NST
April 24

MALAYSIAíS Thomas Cup team do not want to follow the same disastrous path that the national hockey team took in the just concluded World Cup Qualifiers in China.

At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang yesterday, national chief coach Yap Kim Hock pledged that the shuttlers will be an example that Malaysian sports can achieve big things on the world stage before leaving for Japan with the Malaysian Thomas Cup squad.

The national hockey team were heavily tipped to earn one of the five slots for Septemberís World Cup in Germany but finished ninth, their worst performance in a World Cup Qualifier to date.

The Thomas Cup Finals will be held in Sendai and Tokyo on April 28-May 7 where Malaysia, the second seeds, will begin their quest to be recognised as the best badminton team in the world, a feat last achieved in 1992.

Although the teamís target is the semi-finals, Kim Hock believes they are on par with the best, and will mount a strong challenge to win the Cup.

"We know what happened to hockey. However, we are not the favourites but we have a well prepared squad with character and commitment. We want to set an example that Malaysian sports can achieve big things," said an upbeat Kim Hock.

"Based on my experience as a player, this is the best squad we have assembled since 1992.

"There is a right mix of youth and experience and it would be a waste if we donít capitalise on our strength.

"We can take on the best and will not be intimidated by anyone. We aim to return with our heads held high."

Kim Hockís confidence has never been greater and the successful final phase of training in Kuching from April 6 until last Thursday has further strengthened his belief that mighty China and the highly professional Danes can be stopped in order to win the Cup for a sixth time.

The team have blended as a very close knit unit during the training stint.

Even Chong Wei, who had a minor back-injury scare last Tuesday, has fully recovered.

The normally injury-prone Wan Wah, who was out of action in February and March, has regained his form and fitness and will play a key role with Tan Fook to chart Malaysiaís path.

Choong Hannís experience, Hafizís extraordinary efforts in team events and the lively Chong Ming-Kien Keat have all done their parts to give the right balance to take on China, Denmark and traditional rivals Indonesia.