Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

No, this is not about the book by Barack Obama, the Democrats nominee for the coming US Election; nor is it about the “epic achievement”, in the words of Mark Spitz, of Michael Phelps' 8 for 8 gold medal haul in the 29th Olympiads, the man from the Aquarius.

It's supposed to be about winning the maiden Gold Medal in the more than a century-old annals of the modern Olympics, in the person of Lee Chong Wei (CW), the pretender from Malaysia to the Olympics Crown in the man singles game of Badminton.

Granted he was to face a formidable foe, nicknamed the Super Dan, Lin Dan of China. What with 1.3 Billion people behind him providing the home court advantage. But, as they say, anything can happen in sports ...

I read that the final was to be held at 8.48pm today, local time in China. And that would be 8.48am here in US. I guess the timing of the final, sporting two 8s, is no mere coincidence.

Anyway, I surfed through the four TV channels here that cover the Olympics: NBC, Telemundo, USA, and MSNBC, and found that none carried the Badminton final live. That's not surprising, considering that Badminton is viewed largely an oriental sport, though US did send a Badminton contingent for the Games (The Google image to the right is one of many daily varied images put up by the Google people, one for each game. This one is for badminton).

So, for the first time, I looked for a live streaming video, and found it in the NBC Olympics website (where the image of CW to the right is taken from as a screen shot). It was already 12-5 in the first set, in Lin's favor. And Lin was leading all the way, helped no doubt by the uncharacteristic error-prone way of CW who seemed to spray the shuttlecork all over the place except in the court, yielding easy points for his opponent. To CW's credit, he did display flashes of brilliance that has earned him the #2 rank in the world, but that was too sporadic.

Perhaps the pressure got to CW, which I thought it would have affected Lin more, him having to shoulder the expectations of 1.3 Billion people. But Lin thrived on the incessant crescendo of JiaYou, JiaYou (literally, adding fuel, the Chinese equivalent of rallying support) of the partisan crowd, displaying all-court craft and extreme confidence.

The first game was soon over with a score of 21-12, going to Lin. The second set was more of the same, Lin raced to a 6-0 start, and never relinquished the lead. It was agonizing watching one's countryman under-performing for I know CW is capable of putting up a tougher fight, if not winning.

Badminton, for a long time, has been the only avenue to fame for Malaysian sports, starting in the 1950s (then Malaya). Later, Malaysia had to play second fiddle to Indonesia, and more recently, China, but have always maintained a respectable niche in Stanley's Cup, the world cup of Badminton, and All-England, the Grand prix of individual badminton honor. Then bowling, and later, Squash were added to the rather narrow field of Malaysian prowess in world sports. But Badminton has always remained our greatest hope, as testified by the two Olympics medals won by Malaysia so far, one silver and one bronze, and as you guessed it, both in Badminton.

So daring to hope and realizing that hope are separated by a huge chasm in reality, and to bridge that chasm will take much more than determination. But the important thing is to sustain that hope, to learn from the mistakes, and to take concrete steps toward improvement.

So let's keep our eyes on the 30th Olympiads to be held at London in 2012.

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