SHUTTLER Liew Daren left Malaysia with an impression that he would be warming the bench at the Laos SEA Games. But, now, he will be one of the busiest men’s singles shuttlers in the team.
Singles coach Misbun Sidek decided yesterday to pick Daren in favour of Kuan Beng Hong to replace world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei for the individual event.
Daren will also be playing the third singles match in the men’s team competition, which begins tomorrow.
The other singles player in the team is Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
Although suprised with the turn of events, the 21-year-old Daren has vowed to capitalise on the golden opportunity to come good in his first outing in the SEA Games.
“I did not expect to get a chance to play in Laos even though I was named in the team two months ago,” he said.
“Now, I will get to play in two events. It was a pleasant surprise when Misbun chose me to play in the individual event. Chances like this do not come very often and I aim to prove my worth.”
Daren added that the Games would be a great platform to win the hearts of the coaches to give him a place in the squad for the Thomas Cup Finals in May.
“Playing third singles in the team event is crucial. The team will depend on me if a tie goes down to the wire,” he said.
Daren did well this year when he scored a stunning win over Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand en route to the quarter-finals in the Malaysian Open last January.
His form dropped after that due to a calf injury and with the SEA Games being his last chance to come good this year, strong performances can be expected from Daren.
Malaysia are the top seeds in the team event. They have received a first-round bye and will meet the winners of the tie between Vietnam and Singapore for a place in the final.
The other half of the draw has second seeds Indonesia and Thailand.
Malaysia last won the team gold at the 2005 Manila Games and the last Malaysian to emerge as the men’s singles champion was Mohd Roslin Hashim in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur. STAR