Wong excited by fresh challenge at Thomas Cup

Wong excited by fresh challenge at Thomas Cup
Derek Wong

He may have competed on sport's biggest stage but, for national shuttler Derek Wong, making the cut for the Thomas Cup finals had always seemed harder than qualifying for the Olympics.

The world No. 45 can now look forward to playing in the prestigious world team championships for men after Singapore gained entry to the May 18-25 competition in New Delhi, India.

A change in how teams qualify has paved the way for Singapore's participation in the biennial event for the first time since 1986. It is just the second time that the Republic have earned a berth.

With the women's team also qualifying for the Uber Cup, it marks the first time that the two squads have made it to the finals of both world team championships.

"We don't enjoy the same kind of depth as other countries and sometimes struggle to make up a full team so, in a way, it's harder to make it to the Thomas Cup finals," Wong, 25, told The Straits Times on Monday.

Added the 2012 Olympian, whose father Wong Shoon Keat was part of the team who represented Singapore 28 years ago: "We were very dumbfounded when we found out that we had made it this time."

Instead of continental qualification rounds, the new qualifying process hinges on the total ranking points of each team's top three singles players and two doubles pairs.

Both the Thomas and Uber Cup now also accommodate 16 teams instead of 12.

Singapore's men made the cut ranked 15th, after qualified teams like the Netherlands and Sweden declined to participate.

They have been drawn in Group A with Indonesia who are the most successful nation in this competition with 13 past Thomas Cup titles.

Thailand and Nigeria make up the rest of the group.

The top two teams from each group will progress to the elimination stages.

Singapore are likely to be led by Wong and newly-crowned Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold men's doubles champions Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart.

Said national head coach Liu Qingdong: "They are our most experienced players and will definitely be the leaders.

"We have until May 4 to decide the rest of the team and we will not be rushed into making any decisions now."

In the Uber Cup, the women were also handed a tricky draw, joining 2010 champions South Korea, three-time champions Indonesia and Australia in Group B.

China are the defending champions in both competitions.

maychen@sph.com.sg


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