Chong Wei saga lays bare lack of succession planning

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PETALING JAYA: The whole country is shocked by the latest fiasco which saw World No 1 badminton player Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s B-sample coming back positive after a test was taken in Oslo, Norway last week.

With the results proving that Chong Wei had the banned substance “dexamethasone” in his system during the World Championships in Denmark in August, the three time All-England champion is now facing a possible two-year suspension which would see him out of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, that is a separate issue as the question here is what is going to happen to the future of Malaysian badminton which has been solely depending on one man for so many years.

Badminton was the only core sport which saw Malaysia excel in the international arena and with Chong Wei set to be harshly punished by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the sport looks set to be in the doldrums.

Can the other players such as Chong Wei Feng and Liew Daren start shining or is it too late for them as both players are in their late 20s?

Is the current situation of badminton in Malaysia a result of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) taking things for granted that they could find a replacement for Chong Wei and depending too much on him?

Former BAM high performance director Datuk James Selvaraj said that sports officials  should stop talking about the Chong Wei issue and look at the future of the sport.

“There is no point talking about Chong Wei because it is out of our hands now and it depends on BWF. We should be looking at what is going to happen to badminton in Malaysia. We should go back to the drawing board and start the development programme at the grassroots right now. We are already late but if it is going to be a 5- or 10-year plan, then we should begin now.

“The current back-up players are getting old and there is no point depending on them. Forget Rio and build champions first,” Selvaraj said.

There were reports that Danish legend Morten Frost Hansen was offered a position as technical director at BAM.

If the offer is accepted, then it would be his second stint with the Malaysian national team. Morten was with the national body for 3½ years from 1997 as the national coaching director.

“It will be good if he accepts but he will need time to get the national team on track. We should not expect instant results,” said Selvaraj.

Another Malaysian badminton legend Datuk Tan Yee Khan was upset with the Chong Wei matter and has called on BWF not to punish him severely as he is a victim in this issue.

“It is unfair because it was given to him to recover from his thigh injury and not for performance enhancement. Some leniency could be shown here,” he said.

On the future of Malaysian badminton, Yee Khan said he predicted a decline in the sport after Chong Wei.

“This is what happens when you depend only on one player. I saw it coming but unfortunately BAM did not see it. We will be a third-grade badminton nation if nothing is done now. BAM took things easy but nothing is ever late. They still can get things right now,” said Yee Khan.

He insisted that BAM get back all the former players to be sparring partners for the young players as they will learn more rather than sparring against each other.

Yee Khan added that this has to be done from the grassroots which means the Bukit Jalil sports school has to appoint former players as coaches.

“We have a lot good players who have left the scene. BAM should get them back because that is what China, Indonesia and South Korea does. I was a former player and then became the national coach from 1979 to 1984. I trained the Sidek brothers and other players such as Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang.

“I am sure bringing back the former players would help the development of the sport and maybe five years down the road, we may find two or three Chong Weis,” said Yee Khan.

Meanwhile, BAM deputy president Datuk Norza Zakaria said that BAM already has a development programme involving the national body, sport schools, Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Education.

He said that it will take time to produce champions and players like Chong Wei.

“We got the right people to handle the development of the sport,” he said.

Norza said BAM did not only depend on Chong Wei for results as other players were also given the right coaches and training programme to deliver the medals but only Chong Wei lived up to expectations while the others are still trying.

On Chong Wei, Norza said that BAM are in touch with BWF and are hoping that the world body would be lenient as the banned substance was taken to help him recover from injury.

“Dexamathasone is taken for recovery of injuries and it is only banned in tournaments. Chong Wei was given that when he was recovering from his thigh injury in July.

“BWF should also consider that Chong Wei has never been tested positive in the past. We will wait for the decision and then decide on what we have to do for the Rio Olympics. For now, Chong Wei is still the main man for Rio,” Norza said.

BAM president Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Arif could not be reached for comment.