Badminton: Aging champ to tread with caution as he eyes final hurrah

Badminton: Aging champ to tread with caution as he eyes final hurrah

PETALING JAYA: Paralympic champion Cheah Liek Hou (pic) is on a roll but the shuttler is staying grounded as he wants to be in the best physical condition to defend his title at the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

While the 34-year-old has made it known that Paris will his final major event before he bows out, he is wary of looking too far ahead due to his advancing age.

Indonesian Dheva Anrimusthi, whom Liek Hou overcame in straight games to win his seventh SU5 (upper body impairment) men’s singles title at the World Para Championships in Tokyo on Sunday, is only 23 and that physical advantage will be something that his young rival will rely on to upstage the Malaysian in Paris.

“The road to Paris is still a long way and I don’t really want to think so far ahead yet.

“My focus will be on next year’s qualifying for the Games. I have two years to prepare for that,” said Liek Hou.

“Given my age and physical condition, I can’t afford to plan too far ahead.

““I need to go step by step and maintain my fitness to be able to play in the qualifiers.

“I’ll be playing in six to eight tournaments, which I think will be sufficient to qualify for Paris 2024. I need to get as many ranking points as possible.

“It’s not possible to win every-thing, so I must to listen my body and do just enough to qualify.’’

Liek Hou’s biggest assets are his superior skills and quick-thinking ability on court where he is able to capitalise on an opponent’s weakness.

The southpaw has always been a smart tactician and his performance has also picked up after Indonesian Nova Armada became his full-time coach.

Nova, who has coached Liek Hou for most of his career, understands the player’s needs and believes he has been doing the right things to boost his longevity.

“I’ve known Liek Hou for a long time and it helps me to come up with a plan to maintain his consistency,” said Nova.

“After returning from the Asean Para Games, we continued to strengthen him physically and he has been preparing well.

“There’s still work to do as there are some areas where he can improve.’’

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