April 27

THE national shuttlers have been told to keep a low profile during training at the Sendai City Gymnasium, venue of the preliminary round of the Thomas Cup, to ensure none of their opponents study their current form.

National chief coach Yap Kim Hock said this was necessary as all teams will be analysing the Malaysian players’ form.

"As the second-seeded team in the tournament, many countries will be watching us closely," Kim Hock told reporters at the gymnasium yesterday.

The coach also said the players were asked to take it easy during training to avoid injuries.

"We have another two days of training left and I do not want any of my players to be injured."

Malaysia are in Group D with minnows the United States and England.

Their real challenge in the tournament will likely start in the quarter-finals where Malaysia will play either South Korea or Indonesia.

Malaysia will be represented by Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann, Hafiz Hashim, Kuan Beng Hong, Chan Chong Ming-Koo Kien Keat, Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chew Choon Eng-Tan Boon Heong.

Kim Hock also said that Chong Wei had fully recovered from his minor back injury.

"Our team of doctors have certified him fully fit for the Thomas Cup," he said.

Chong Wei, who suffered a minor back injury during centralised training in Kuching, Sarawak last week and gave officials and his team-mates a scare, only started training again on Monday.

Kim Hock was also satisfied with Hafiz Hashim’s form and fitness during training.

"He (Hafiz) is showing signs of returning to the form he showed when winning the All-England in 2003," said Kim Hock.

Asked on the line-up he will play against the United States tomorrow, Kim Hock said the best players will be fielded.

"We want them to adapt to the cold conditions and the venue's environment. However, I will make some changes for the match against England. I may field Beng Hong and doubles pair Choon Eng-Boon Heong."

He also stressed that Malaysia would prefer to meet South Korea instead of Indonesia in the last eight as the Indonesians were always strong in the Thomas Cup.

"They (Indonesia) will be the clear favourite if Malaysia meet them in the quarter-finals," said the coach.