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Wednesday October 31, 2012

Malaysia Got Talent too – but we must not be one-hit wonders

Impressive: Low Wee Wern is making her mark without
the benefit of a foreign coach or overseas training. Impressive: Low Wee Wern is making her mark without the benefit of a foreign coach or overseas training.

Britain has its Britain Got Talent show. The Americans have their own America Got Talent programme.

Now, Malaysia Got Talent too!

Don’t believe me? Then check out Monday’s StarSport.

Badminton and squash have always delivered the goods – the only problem was it has always been Lee Chong Wei and Nicol David who stood tall on the podium with a trophy in their arms.

So, it was a delight – and sheer relief as well – when the two sports produced two different winners for a change in Liew Daren and Low Wee Wern.

I am sure many Malaysians, as much as we adore and respect Chong Wei and Nicol for all their achievements and efforts in putting the country on the world map, are thrilled to know that Malaysia’s got other talented players in the two sports as well.

How we have been pining for new faces to take over the mantle of Chong Wei and Nicol, who have both done more than their fair share to raise the profile of badminton and squash – and sports in general.

Many, including the local sportswriters, had written off Daren’s chances of actually winning something worthwhile.

And why not? Here’s a player who joined the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) fold nine years ago. His only claim to fame during those nine years was being the sparring partner of Chong Wei.

Yes, he sparred with Chong Wei before and during the London Olympics.

And it looks like those sparring sessions must have paid off. He must have picked up a tip or two from the world No. 1 because how else could he pulled off a stunning win in the French Open.

But is it really that surprising that he won in Paris? Actually, if you look at his record this year, he has made the last eight in four tournaments – All-England, Swiss Open, Singapore Open and Denmark Open.

There has been progress in his game. It’s true that the big guns were not in Paris, where he triumphed.

Still, the 25-year-old had to overcome a horde of talented and hungry shuttlers en route to victory. And they – Sho Sasaki of Japan, Hu Yun of Hong Kong, Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen – were all ranked higher than him.

So, kudos to Daren.

And what about Wee Wern?

Her exploits in the China Open may have come in the absence of the most dominant player the world of squash has known – Nicol.

But take nothing away from Wee Wern’s achievement.

The 22-year-old still had to get past four tricky and dangerous opponents – Australia’s Rachael Grinham, Egypt’s Omneya Abdel Kawy, another Australian Kasey Brown and finally New Zealand’s Joelle King – before she could get her hands on the trophy.

And the best part of it all is that she did it without the benefit of a foreign coach or overseas training (although she had a stint with Nicol’s coach Liz Irving in Amsterdam last year).

Whether Daren could have won if Chong Wei or any of China’s big names were there is open to debate.

The same with Wee Wern.

But let’s give them credit for what they have done. They took care of business professionally and disposed of whoever stood in front of them.

So, now our prayers have been answered. Or have they?

Could this be just a mirage? Could Daren and Wee Wern be one-hit wonders?

I don’t mean to be a spoilsport or a party-pooper.

But let’s not get too carried away.

Daren and Wee Wern must now prove that they can do the business week in and week out – just like Chong Wei and Nicol.

Be consistent winners or at least be genuine title challengers.

That’s the hallmark of champions.

Now if only more youngsters can raise their level in their respective sports – like Pandelela Rinong (diving), Azizulhasni Awang (cycling), Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Nabil Jeffri (motor racing) have done – then we can proudly say that Malaysia Got Talent indeed!

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