Tan Boon Heong (left) and Goh V Shem during training this week. The doubles shuttlers are being prepared to pair up with anyone ahead of the Thomas Cup Finals.
PETALING JAYA: Tan Boon Heong, who was a top doubles shuttler in his heyday, has been left to soldier on at his fifth Thomas Cup Finals, after partner of seven years Koo Kien Keat quit the national team early this year.
While Kien Keat has joined professional club Granular in Thailand, Boon Heong will be taking on the role of mentor with whoever he partners at the Thomas Cup in New Delhi from May 18-25.
Boon Heong-Kien Keat’s seven-year relationship produced an Asian Games gold, a World Championships silver, and an All-England title.
The other doubles players at the Thomas Cup are Hoon Thien How, Lim Khim Wah, Goh V Shem, Tan Wee Kiong and Chan Peng Soon, and Boon Heong could be paired up with any of them.
He partnered Ow Yao Han for the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold, Indian Open and Singapore Open last month.
However, Yao Han is not in the Thomas Cup squad and Boon Heong says he is willing to partner anyone, including Thien How, with whom he bagged the world junior title in 2004.
”This is where the 10 days of centralised training comes in. The coaches have not informed us what the pairings will be so we have to be ready to partner anyone.
”I have been paired with different players before.
”I also have a role to play as the most experienced doubles player. The others have not had as much experience as me and Thien How.
”We are encouraged to talk to each other in the evenings after training and they tell us there is no reason to fear our oppponents,” he said.
Boon Heong enjoyed his most memorable moment at the 2010 Thomas Cup Finals in Kuala Lumpur when he partnered Kien Keat to beat Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen in the quarter-final tie against Denmark.
Malaysia went on to reach the semi-finals but were tamed 0-3 by China.
Kedah-born Boon Heong made his debut at the 2006 Finals in Tokyo as the third pair with Chew Choon Eng.
At the 2008 Finals in Indonesia, he was the second ranked pair with Kien Keat but they were not impressive.
This time around, Malaysia are in Group C with South Korea, Germany and India.
Only the top two teams from the group will advance to the quarter-finals.
World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, Chong Wei Feng, Goh Soon Huat and captain Liew Daren complete the 10-member strong Thomas Cup squad.
At the last Finals in Wuhan, China, in 2012, Malaysia lost 3-0 to the hosts in the quarter-finals.