Flashback #Star50: Malaysians cheer return of the Cup


MALAYSIANS screamed and pumped their fists in the air on May 16, 1992. It was the night that the Thomas Cup returned to our shores after 25 long years.

Like other Malaysians, the entire Ng clan erupted into cheers as they watched the live telecast of the finals on TV, amid attending a Catholic funeral wake in Petaling Jaya.

"She was a bigger fan than all of us," Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng recalled assuring her mother, who had reservations about them watching the match during the wake of Ng's paternal grandmother, who had died at the age of 90.Indeed, the Thomas Cup victory in 1992 is a story of the fighting spirit and oneness that is worth being written again and again.For chief news editor Paul Gabriel, it was an unforgettable night in Alor Setar where he was based as The Star's Kedah correspondent back then.

"The winning point came at about 1am. I shouted so loudly that the entire neighbourhood in Alor Setar could have been awakened!" he said.

The triumph brought the whole nation together in a frenzied celebration when Malaysia pulled off a stunning 3-2 win against Indonesia in an epic battle at Stadium Negara.

It was Malaysia’s first Cup win since having won it last in Jakarta in 1967, beating Indonesia by a 6-3 margin under the old nine-match format of play.

For fans like Gabriel, he could rattle off the names of the players who became heroes that night.

"Kok Keong beat Alan Budikusuma in straight games in a tremendous display of fighting spirit and resolve," he said, referring to the match between Foo Kok Keong and the Indonesian player in the second singles.The Malaysian dived for every shot, was ruthless in his attacks and his dogged determination was enough to break Alan’s resolve.

Kok Keong's 15-6, 15-12 win gave Malaysia an important 2-1 lead, which was seen as the turning point.And who can forget how Rashid Sidek stood tall in defeating Ardy Wiranata 15-11, 10-15, 15-4 to get the ball rolling for Malaysia?

There were anxious moments when 1982 All-England champions Razif Sidek-Jalani Sidek got Indonesia to level the tie after losing 9-15, 15-9, 3-15 to Rudy Gunawan-Eddy Hartono.

But Cheah Soon Kit-Soo Beng Kiang sealed the deal with their superb combination to beat their nemesis Ricky Subagja-Rexy Mainaky 15-12, 10-15, 15-8. And so, Malaysia erupted in joy.The hard-fought win was the talk of the country as the spirit of togetherness and heroics of the badminton players created a bond among Malaysians.Following the momentous victory, the teams were taken on a nationwide parade and were showered with gifts for their gutsy display. (Sadly, Malaysia has yet to win the Cup since, suffering many heartbreaks along the way).Current badminton mixed doubles specialist Chan Peng Soon was too young to remember the details of the Thomas Cup victory but he said he had always looked up to badminton legends of that era, such as Rashid and Soon Kit.

“They were famous household names at that time and I always saw them in the news," said Chan, 33.In a brief interview, Chan said he was exposed to badminton at the tender age of five when his father brought him along to play badminton.

“I can still remember vividly. I was very excited when my father took me to watch a live tournament for the Malaysia Open in Penang when I was young.

“It was the first time I watched Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock play in front of me,” he said.

* The postponed 2020 edition of the Thomas Cup has begun in Aarhus, Denmark. As The Star reported on Saturday, it’s time to create new memories. Malaysia opens the Thomas Cup campaign against Canada on Wednesday.

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