Petaling Jaya: Malaysia’s best taxi driver Lee Zi Jia couldn’t have asked for a better reason to fight for a podium finish on his Olympic debut.
The 23-year-old All England champion will replace archer Khair Anwar Mohamad as the Malaysian squad’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games on July 23.
Members of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Executive Board decided yesterday to award the honor to Zii Jia after Khairul requested to be replaced, 29-year-old Khairul is set to compete in the men’s individual qualifying round on July 23 and team up with Syaqiera Mashayikh in the mixed team event The next day.
With 2019 World Championship silver medalist Khairul unavailable, Zii Jia was seen as the best choice to perform this honor with mixed doubles specialist Goh Liu Ying.
The OCM has responded to a call by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to break with tradition by choosing a male and female athlete to be the flag bearer.
The International Olympic Committee amended the protocol last year to show its support for equal treatment of the sexes.
Zi Jia was grateful for his choice and said he would enjoy his first experience as an Olympic standard-bearer.
“I was surprised when I found out about it. I didn’t expect to take on such a big role to take Galore Jimelang on such a big stage,” said Zi Jia.
“This is definitely a great honor and it has boosted my confidence even more before the Games.
“I hope everything goes well in Tokyo and I can win a medal for the proudest Malaysian.”
The national team represents 30 athletes competing in 10 sports – shooting, athletics, badminton, cycling, diving, golf, gymnastics, sailing, shooting and swimming.