are ranked 11th and 12th respectively.

Any three of the four are eligible to play because they have met the qualification criteria of being among the top 24 ranked players in the world.

The Badminton Association of Malaysian (BAM) have to submit their entries by June 2.

National chief coach Yap Kim Hock said that the two main criteria for selection are the ability to challenge for the title and the age of the player.

“Chong Wei and Hafiz are the current top two players in the country but it will be quite close between Choong Hann and Beng Hong,” he said.

“We secured three places and we have to decide on the best candidates. Choong Hann has the experience but age is on Beng Hong's side. We (the coaches) have to take into consideration who is the better bet to rise to the challenges.”

Choong Hann was the runner-up to China's Xia Xuanze in the last championships in Birmingham two years ago.

However, the 28-year-old suffered a slide in performance after the Olympics last August before bouncing back with a semi-finals appearance in the All-England in March.

The 22-year-old Beng Hong said that he was glad that he was contention for a place in the world championships.

“It won't be the end of the world if I do not get to go. I am still young and I believe I will get the chance in future tournaments,” said Beng Hong, who finished as the runner-up to Chong Wei in the Taiwan Open last year.

Beng Hong has trained under Misbun Sidek from the beginning of the year and he has certainly gained ground. He was ranked outside the top 60 at the start of the year but is now enjoying his highest career ranking position.

He reached the third round in the three top-flight tournaments – the Korea Open, All-England and Japan Open. He was a quarter-finalist in the Swiss Open.

“I did not expect my ranking position to go up so fast,” said Beng Hong.

“Initially I was a bit hesitant to train under Misbun. But now I believe fully in his abilities to take me to the top. He toughens me up physically and instills confidence in me.

“I do not feel small when I play the top players now. My target is to win my first big title in two years' time.”

The Kedahan is now preparing for the Opens in Singapore (June 28-July 3) and Malaysia (July 5-10) and hopes to make a major impact in the tournaments.

“I hope to enter the semi-finals of a five-star competition by this year. Hopefully, I can get it soon,” said Beng Hong.