KUALA LUMPUR: Copenhagen has never been a happy hunting ground for Malaysians. The capital of Denmark hosted the World Badminton Championships previously in 1983, 1991 and 1999 and Malaysians returned home empty-handed on all three occasions.
Former international shuttler Ong Ewe Hock remembers his foray there in 1999 where he suffered a humiliating first-round defeat to Vladislav Druzchenko of Russia.
The other men’s singles stars – Yong Hock Kin, Rashid Sidek and Wong Choong Hann – also did not fare well, making it one of Malaysia’s worst-ever results in the World Championships.
“Everyone was so sad. None of us even made it to the quarter-finals. Many changes were made when we returned home after that,” recalled Ewe Hock, who was then the national No. 1.
Ewe Hock will be keeping his fingers crossed that the current Malaysian team to the championships from Aug 25-31 will end the jinx. This time the team consist of Lee Chong Wei, Chong Wei Feng, Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong, Goh V Shem-Lim Khim Wah, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong; Tee Jing Yi, Sannatasah Saniru, Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo, Ng Hui Lin-Ng Hui Ern, Amelia Anscelly-Soong Fie Cho, Lim Yin Loo-Lee Meng Yean and Lai Pei Jing-Tan Aik Quan.
“I really hope Chong Wei will make it a memorable outing for Malaysia. He has a chance and I hope he will not let it slip through his hands.
“I really do not why we struggle to win a world title ... we have produced many good players, but yet we have yet to win a world title since the inauguration of the championships in 1977,” said Ewe Hock, who is now coaching at the X-Trm Badminton Academy in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
Lee Wan Wah, who is a coach at Pioneer Badminton Academy, also feels that Chong Wei has the best chance. He also did not want to discount the chances of the three men’s doubles pairs.
“I believe it will be a happy outing in Copenhagen for Malaysia this time. We received brickbats after coming home in 1999. There was a a revamp in the men’s doubles and South Korean coach Park Joo-bong was hired after that to beef up the Malaysian team,” said Wan Wah, who played with Chew Choon Eng in Copenhagen.
“It will be hard on the men’s doubles. None of them are going to stick together as a pair after this World Championship. But I hope that they will not let these changes demoralise them.
“In fact, this may take off the pressure and they may just perform. They should prove their critics wrong,” added Wan Wah.
Joanne Quay, who partnered Lim Pek Siah in the women’s doubles in the 1999 edition, said that the Malaysians should be wary of their European opponents.
Joanne should know as she and Pek Siah lost to Denmark’s Ann Jorgsensen-Majken Vange in the second round.
“The Europeans thrive on home soil. Even an unknown pair can pose a strong challenge. Our players cannot let their guard down,” said Joanne, now a Badminton World Federation (BWF) official.
“The men probably have better chances of winning medals, but I hope Khe Wei-Vivian will pull off a surprise. They have just won the Commonwealth Games gold and I hope that it will give them the confidence to do something special for Malaysia,” added Joanne.