2021 ALL ENGLAND OPEN CHAMPION : I just want to be who I am – Lee Zii Jia
Malaysians were spellbound watching the performance of Lee Zii Jia and his powerful smashes against his opponents during the 2021 All England Badminton Championships held in Birmingham, UK on 21 March 2021. Only 22 years of age at that time, Zii Jia displayed such cool and control during the quarter-finals against World Number One, Kento Momota, the semi-finals against Dutch player Mark Caljouw, and the finals against Viktor Axelsen, that Malaysians roared in jubilation when Zii Jia became the All England champion! A commentator said quite rightly what many spectators worldwide felt - “A star is born.”
For Zii Jia, it was pure vindication after all the critics, fault-finders, and mud-slingers threw lemons at him for his dismal performance at the Toyota Thailand Open in January where he exited after the first round and his disappointing play at the BWF World Tour Finals where he was beaten by Axelsen. His parents, when interviewed after the All England victory, revealed that Zii Jia was depressed with all disparaging remarks that belittled and dispirited him that he locked himself inside his room for days trying to deal with it. He was also given a show cause letter by the Badminton Association of Malaysia. What if it broke the 22 year old aspiring future champion? Malaysia would not have brought home the 2021 All England trophy.
After the fact, we hope a lesson is learned. We hope that so called fans and armchair critics who are quick to make scathing remarks, would display more generosity of spirit to others who in their sports journey, sometimes lose and lose badly. No one is more disappointed than the sportsman who lost. If that is realised, arms of comfort should be stretched forth to hold the athlete up, words of encouragement to follow such that the sportsman will find it in himself to resolutely give it a go again the next time and improve on his areas of weakness. Kicking at someone who has fallen is a cruel act.
Stop the comparison
What exasperates Zii Jia is the harping comparison made with Datuk Lee Chong Wei. In an interview with Channel News Asia’s Amir Yusof, he said, “I have my own journey, my own story to tell. Let me focus on it.” In another press statement, Zii Jia made it clear that “I just want to be who I am” and not someone else. Isn’t that everyone’s aspiration to be the best that they can be and not to be compared to others?
Many observers think that Zii Jia’s style of badminton is quite unlike that of Chong Wei. He is a badminton champion in his own right and people like his aggressive stance and killer instinct in court. Axelsen, in true sportsmanship agreed that the way Zii Jia played in the All England final against him made Zii Jia the true winner this time. There will be future meetings between Axelsen and Momota and others with Zii Jia. Without any uncertainty we can expect that the odds of winning and losing the game are equal for all. All champions know that you cannot win all the time. Zii Jia just has to focus on sharpening his killer smashes, remaining cool to study the opponent’s style, do his best to enjoy his game, and not to give two hoots to his disparagers and censurers.
In his instagram, Zii Jia wrote, “I won’t forget all the setbacks and efforts I made to come this far,” after winning the All England Badminton Championship. Way to go Zii Jia! You have many supporters behind you. Just give it all you’ve got. Do not let setbacks triumph over you. You are only 23.
- Olympic Channel. 16 March 2021. ZK Goh. Lee Zii Jia: What I learned from legendary teammate Lee Chong Wei. https://www.olympicchannel.com/en/stories/news/detail/lee-zii-jia-malaysia-learned-teammate-lee-chong-wei/
- Says. 24 March 2021. May Vin Ang. The 22-Year-Old Kedahan Who Won The All England Open. 9 Things To Know About Malaysia's Badminton Hero Lee Zii Jia (says.com))
- The Sun Daily. 9 April 2021. Zii Jia receives windfall from 100PLUS (thesundaily.my)
- Malaysia Tatler. 23 March 2021. Lainey Loh. Lee Zii Jia: 5 Things To Know About Malaysia’s New Badminton Star | Tatler Malaysia (asiatatler.com)
- The Star. 22 March 2021. He just wanted to shine said Jia’s parents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cPW_FPrsUk
- Channel News Asia. 25 March 2021. Amir Yusof.'I have my own journey': Malaysia’s new badminton star Lee Zii Jia on being compared to Lee Chong Wei.” https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/malaysia-sports-badminton-lee-zii-jia-lee-chong-wei-all-england-14487866