Liew Daren may not be able to experience playing at the Olympics, but he can take pride by the fact he’s become a prominent sparring partner of Lee Zii Jia, who is preparing for the Tokyo Games.
Liew has been at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) since May 24 to help Lee get quality sparring sessions, which has become even more pivotal in the absence of international tournaments.
With quality sparring partners a key element for Tokyo-bound shuttlers preparing to compete at the highest level, the World Championships bronze medalist was delighted to play a big role.
“[Zii Jia] did not have a sparring partner before this, as most of the national junior shuttlers were out for tournaments. When you play in big tournaments, you get the intensity from playing against top shuttlers.
“Not being able to compete in tournaments will result in your levels dropping a little, so in this regard I am happy to help him,” Liew told Stadium Astro.
The former world number 10 was also encouraged with Lee's unchanged attitude after winning the All-England Championships in March.
“So far he is preparing well. At this stage, it’s most important that he stays injury-free, with the Olympics looming in about three weeks. He doesn’t look like he is under pressure, which is great. He is still the same Lee I knew even after winning the All-England.
“Before the All-England, there wasn’t any expectations for him to win gold at the Olympics. I hope he will not carry any pressure to Tokyo,” Liew said.
Expectations are high for the world number eight to deliver a medal at the Olympics after his recent success, but Lee was not fazed by it.
“I am clear in my target at the Olympics. I want to head there without immense pressure, so I don’t want to set a target for myself. This is my first Olympics, and I am looking forward to the experience.
“I will give it my best, and aim to get a good result. Hopefully it will be good enough for a medal, regardless of the colour,” he said, again having to fend off the comparison with Lee Chong Wei, who won three Olympic silver medals.
Chong Wei was the country’s sole representative in the men’s singles event at the last two editions in London and Rio de Janeiro.