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Tuesday January 15, 2008

Badminton: Tan Fook to wed Chinese doubles star after Olympics


KUALA LUMPUR: It is probably one of the best-kept love affairs in the world of badminton. 

And yesterday, Malaysia's Choong Tan Fook revealed that he could end his badminton career after the Beijing Olympics in August to tie the knot with China's Olympic and world champion doubles shuttler Zhang Jiewen. 

After keeping the relationship under wraps, Tan Fook decided that it was the right time to come out in the open at the Malaysian Open, which begins from 9am today with the qualifying tournament at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil. 

After all, it was at the 2004 Malaysian Open in Pahang when their love bloomed. Then, Tan Fook went on to win the men's doubles title with Lee Wan Wah and Jiewen took the women's title with Yang Wei. 

Wedding bells: Zhang Jiewen and Choong Tan Fook (below, right) fell in love during the 2004 Malaysian Open.
Tan Fook said that he was looking forward to making his third and final appearance in Beijing. Tan Fook-Wan Wah are now ranked fifth in the world and are in with a shot to qualify for the Beijing Games. 

“I hope that we will qualify ... it is going to be my last Olympics. I do not know what will happen after that as far as my career is concerned. Will the country still need me? I don't know. There may be some changes,” said Tan Fook. 

“But one thing is for sure, I am planning to get married to Jiewen. The Beijing Games will also be her last before she quits.” 

Tan Fook added that they had not allowed the relationship to distract them from their individual pursuits for excellence in the international tournaments for their respective countries over the last four years. 

“She is now in Malaysia for the Open but she is on her own. Just like me, her focus is on doing well here. For the last four years, we have kept this long distance relationship going through calls and online chats,” he said. 

Inspired by the Guangzhou-born Jiewen's string of impressive achievements, Tan Fook said that he would go all out to win a medal if he gets to compete in the Beijing Olympics. He was the semi-finalists and quarter-finalists in the last two outings in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004). 

“I am quite happy with my performances over the last two years. This is an important year for me and it will be a great finale if I can win at least a bronze medal in Beijing,” said Tan Fook. 

When asked if there could be another double from the couple at this year's Malaysian Open, Tan Fook said: “Based on current performances, I will be happy with a quarter-final finish.” 

Barring any upsets, Tan Fook-Wan Wah will face team-mates Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, the top seeds and defending champions, in the quarter-finals. 

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