From mulling to quit to competing with Lee Chong Wei: Iskandar eyes consistency after dream year

The Malaysian shuttler is targetting the Podium Programme after having a consistent 2016.

Lee Chong Wei
Iskandar had credited Lee for helping him overcome tough situations Reuters

Iskandar Zulkarnain had given a deep thought about quitting badminton at the end of 2015 season after not being able to win a title in the year. However, words of advice from compatriot and world number one Lee Chong Wei reportedly made him change his mind and continue competing at the highest level.

Zulkarnain then began 2016 with a bang and reached the finals of the season opener - Malaysia Masters, in which he faced his mentor Lee in the Men's singles finals. The 25-year-old was beaten in straight games but the youngster, following his icon's words, was not willing to give up.

Zulkarnain's high point in 2016 came when he defeated higher-ranked Qiao Bin in the quater-final of the China Open and fought a valiant battle in the semi-final against world number two Jan O Jorgensen, going down only after he took the game to the decider.

The Malaysian shuttler, after finishing the season at a career-high 23rd rank, now wants to "raise his game" and come up with consistent performances so that he can join the likes of Lee and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong in the Podium Programme - an initiative by the Malaysian government targeting the country's first Olympic Gold in Tokyo 2020.

"I want to be a more dangerous player on court and stay consistent too. I reached my first Superseries semi-finals in China this year and hopefully I can achieve better result on a regular basis," Iskandar said, as quoted by The Star Online.

"The turning point in my career was at the Malaysian Masters. I was ranked 150th in the world before the tournament but now I will end the year in 23rd spot.

"There has been much progress but I want to raise the bar. Hopefully, another consistent year will help me get into the Podium Programme.

"The old Iskandar would have thought that this target is impossible ... but not now. I believe I can achieve it. I will have to make changes though. I need to work on my physical condition and improve on my skills."