Malaysian Youth & Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and badminton legend Lee Chong Wei have offered to help the struggling Lee Zii Jia through their expertise.
At the launch of the Road To Gold (RTG) programme that the world number four should most likely be part of, Yeoh said she planned to meet up with Zii Jia after his BWF World Tour tournaments in Europe.
“We definitely want Zii Jia to contribute to our RTG. We believe he has it in him and we want to help him. This is a national project, and I hope in our conversations we will put national interest ahead of personal interest,” she said.
The RTG, headed by project coordinator and Malaysian Football League CEO Stuart Ramalingam, was launched as a “top-up” initiative to the existing Podium Programme to propel Malaysia to its elusive Olympic gold medal.
The programme's budget and list of athletes and sports to be included were not confirmed yet, but it should most likely consist of candidates with potential to deliver gold for Malaysia at two Olympic cycles – Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028.
Zii Jia is among the athletes who fall in that category, along with men’s and women’s doubles pairs Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah, national cyclist Azizulhasni Awang as well as diving stars Pandelela Rinong and Nur Dhabitah Sabri.
Azizulhasni is also part of the RTG committee, along with ex-national athletes such as Chong Wei, former hockey player Mirnawan Nawawi and eight-time world squash champion Nicol David who would be sharing their knowledge on a voluntary basis without a salary.
When asked about Zii Jia, Chong Wei said the RTG committee would do all they can to help him.
“We will help him with his on-court performance, but off-court issues we won’t be able to help. This is a programme to help Malaysia achieve our first Olympic gold, and as an ex-athlete we can share our experiences to inspire the athletes.
“I myself played in four different Olympic Games, and I can share what it’s like to deal with pressure. We want to help all the athletes, regardless of their status if they are attached to the national body or are professionals,” he said.
Zii Jia would need all the help he can get, with him going through arguably the most turbulent period of his career.
The latest setback saw the shutter crash out of the German Open second round and take to social media afterwards with the caption “I’m f*****g done”.