As a small boy, Penang-born Loh Kean Yew was already showing intelligence on the badminton court.
However, it was pure hard work that set him apart from the rest at the badminton academy in Jalan La Salle, Ayer Itam then.
“Other players would attend training sessions three times a week but this boy (Kean Yew) and his brother would come for nine sessions a week,” said Penang Badminton Association (PBA) president Datuk Kah Kau Kiak.
“His mother is key to his success as she was the one who sent him for training, rain or shine.
“They rarely missed training, and that lasted for a few good years before the brothers moved to Singapore.”
On Sunday, Kean Yew, 24, became the first Singaporean to win a badminton world championship, despite carrying an ankle injury.
The unseeded player stunned India’s world number 14 Srikanth Kidambi 21-15, 22-20 in the men’s singles final to clinch the BWF World Championship title in Huelva, Spain.
Kah said Kean Yew and his brother Kean Hean had benefited while training under the two Chinese coaches Li Mu and Chao Yue at the academy in Penang.
“I believe the Chinese coaches, who brought in different kind of training methods, laid the foundation for Kean Yew during his formative years,” he said.
Kah said Kean Yew’s best achievement on the junior scene was winning the 2009 National Junior Grand Prix Finals, beating current national number one Lee Zii Jia in the Under-12 final.
“In another competition held in the northern region, Kean Yew also beat Zii Jia that year.
“I remember that well because I was the one who presented them with prizes.
“Before that, Kean Yew would always lose to Zii Jia, who is a year younger.
“However, a local coach gave us a few pointers in tweaking Kean Yew’s game and that worked wonders.
“Besides Zii Jia, another of Kean Yew’s childhood rivals was Cheam June Wei, who turned independent recently.
“They always finished tops in the various age-group badminton competitions here.
“I’ll always remember Kean Yew as a boy who is intelligent on court and polite off court,” said Kah.
In 2010, Kean Yew took up a scholarship with the Singapore Schools Sports Council to study and play badminton there.
He eventually took up citizenship and represented Singapore in 2015.
Kean Yew’s father Pin Keat, 59, was elated after watching his son win the BWF final match with his family at his single-storey terrace house in George Town.
“Kelvin (Kean Yew) was often very unfortunate to face formidable opponents in the first round of many tournaments because he was not seeded.
“But in this tournament, he grew in confidence,” said Pin Keat, who refers to Kean Yew as Kelvin at home.
Kean Yew’s mother Grace Gan Saw Ai said all of his hard work had paid off.
“We are very proud of Kean Yew. To be honest, I was very nervous when watching the final,” she said.
The couple watched the live telecast together with their second son Kean Wei, 30.
“My brother has improved a lot in his mental strength. I can see he is calm and composed.
“He is able to take the pressure now,” Kean Wei told Buletin Mutiara.