PETALING JAYA: Losing to a doubles player in a team event is a bitter pill to swallow for any singles player. And it’s the same with the country’s aspiring singles player Cheam June Wei.
But June Wei intends to use the painful experience as a grim reminder to always strive harder in his bid to become the country’s No.1 men’s singles shuttler.
“I cannot forget the 2012 Sukma (Malaysian Games). It was a deciding match against Negri Sembilan and I was the third singles player in the Penang. Hopes were high on me to deliver but I lost,” said the 17-year-old June Wei.
“It was embarrassing because I lost to a doubles player (Low Juan Shen). He was fielded in the third singles. I could still feel the disappointment of my team members.”
Many, however, would have not known that June Wei had just rushed to Kuantan for the Games after playing in the Asian Junior Championships in South Korea.
“I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at midnight. I had a few hours’ sleep before my father (Cheam Eak Keat) drove me to Kuantan at 6am. The match started at 2pm. I was not at my best but I fought hard,” he said.
“I lost 19-21 in the rubber game. The defeat is a reminder ... a good reminder to move forward. I do not want to experience a similar disappointment like that ever again.”
June Wei has come far since that painful episode two years ago. He is now the country’s top junior player and will be carrying the Malaysian flag at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in August.
June Wei’s love for the game started when he began tagging along with his father for fun when he was five years old. After just three years of going through the motion, he was hooked on it – big time.
He came under the guidance of coach Teh Peng Huat, the former coach of world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, for more than year before training under task master Lim Theam Teow.
“Coach Lim made me run around the badminton court while carrying a pair of 10kg dumb bells. I can still remember running round and round the badminton court with tears rolling down my cheeks,” he recalled.
“I can still hear his loud voice – urging us not to be scared of tough training ... to persevere. The training is tougher in the national team but I have not forgotten his advice – to persevere.”
Thanks to that experience, this determined lad, who would have joined his father’s stainless steel business if not for badminton, thrives on challenges.
For instance, he was only 14 when he took part in the 2010 Kedah Open Division Two and he defeated his senior Choong Yee Han, 17, en route to the semi-finals.
“I was sitting with all the seniors during breakfast before my match against Yee Han. No one gave me a ghost of a chance of winning against Yee Han. I took it as a challenge and went on to beat him,” he said.
This year, June Wei, the new recruit under Hendrawan, has been doing his own revision as preparation for his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) this year after leaving Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
“Sports is more important than studies right now. I scored 6As and 1B in my UPSR but my focus has all been on badminton after that,” said June Wei.
He is hoping that his obsession with badminton will make him as successful as his idol Chong Wei.
“I have admired Chong Wei from day one. He will always be a special player and I hope to carve a name for myself too.
“I lack power and my attacking is not good enough. I need to work on that. Just look at Chong Wei, he has this sudden burst of speed in his game that is an envy of his rivals.”
When June Wei is not too busy training and visualising his path to badminton stardom, he enjoys his time off by just hanging out with his friends - especially R. Satheishtharan and Ng Di Hua.
“Whenever we are together, we cannot stop laughing. My friends are great jokers – but I cannot share most of them. They are hilarious,” he said in between giggles.
June Wei, a big fan of Hong Kong actor Stephen Chew, is also into photography.
“I love taking photos ... of the weather, the sceneries ...it has a calming effect. Hopefully, I can buy my very own expensive digital camera one day,” said the soft-spoken June Wei.
Not only can June Wei buy a cool camera but he can even own his own photo studio and capture all the glorious moments if he makes it big in badminton.
Name: Cheam June Wei
Date of birth: Jan 23, 1997
Place of birth: Seberang Jaya, Penang
Family: Cheam Eak Keat (father), Khaw Kee Boon (mother), brothers (Cheam June Heng, Cheam June Xian), sister (Cheam Yee Thing)
State coach: Teh Peng Huat, Lim Theam Teow
National coach: Hendrawan.
World junior ranking: No. 6
World ranking: No. 455
Past achievements: 2012 Singapore International Junior Series U-19 champion; Thailand International Age-Group competition Under-16 champions (2012 and 2013)