Just two days after winning the Malaysia International Challenge badminton men’s singles title, Cheam June Wei crashed out in the qualifying rounds for the Korean Masters earlier today.
June Wei defeated Canada’s BR Sankeerth 21-16, 21-6 in the first qualifying match but was packed off 20-22, 21-6, 19-21 by Chinese Taipei’s Lee Chia Hao in his next match.
On the surface, it would cast aspersions on the ability of the 22-year-old. Malaysian shuttlers have been long blamed for their inconsistency and the inability to deliver under pressure.
However, in this case June Wei’s early departure from the Korean Masters must fall entirely on the management of the national badminton team.
June Wei had to battle for 72 minutes in his Malaysia International Challenge final against the higher seeded Ren Peng Bo of China before winning 21-16, 19-21, 21-18.
After the final on Sunday, June Wei had to travel from Kangar to Alor Setar to catch a flight to KLIA and from there to Shanghai. From Shanghai the shuttler had to catch another flight to Korea
And he was expected to be ready to be at his best within 24 hours to play in two qualifying round matches in Korea! The tournament was held in Gwangju and it would have also entailed more road travel. Coupled with all the transit times, the journey would have been punishing indeed, especially after his arduous trek to the finals in Kangar.
Four of his matches at the Malaysian International Challenge lasted at least an hour. His semi-final match against Japan’s Kodai Naraoka lasted 78 minutes while his upset defeat of second seed Zhou Ze Qi in the quarter-finals lasted an hour each.
There are just too many things not right with how the national team management had handled June Wei’s participation at the Korean Open.
The first must be the total lack of confidence the coaches had with June Wei progressing to the later stages in Kangar. He was expected to lose early on, hence the ridiculous flight arrangements made for him at the eleventh hour.
June Wei did not travel with the other Malaysian players entered for the Korean Masters.
Even if a more direct route was arranged for June Wei to play, he would still not be in the right condition to do well in Gwangju.
June Wei’s participation in Korea was made well in advance with the closing date for the event being 15th October. Still it was no excuse for the team management to enter him for back-to-back tournaments held so far apart.
The distance between Kuala Lumpur and Gwangju is 2,731 miles and a direct flight would have taken approximately five and a half hours. But there are no direct flight from the Malaysian city to Gwangju.
Were all these factored in when it was decided that June Wei would play in Malaysia and then make an appearance in Gwangju?
Should June Wei be blamed for agreeing to the playing schedule or for his early exit in Korea? Definitely not.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) rule does not allow a player to withdraw from any competition unless he was certified to be unwell or injured. But looking into the circumstances, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) could have still withdrawn the player and paid the necessary fine to the BWF.
On June Wei’s part, he was not included in the squad to the Manila SEA Games and needed to toe the line and play in whichever tournament he has been entered to work his way back to the top.
If he had declined, he could have faced the wrath of the national selectors for future tournaments.
No benefit had come from June Wei’s participation in Korea. Financially it was also a waste, especially when the BAM is said to be cutting down on players’ participation overseas due to financial constraints. At best this was a cameo appearance by June Wei in Korea.
The coaches and the BAM selection committee should disregard June Wei’s results in Korea, which seems to mainly due to the lack of diligence on their part and not the player’s.
He could have easily been entered for the Syed Modi International starting on 26th November and is of the same BWF World Tour 300 category as the Korean Masters. While the dates clash with the Manila SEA Games, June Wei’s entry In India would not have posed any problems.
He may even have got a direct entry into the main draw in the tournament in Lucknow. Sankeerth, whom he had defeated in the first round of qualifying today, has earned a place in the main draw and will play Hong Kong’s Vincent Wong Wing Ki in his opening match.
There is no guarantee that he would do as well as he did in Kangar by playing in India. But at least he would have been better prepared both physically and mentally to take up the challenge.
The BAM need to stop planning to fail and be more professional in how they manage their players’ careers.