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Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK

Malaysians feel the pressure

By Mike Burnett
BBC Sport Online at Bolton Arena

Malaysia seem ready for another impressive Games medal haul in badminton.

Wong Choong Hann, Lee Tsuen Seng and Hashim Muhammad Hasif have grabbed the top spots in the men's singles event.

And Chew Choon Eng and Chan Chong Ming are favourites for the men's doubles title.

They also have a solid chance in the mixed team event, and could provide an upset in the women's competition - an area where they have lagged behind in the past.

But the Malaysian squad know the weight of their nation's expectations are upon them because badminton in Malaysia is like football in Brazil.

"We performed best at home, but here maybe we won't do so well"
Jeffery Katingan Kitingan
Malaysia team manager

"There is really strong pressure, especially from the media," Malaysian team manager Jeffrey Katingan Kitingan told BBC Sport Online.

"Every day they make enquiries to find out what's going on.

"In Malaysia, the Commonwealth Games are second only to the Olympics in size and importance."

Certainly, the Asian side has produced few Commonwealth Games medals outside the racquet sport over the years.

They might also have trouble matching their amazing badminton success from four years ago.

On home soil in Kuala Lumpur, they grabbed three gold and four silver medals to effectively become the most successful badminton nation for the first time, even though the English, with 11, won the most in total.

There were all-Malaysian finals in the men's singles and doubles, and surprising silver medals for Malaysia in the women's doubles and women's team event.

But far away from the badminton-crazy crowds in Kuala Lumpur, their task is likely to be difficult.

"We performed best at home, but here maybe we won't do so well," the team manager said.

"Of course, everyone is cheering for England in Manchester, so I hope our players can block it out and just concentrate on their matches."

However, preparations were not helped by the outbreak of dengue fever in the Malaysian camp just weeks before the Games.

Around 14 athletes were affected by the mosquito-borne illness, including badminton doubles player Ang Li Peng.

"The fever left her hospitalised on a drip, but luckily it was early on during the outbreak, so she made a full recovery."

Despite the pressure, Katingan Kitingan promises the team are in good spirits and raring to go.

Certainly, if they can hold their nerve on foreign soil, Malaysia's players might just satisfy their demanding fans back home.

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