PETALING JAYA: National doubles shuttler Soh Wooi Yik’s career would have ended prematurely if not for the intervention of a former great and a professional club.
And yesterday, the 23-year-old, who won a bronze with Aaron Chia in their first Olympic Games outing in Tokyo, took time to appreciate Malaysia’s former national coaching director Morten Frost and Looi Badminton Academy for playing their roles when he was at his career crossroads.
Wooi Yik said the three-time All-England champion Frost, who was with Malaysia from 2015-2017, was the man behind his switch to doubles when he was still a budding shuttler after finding little success in the singles.
“I started my career as a singles player before making the switch (to doubles) at 16,” said Wooi Yik, who first joined the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) when he was in Form 1.
“It was Sir Morten who believed that I had the talent in doubles and tried me out.”
Frost’s decision proved to be a masterstroke when Wooi Yik made a swift impact with Ooi Zi Heng at the 2015 Asian junior championships in Bangkok in July (quarter-finals).
Two months later, Wooi Yik was paired up with Aaron for the first time and they impressed by finishing as the runners-up at the Malaysian International Youth Under-19 tournament.
It earned Aaron-Wooi Yik a place in the world junior meet in November, where they reached the last 16.
After Aaron, who is a year older, was promoted to the senior back-up squad, Wooi Yik resumed his partnership with Zi Heng.
Wooi Yik-Zi Heng performed fairly well, notching four semi-final appearances with the best – winning a bronze at the Asian junior in Bangkok.
But as fate would have it, Wooi Yik suffered an ankle injury which led to him missing his final year to feature in a world junior meet and subsequently being dropped by the BAM.
Wooi Yik was devastated but that was when Looi Badminton Academy stepped in to offer him a lifeline.
He spent seven months at the club before regaining his spot in the national team.
Before the academy came to his rescue, Wooi Yik recounted how he had almost given up the sport.
“Winning an Olympics bronze is the greatest moment of my life, so it has been very emotional for me,” said Wooi Yik.
“At 18, I was that boy who almost gave up on his badminton career when I was not selected for the national team.
“Thankfully, my family members and my uncle (Soo Beng Kiang), were there to encourage me and gave me strength to keep going.
“I will not forget another important person, that’s Uncle Looi (owner of the Looi Academy), who offered me a chance to play badminton again.
“It was then when I started all over again and now I have become the national No. 1 and an Olympics medallist. I get to be who I am today because of them.”