TheStar
April 27

THE Indonesians took training yesterday in a light mood while the Malaysians were awfully quiet as they worked out for the third day at the Sendai Gymnasium.

An attempt by the doubles players to inject some fun before the session began – keeping the shuttlecock in the air a la sepaktakraw – was stopped by coach Rexy Mainaky.

“Come on, be serious! Concentrate on the training!” was the order that came from Rexy.

Unlike the Indonesians, who shared light moments and were horsing around, the second seeded Malaysian team have chosen to keep a low profile ahead of the Thomas Cup Finals, which begin tomorrow.

All the group ties will be played in Sendai before the Finals move to Tokyo for the knockout stages beginning on May 3. Malaysia begin their campaign in Group D against the United States.

The Malaysian team comprise singles players Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann, Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Kuan Beng Hong and the doubles pairs of Chan Chong Ming-Koo Kien Keat, Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chew Choon Eng-Tan Boon Heong.

Yesterday, the singles players and the doubles pairs trained at different times at the competition venue.

National chief coach Yap Kim Hock said that they did not want the team to be the centre of attraction.

“The other teams are watching us as we are watching them. The players have been told to stay relaxed and focused in training. We do not want unnecessary attention from the others,” said Kim Hock.

“They have had their share of fun during the two-week centralised training camp in Kuching. Now, it is better to stay quiet and keep a low profile. Let the others under-estimate us.”

He added that the players had adjusted well to the 10,000-capacity stadium after three days of training.

“We have no complaints over poor lighting, slippery floor or strong draft. It is an ideal venue for badminton. The players are in good mood and are eagerly waiting for the Finals to begin,” said Kim Hock.

He revealed that some of the players, especially national number one Chong Wei, were feeling a little nervous.

“But that is normal. Chong Wei will be leading the team out for ties at first singles for the first time. Naturally, he is feeling a little uneasy about it ahead of the competition. But the players are united and they will be able to psyche each other up. This will bring them far in the Finals,” said Kim Hock.

Malaysia are aiming to reach at least the semi-finals. To do it, they have to beat either Indonesia or South Korea in the quarter-finals for a tie against Denmark.

China are the favourites to retain the Cup. Malaysia last won the world men’s team title in 1992 in Kuala Lumpur.