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Friday, February 29, 2008

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong to defend their All England title

Koo-Tan winning All England 2007

When Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong lifted up the All England trophy last year, it ended Malaysia's agonizing wait for a breakthrough in the badminton circuit. 25 years to be exact.

Can we hope for another inspiring performance from this young pair? They showed that their victory was not a fluke by winning the following tournament, the Swiss Open. Just for the fans, here's the clip featuring their last match in the All England tournament.

When they did badly in the team event in the Doha Games prior to All England, Rexy Mainaky, their coach, broke down emotionally and wanted to quit. I remember he was even hospitalized during one of the team training.

Undeniably, Rexy's dedication to the sports is unparalleled. As a player with former partner, Ricky Subagja, they have won every single tournament there is to win (if I am not mistaken). Having won the Olympics as well, he has set it as an important goal for his protege to achieve.

Recently, Rexy was calling it quits again after a dismal performance from his men doubles department. If you have been following Koo-Tan's stellar progress, you might have watched some of their interviews and documentaries. One of the interviews/documentaries was shown on Malaysia's private cable TV station, Astro. There was one part where Koo said he asked his partner Tan what they should do as they felt the situation was getting really serious and Rexy could give up on them. Apparently, Rexy was fuming with anger because his doubles pairs did not play to his instructions - everything that he taught the players was not there during matches.

Koo-Tan getting ready

In my eyes, Rexy is one of the best coaches Malaysia has ever hired. When he was with the English team, he helped bring up the levels of the English players (Men Doubles as well as Mixed Doubles). To lose him before the Olympics games in Beijing this August would be a complete mess for badminton sports in Malaysia. Cheah Soon Kit, the coach for the women doubles department had left BAM to join KLRC. Some other players also have plans to seek greener pastures in KLRC.

I was sitting behind Rexy during a match in 2005 World Championship in Anaheim. He turned around and was looking in my direction because I booed at some bad line call (or something else) against the Malaysian pair (Chan Chong Ming/Koo Kien Keat). Naturally, I was thrilled. He was pretty animated and showed his displeasure over the incident. Clearly, this guy really loves the sport, both as a player and coach.

(Note: This sounds like a blog post about Rexy. However, I get the impression that both players and the coach work as a team. Without Rexy, this pair could not have gone so far so quickly. In similar vein perhaps, in order to demonstrate his success as a coach and instructor, Rexy needs a good pair to work with in the first place. Just my humble opinion.)

So what will Koo and Tan do this time? I have not made any great strides in the arena of sports myself. But I think as with all human activities, in order to persevere in a particular discipline, one must have a passion for it. Passion keeps you going even when the cards are against you. Passion will help you to see through your initial setback. For instance, Rexy commented that Tan has developed some kind of phobia when playing. In contrast, I think Koo's natural personality - that 'arrogant' personality has helped him to stand and play fearlessly against any opponent. As long as passion remains in Tan, I think he will be able to overcome his weaknesses. Come to think of it, I like to see the way Tan play too. He has a unique body coordination and unique strokes.

Koo does the jig

Everyone has their ups and downs. The most important thing is to bounce back after the fall. I think Lee Chong Wei has succeeded in this case. Personally, I would also like to see Hafiz make a strong comeback. He has the talent and his game is very enjoyable to watch; if only he could go on winning ways like during 2003 when he won the All England Men Singles title.

Let us give our support to Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong. They have made us proud a year ago. If they win again, it will be a confidence booster for them. Has any pair won the All England title back-to-back? If they lose, they must quickly get over the defeat and focus on improving and preparing for the Olympics.

Interesting thread links in badminton forum:
Kien Keat-Boon Heong gives Malaysia first All-England doubles title in 25 years
Young Pair End Malaysia's 25-Year Wait For All England Men's Doubles Title

Badminton websites:
Badminton Forum/Badminton Central
Malaysia Badminton Forum (in Chinese)
KKK's blog(looks like no update.....lol, too busy training)

[Images from Badminton Forum]

All England historical chart(up to 2006) (click reference here for clearer picture)