Lee Zii Jia: How I've improved my game by watching my 'idol' Viktor Axelsen

The Malaysian shuttler beat Viktor Axelsen in the All England Open final. The Danish world champ also inspired Lee because of a shared physical attribute.

By Sanjeev Palar

Lee Zii Jia etched his name in badminton's history books by winning the coveted All England Open title in March.

It was the Malaysian's first-ever Super 1000 event victory which was made even more memorable as he first defeated double world champion Momota Kento in the quarter-finals and went on to beat 2017 world champion Viktor Axelsen in the final.

In an exclusive interview with Olympic Channel, 23-year-old Lee shared that he grew up honing his skills on court by watching learning from Axelsen's game.

"My idol is also Viktor Axelsen because I watch his gameplay many times, and I love the way he plays." - Lee Zii Jia to Olympic Channel

Common trait amongst friends

At 1.86m in height, Lee is considered tall for a men's singles badminton player.

As such he has had to adapt a different strategy to his game to maximise his height advantage but also defend against some of the weaknesses that comes with it.

"Every move is a struggle and we have to work on many core muscles, and also our lower body, we have to make it strong, so that we can move very fast on court." - Lee Zii Jia

Which is why the Malaysian sought inspiration from Rio 2016 bronze medallist Axelsen, who is 1.94m in height. The two have become good friends while on tour and Lee admits to watching plenty of videos of the Dane's matches to learn how he uses the advantage of height to his benefit.

One such advantage lies in their ability to smash a lot more.

"Because I'm tall, attacking is the best weapon we have." - Lee Zii Jia

Gearing up for his Olympic debut

Lee's success in Birmingham has seen him rise to a career high of eighth in the world rankings.

With a major tournament title under his belt, it can only bode well for his preparations ahead of making his Olympic debut in Tokyo this July.

For the past three Games, Malaysia has looked towards Lee Chong Wei to deliver the nation's maiden Olympic gold medal. With the three-time silver medallist retired from the sport, perhaps there is hope that the younger Lee can continue the quest.

"We all know that the Olympics is a very big tournament. My target is to win the Olympic gold medal" - Lee Zii Jia

The good news for Malaysians is that Zii Jia does feel he is able and capable to fight for glory in Japan, but he is opting to remain grounded in what will be he first-ever Olympic Games appearance, acknowledging it's tough for me. And it's a challenge for me as well.