Past experience has made James wiser for coaching role

Trip down memory lane: (from top left) Ismail Saman, Allan Tai, Ramesh Nathan, Lee Chong Wei, Sairol Amar Ayub, Tey Seu Bock (coach), K. Yogendran, (from bottom left) James Chua, Wong Choong Hann, Indra Gunawan (coach), Lee Tsuen Seng, Ong Ewe Hock.

PETALING JAYA: To be back after 14 years can be intimidating but James Chua is ready for the new task as the national women’s singles coach.

The 43-year-old James has been appointed to improve the standard of the girls, who are currently in need of a major overhaul to be able to catch up with the current stars from other nations.

James has not set any goals but is excited to make a difference.

“I may have left BAM a long time ago but I’ve never really given up badminton ... the sport still is my passion,” said James.

James was 23 when he emerged as the Malaysian Open champion in 2002 and thrived under late coach Indra Gunawan and Li Mao of China but after that, he was plagued with one injury after another.

He was named for the 2002 Busan Asian Games but a foot injury saw him pulling out from his first major event. He was ranked ninth in the world but did not make the cut for that year’s Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou, where Malaysia reached the final.

He was in the same batch with players like Wong Choong Hann, Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Ong Ewe Hock, Lee Tsuen Seng, Mohd Roslin Hashim, Sairul Amar Ayob, Allan Tai, Ramesh Nathan and K. Yogendran, to name a few.

“The standard was high in the men’s singles then. We used to have many singles players. I was ranked ninth but yet did not get selected for Thomas Cup in 2002. I was disappointed of course, but that’s how fierce the competition was.”

A knee injury in 2003 put paid to his career eventually.

“I was under coach Misbun (Sidek) when I got injured. I took a long time to recover and grew very frustrated. I could not go for competitions and it was boring just to train at home,” recalled James.

“Due to boredom, I didn’t really focus on badminton. One thing led to another and I eventually left in 2008. Yes, there are regrets but all my past experience has made me wiser and stronger as a person.

“I know how it feels when a player is injured. I will use my past experience to support these players.

“Give me six months to work with these players ... I will then set goals for them.”

When James left BAM, he had set up his own academy with Yap Kim Hock called Y and J Academy in Kepong. Kim Hock decided to part ways the following year and James continued to run the academy.

He took a two-year break from the sport from 2013-2015 to venture into business but the love for the game brought him right back, even more determined to be a good coach.

He was offered a job with the Sarawak state team in 2020 before Choong Hann approached him.

“I had a talk with Choong Hann two years ago but the plan did not materialise. This year, when Indra Wijaya left, I asked whether they were still interested. And everything fell into place after that.”

James said he had learnt much from Li Mao.

“I was under him for two years and I was inspired by him to be a coach. He had great technical knowledge of the game,” he said.

“My career as a player may have ended prematurely, but now I feel like I have been given a second chance as a coach with BAM to achieve something. I’m really looking forward to this new journey,” added James.

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