Hunt for gold: Chong Wei through, all eyes on Malaysia’s mixed doubles pair tonight

BY KAMLES KUMAR

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal hopes were pinned firmly on our very own badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei. But he may just be pipped to that honour by two other Malaysian shuttlers later tonight.

Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon meet the Indonesian pair of Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad in the badminton mixed doubles final tonight (11.30pm our time). Even if they lose, we are guaranteed a silver medal of course.

But all our hopes will be that they bring home that much longed-for first Olympic gold medal.

Then there is the men’s doubles pair of Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem who also made it to the finals which will be played on Friday. Yet another chance to go for gold.

Goh and Chan became the first ever Malaysian mixed doubles pair to qualify for the Olympics when they participated in the 2012 Games in London.

Former Olympic men’s doubles badminton silver medalist Yap Kim Hock said the duo stands a high chance of bagging the gold tonight as they are “technically” superior to their opponents.

“Despite the pressure, they have done really well. They seem to be able to handle it and focus on the game.

“In technical aspects, we are better than the competition. We have better and more powerful control (of the game). We have a good chance to win it,” he told Malay Mail Online today.

While being optimistic that the duo could bag the top prize tonight, Yap said more pressure was on the men’s doubles instead to land the gold in their finals on Friday.

“If we are to compare between mixed doubles and men’s doubles, the higher chances for gold is the men’s doubles.

“We have beaten them (China) before in the group stages and our performances against other countries like Korea have been good too,” he explained.

Tan-Goh defeated a Chinese team in the semi-finals and will face another Chinese team ― Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan ― at the finals on Friday.

Another badminton legend, Rashid Sidek from the famous Sidek badminton family, also commended Goh-Chan for bringing Malaysia the closest it has been to a badminton medal in 20 years for doubles.

“We are very proud that Malaysia is in two badminton finals. We hope for a badminton gold now.

“Both the pairs have been underdogs but they still made it. They have had tough competition and despite the lack of experience, they are in the finals,” he told Malay Mail Online.

The veteran also advised Goh-Chan to maintain their composure tonight and not lose focus on beating their opponents.

Rashid warned both pairs to not be distracted by other factors like the incentives promised by politicians as it might affect their game tonight.

“Don’t think about the incentives or anything else. Play the game and keep your composure at all times. Focus on your gameplay and that can give you the gold,” he said.

Malaysians, of course, have been pumped up by the news that our shuttlers might win the country’s first-ever gold medal in the Brazil Games tonight.

Many have already flooded social media with posts expressing their support for the athletes tonight.

“Hope you are able to win the country’s first gold Goh. The whole of Malaysia is behind you,” Twitter user Wafa tweeted using his handle @wan_pais today.

Some Malaysians were even willing to put aside their other priorities including their studies to watch the shuttlers tonight.

“screw addmaths, I’m going to watch live tonight!!!! go MALAYSIA!! Badminton athletes, i have faith in u guys! #MAS #badminton,” @amndadnielle tweeted earlier.

Malaysia’s Number 1 shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei — who was our main hope for a gold medal before the others made it to the finals — played in his qualifier versus Chinese Taipei earlier and won.

Google Malaysia, meanwhile, tweeted earlier that Malaysians have been frantically searching for links to “live stream” the matches tonight boosting its search results by almost 250 per cent.

“Many await tonite’s badminton mixed double finals as searches for live match streaming rises 250%. #GoogleTrends,” the post on @GoogleMsia read.

Watch the Badminton Mixed Doubles final LIVE tonight at 10.50pm on:

Astro Arena’s YouTube channel (commentary in BM) — https://youtu.be/kfwhpAl1Wsk

Stadium Astro’s YouTube channel (commentary in ENG) — https://youtu.be/CSjPTXOJI8A

The Youth and Sports Ministry will also be screening the matches at Dataran Putrajaya tonight.

The carnival-like set-up would also include other activities like food trucks being present, breakdancers and freestylers performing as well as a lucky draw.

The national shufflers have been receiving heaps of accolades and words of support from everyday Malaysians and politicians alike.

After making the final, Goh-Chan were praised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for their achievements this far in Rio.

“Congratulations Chan Peng Soon & @gohliuying for taking #MAS to the final! What a performance! Another step to the #Olympics #Rio2016 gold. #KamiTeamMalaysia,” he said in a post on his Twitter account @NajibRazak yesterday.

Several other opposition politicians and renowned figures like AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also expressed their support for the shuttlers.

“Another reason why I celebrate multicultural Malaysia. Tonight all of Malaysia will celebrate as Malaysians, a superb doubles match. Malaysia is great because we are multicultural,” Fernandes posted on his Instagram page yesterday.