THE best bets for Malaysia turned out to be the biggest flops in the World Championships, which ended at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Expectations were high on Lee Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, who were seeded second in the men's singles and men's doubles events respectively. But they dished out dismal performances.
And now, the chances to see Malaysia winning the first gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing next year do not look very promising.
The world number three ranked Chong Wei, known for his prowess at home, chose the wrong time and place to show the bad side of his game. He was blown away 11-21, 9-21 by Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the third round.
Surprise, surprise: Veterans Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah defied the odds to win a bronze for Malaysia while the challenges of the other contenders like Lee Chong Wei (below) fizzled out.
It was his worst performance at home and there was more shocks from him after the defeat.
Chong Wei dropped a bombshell by revealing that he had some problems with chief coach Yap Kim Hock, who he claimed put unnecessary pressure on him to win the world title.
Although what really transpired between the two is not clear, the debacle was disappointing if not embarrassing.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will have to review their training and coaching set-up again to ensure there is good relationship between players and coaches.
Three other men's singles player – Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Lee Tsuen Seng (KLRC Bhd) and Mohd Roslin Hashim (Nusa Mahsuri) – went down fighting in their early round matches.
World number two Kien Keat-Boon Heong have never lost to a pair ranked lower than them but on Friday, they were humbled 13-21, 21-17, 23-25 by Japanese Shuichi Sakamoto-Shintaro Ikeda.
And a disappointed national doubles coach Rexy Mainaky hit out at the attitude of the players, especially the younger ones.
“I think these players have a lot of time to waste. Sometimes I see them lingering around the compound after the training session just talking. I plan to increase the training session from two to three sessions,” said Rexy.
“I want them to stay focused on the next task ahead – winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games.”
Rexy, however, was pleased with veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, who defeated defending champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng en route to winning the country's only medal, a bronze, in the championships.
“They may be the oldest in the team but they showed great commitment. They still have the desire to win matches. This is what I want to see from the other doubles players,” he said.
But Malaysia's World Championships campaign would have been a complete disaster if not for the performance of women's singles player Wong Mew Choo.
She saved Malaysia the blushes by upsetting two-time world champion Xie Xingfang of China to become the first Malaysian to reach the world championships women's singles quarter-finals.
To bounce back from the disappointing outings in the world championships, especially in the men's events, Kim Hock said that there would be changes to the training methods.
“Our opponents have read the game styles of our players. The coaches will now have to review the way they train the players. We have failed to achieve our target in the world championships. But we must keep our sights on the targets in the Olympics next year,” he said.
The players will now get ready for the India Open (Sept 4-9) and Japan Open (Sept 11-16).