Badminton has been earmarked as one of the sport to deliver the elusive gold medal for Malaysia at the the upcoming Olympic Games as the 30-strong athlete contingent prepare for battle in Tokyo.
Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican announced a target of three medals, including at least one gold for this edition.
Realistically, he said badminton, track cycling and diving would be Malaysia’s best hopes of winning gold.
At the Rio edition, the badminton contingent delivered three of four silver medals through Lee Chong Wei, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong.
Azizulhasni Awang, a big prospect to win gold this year, delivered the only bronze five years ago.
The badminton contingent this time are made up of eight shuttlers who will compete in all five disciplines.
By virtue of being the most experienced and highest seeded shuttlers, Chan-Goh will be expected to finish on the podium again, and turn silver into gold this time.
The seventh seeds will first have to navigate their way in a tough group comprising of Chinese second seeds Wang Yi-lyu-Huang Dong Ping and Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man-Tse Ying Suet.
Men’s doubles duo Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik are also banked upon for a medal, but they too must first nullify the threat of Indonesians Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan and South Korea’s Choi Sol-gyu-Seo Seung-jae.
There are medal expectations on Lee Zii Jia in the men’s singles, but the Malaysian is expected to face a tough journey in the knockout rounds should he qualify from his group as champion.
Women’s doubles pair Lee Meng Yean-Chow Mei Kuan and women’s singles shuttler Soniia Cheah would give the country a surprise medal should they defy the odds after being handed tough draws.
The national shuttlers tested the courts at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza for the first time on Monday.
They will begin full training sessions on Tuesday, ahead of the competition opener on Saturday.