ASIAN PARA GAMES QF – Malaysian medallists surrounded

Two Malaysians who medalled in badminton at the last Asian Para Games, Madzlan Saibon and Cheah Liek Hou, have found themselves in the semi-finals of the Incheon Asian Para Games, […]

Two Malaysians who medalled in badminton at the last , Madzlan Saibon and Cheah Liek Hou, have found themselves in the semi-finals of the Incheon , surrounded by talent from the strongest nations.

Story and photos by Don Hearn (live in Incheon)

Early on the third day of badminton action at the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games, Guangzhou silver medallist Madzlan Saibon (pictured) booked his spot in the semi-finals of the Wheelchair Category 2, along with no fewer than 3 of Korea’s best.  Not longer afterward, Cheah Liek Hou, the only double gold medallist in Guangzhou, advanced to a semi-final round dominated with young Indonesian talent.

Madzlan Saibon made it to the semis the same way he reached the gold medal match in China four years ago, by beating Vietnam’s Truong Ngoc Binh (pictured below).

“I think it was somewhat lucky because my opponent injured his arm.  He is a very skilled player,” said Saibon after his match.  “I just come to play and I focus on playing my best.  I won silver at the last Asian Para Games but I don’t know about my chances this time.  The Koreans are so strong.

“In a way, these tournaments do not have as much talent because none of the top Europeans but Asians are still the top in the world so winning is tough.

“You don’t have mixed-nation doubles pairs like there are at the para-badminton tournaments.  Here, people are playing for their nation so it is different but it is still a community.  You don’t have the turnover like you do with the able-bodied players.  In para-badminton, if you can still play, you can keep competing when you’re in your forties.  It’s not like Lee Chong Wei, thinking about retiring at 32.

“Still, I don’t think I can still be around for the 2020 Paralympics.  I’d like to play but it will be very difficult.  I’m already 38 now.  I’ve been playing international para-badminton since 2003.  Truong Ngoc Binh was my opponent at those Games in Vietnam.”

Saibon’s opponent in the semis will be Korea’s Kim Kyung Hoon (pictured), the reigning Asian Champion and World Championship runner-up in men’s singles.  Kim is also on track for a silver medal in the wheelchair doubles, where he is playing with Lee Sam Seop.

One of the most successful players in the standing para-badminton categories is Malaysia’s Cheah Liek Hou (pictured below).  Not only was he the only double gold medallist at the Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, but he has also repeated this two-title performance at the 2012 Asian Championships, the 2013 Worlds and then again this year at the Indonesia Para-Badminton International.

Cheah, however, does not exude the confidence one might expect for a man with this sort of track record: “I’m not really the favourite, I don’t think,” said Cheah after watching his semi-final opponent-to-be Suryo Nugroho (pictured bottom left) win his match handily.  “A lot of strong players from Indonesia are picking up now and as for me, I lack training.  I have already started my working career.

“I work in a corporate job so the last few months, I haven’t really been training enough to prepare for this tournament.

“A lot of young, like teenaged, players are catching up and badminton is not that easy to play any more.

“Nugroho plays very well.  I think he prepared well for these Asian Games.  He has powerful smashing and maybe I need to focus more on countering his smashing.  I need to think tonight about how to play him.  I’ll need a smart game.

“I think because of my lack of training, my game has changed a lot so that now I’m playing a slower, more strategic game.  I’d say the young players who are coming up are playing the way I used to play, with a lot of jump smashing and power.”

Asked whether his transition resembles that of 5-time World Champion Lin Dan, Cheah laughs, “I’m trying to learn from him, his strokes and his strategy, but he is still really fit and even though he has slowed down his game, his speed is still there.

“Also, currently I’m recovering from a knee injury so my other leg is having to compensate to protect the injured one.

“I was very excited to hear the news about badminton being in the Paralympics in 2020.  It gives the younger players especially something to look forward to.  I hope our government can support us as full-time players so that we can focus on our training only and we wont need to work while training.

“Nugroho, for example, I think trains as a full-time player.  He is very young, I think 18 or 19 and he trains full-time, without having to spend time on his education for the future or on his career.”

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @