By Terrence Voon
SINGAPORE shuttlers Ronald Susilo and Kendrick Lee have met the qualification criteria for this year’s Olympics.
The bad news: Only one of them will get to go to Beijing in August.
This is because of the rules set by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), which is using its latest monthly world rankings to determine Olympic qualification.
The list, which was released yesterday, has Susilo and Lee ranked 17th and 21st respectively.
The top 38 players in the rankings will receive qualifying places for the singles events.
But, for players ranked 17th and below, the BWF has stipulated that each country can send only one representative – thereby pitting Susilo against Lee.
The good news is that Singapore has earned qualification spots in three other events: the women’s singles and doubles, and the mixed doubles.
Xing Aiying (36th) is likely to get the nod for the women’s singles, as Li Li (40th) is no longer with the national squad.
In the doubles events, the top 16 pairs are handed Olympic spots. This means that Li Yujia and Jiang Yanmei (11th) are eligible for the women’s doubles, along with the mixed doubles pairing of Li and Hendri Supatra (14th).
This is the most number of events the Republic have qualified for since badminton became an Olympic medal sport in 1992.
Singapore players have hitherto featured only in the men’s and women’s singles.
All eyes are now on the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), which will have to make a tough choice between Susilo and Lee in the coming weeks.
Susilo, 28, has the experience and the pedigree, having defeated world No 1 Lin Dan en route to a quarter-final spot at the 2004 Athens Olympics. But the Indonesian-born shuttler has been plagued by an elbow injury, suffered at last year’s South-east Asia Games, which forced him to miss most of this season.
Lee, the emerging star of Singapore badminton, has never played in the Olympics before. Last year, the 23-year-old won the Dutch Open and was the first Singaporean to reach the men’s singles final at the SEA Games.
Unfortunately, his recent form has been poor. He has failed to get past the round of 32 in his last five tournaments.
The SBA will meet to decide which player will get the Olympic ticket, said its chief of high performance and development Jacqueline Lim.
“Our main goal is to win a medal, so the player with the best chance of winning one will be selected,” she said.
According to Lim, the decision will be made based on the players’ recent performances, fighting spirit and physical condition. Factors such as a player’s ranking, popularity and seniority will not be considered.
Once the SBA reaches a decision, it will submit its list of nominated players to the Singapore National Olympic Council for approval. The final list will be sent to the BWF by May 31.
Said Lee: “It’s good Singapore will have at least one representative in the men’s singles. I hope whoever it is will go on and do Singapore proud.”