Lee Zii Jia can be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed after being handed a daunting task at the Tokyo Olympics, but the country’s men’s singles ace is taking the challenge in stride.
The world number eight is grouped together with France’s Brice Leverdez and Ukraine’s Artem Pochtarov for the men's singles group stage.
Should he advance as group champion, Lee will most likely face China’s defending champion Chen Long in the last-16, and if he aces that encounter, could take on a well-rested Chou Tien-chen who is seeded second.
But the All-England champion didn't seem fazed by the treacherous path, and vowed to beat the best to become the best.
“If you want to be a top player, you have to beat the best players. If you are depending on a good draw to progress, that’s not a trait of a top shuttler.
“I have Leverdez in my group, who is a good player. I cannot underestimate him, he’s a more experienced player. I will start studying videos of him, and not take anything for granted,” Lee said.
Against Leverdez, the Kedah-born won in three games back in 2017 but lost in straight games in 2019.
The world number 36 Frenchman also famously beat Lee Chong Wei in the first round of the 2017 World Championships.
As for Pochtarov, Lee faced the Ukrainian twice in 2017, beating him in their first encounter before losing narrowly in the second.
Lee also pointed out the potential threat that Chen Long and team-mate Shi Yuqi could pose at the Olympics.
“They will be tricky opponents. Even videos of them in action are old ones, and no one knows how their condition is now. I’m looking forward to seeing how they fare in Tokyo,” he said.
For the upcoming challenges, Lee can rely on the expertise of both his coaches Hendrawan and Tey Seu Bock: “They are both experienced coaches and I will rely on their expertise. I know I can also talk to Chong Wei if I have any issues. He has shared his experience with me, and I know I can count on him.”
The top two seeds in the men’s singles – Kento Momota and Chou – will receive a bye in the last-16 if they finish as group champions, to walk into the quarter-finals.