Lee Zii Jia reveals advice from badminton legend Lee Chong Wei

Malaysia's number one badminton hope has asked the man whose shoes he has to fill for help.

By ZK Goh

When Lee Chong Wei retired, Malaysian badminton turned to his heir apparent, Lee Zii Jia (no relation), as leader of the national team.

It left the 22-year-old Zii Jia in the spotlight and under intense scrutiny which he had not been under before.

The younger Lee has sought out his older namesake for advice as he adjusts to his new status as Malaysia's big badminton hope.

Chong Wei's key advice for Zii Jia?

"Always rely on yourself."

Key advice

Zii Jia has long been hyped as Chong Wei's successor, which the younger athlete admits used to distract him.

"Since the beginning, everybody has said I am the next Lee Chong Wei, that I am going to replace him - it made me (feel) pressure," he told AFP.

"But now, slowly, I have become more mature. I am starting to accept the pressure and turn it into motivation."

Part of that stems from the advice he has received from the former world number one.

"I looked for him after he retired and he gave me a lot of advice," Zii Jia said to the Badminton World Federation.

"Coaches and people around me can only help me 10 or 20 percent and I must rely on myself for the remaining 80%.

"As singles players we're alone on the court - if you can't handle the stress, fear, and anxiety, then you're bound to lose."

Dealing with pressure

Zii Jia had a breakthrough year in 2019, gaining over 100 places in the world rankings.

He continued that form early this year, reaching the semi-finals of the prestigious All England Open.

It's been a steep learning curve for the shuttler from Kedah State.

"Transitioning from junior to senior was quite tough, I had to make many adjustments to my playing style," Lee told the BWF.

"Chong Wei used to be the nation's number one so he absorbed all the media pressure, he took pressure off all of us.

"When he retired I realised it was really tough to be in his position."

Quick learner

Malaysia's coaching director Wong Choong Hann, himself a former world number one, told the Olympic Channel in December that Zii Jia is developing well.

"He's a quick learner, but he has big shoes to fill and the expectation to perform consistently well," Wong said.

"There's still so much for him to learn. We have to grow him in terms of his understanding of the game as well as in terms of his mentality to be a mature player.

"He dares to step out of his comfort zone and that is a very, very good quality."

For his part, Lee believes his mental game has improved. However, he played down any talk of winning Olympic gold – something Lee Chong Wei never achieved – at next year's rescheduled Tokyo Games.

"I don't think about it... I will just go and try my best to gain some experience.

"For me [there's] no pressure, just go and fight, and try my best."