Soon Huat sets multi-sport targets before exit

KUALA LUMPUR: He’s 30 and injury-prone, so Goh Soon Huat probably knows he has a few good years left in him.

But before calling it a day, he has set his sights on winning gold in a major multi-sport Games, besides qualifying for the Olympics.

With Shevon Lai Jemie, Soon Huat has twice narrowly missed out on the SEA Games gold.

In Kuala Lumpur 2017, they lost 15-21, 20-22 to Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai. In Manila last year, they were handed a heart-breaking 21-19, 19-21, 13-21 defeat by Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan-Melati Daeva Oktavianti.

Soon Huat-Shevon also had chances at the Jakarta Asian Games and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games two years ago, but they flopped.

Their campaign in Gold Coast, especially, was one to forget. They headed there as top seeds but were beaten by India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Ashwini Ponnappa 19-21, 19-21 in the last eight.

“I certainly hope to continue playing for as long as I can, but it depends very much on my body condition,” said Soon Huat when asked about the unfinished business in his career.

“The immediate goal is to try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics first. It’s tough but Shevon and I will fight until the finish line.

“But there’s more than just the Olympics dream. For me, winning gold at the other major Games means just as much.

“The SEA Games (in Hanoi next year), Commonwealth Games (Birmingham 2022) and Asian Games (Hangzhou 2022) ... we will strive to become champions in one of these Games. We came very, very close at the SEA Games last year.”

For the Olympics qualification, Soon Huat-Shevon currently sit 11th in the Road to Tokyo ranking list, four rungs below seventh-ranked compatriots Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.

A country can only have two pairs if both are in the top eight and Peng Soon-Liu Ying’s position looks solid before the qualifying race resumes in January next year.

Soon Huat has come a long way since switching from men’s singles to mixed doubles after six years of limited success.

His best result in the men’s singles since joining the national team in 2009 was reaching the final of the 2013 Malaysian Open Grand Prix. His best ranking position was No. 43.

But with Shevon, the pair are now the world No. 12 and had previously scaled a career-best No. 6 in June 2018 after beating Olympic champions Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir to the Singapore Open title.

They were also winners of the 2018 German Open and 2016 Scottish Open, as well as All-England semi-finalists last year.

Meanwhile, Soon Huat said he was recovering well from his right rib injury sustained during the BAM Invitational Championships two weeks ago.

“It was nothing serious, just a muscle pull,” he said.

“I was already back on the court last Wednesday. I was practising some new footwork movements and overdid it.

“Instead of two steps, I tried to reach the shuttle by taking just one step to conserve energy. It’s a lot tougher and I’m still getting used to it. My muscles are not strong enough yet.”

Soon Huat and Shevon also won’t play any part in the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Aarhus, Denmark, from Oct 3-11 but they should be in action immediately after.

Barring any further delay, the Tour is expected to resume with the Denmark Open from Oct 13-18, followed by the French Open from Oct 20-25.
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